Wedding industry takes a big hit in 2020

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This past weekend my favourite nephew got married. He’s my favourite because he’s wickedly funny, smart and loves to take a position contrary to mine in any argument. He calls me up often just to chat and it’s always interesting and hilarious.

And I couldn’t go to his wedding in Victoria because of COVID-19. The wedding had to be downsized to almost nothing, and to be perfectly honest, like most men, my nephew is feeling a bit like he dodged a bullet in avoiding all the pomp and ceremony, and expense, of a large wedding. His bride, of course, feels differently.

And I really wish I could have been there to celebrate with them.

A recent study from Hellosafe.ca finds that the wedding industry in British Columbia lost $158 million in 2020 due to COVID. That’s a 22.5 per cent drop from 2019. The big wedding months of May, June and July showed huge drops in the number of weddings.

Some couples have postponed until after the pandemic, which means the industry will recover. Others, like my nephew, went ahead with very small weddings, and no receptions.

You think $158 million is a high number? Think again. Last year slice.ca reported that despite a Global News poll that found most Canadians believe a realistic price tag for a wedding should be under $9,000, the actual cost is much higher. Should is operative word here, or maybe hopes. In fact slice.ca says you’re looking at $30,000 and up for a wedding.

Egads you say. Now that may be a little cheaper in more rural areas like Kimberley and Cranbrook rather than Toronto or Vancouver, but weddings are big business.

An average wedding costs roughly $200 per guest. So you’d better really like the people you invite.

Here’s how slice.ca says that cost breaks down. A wedding planner will set you back anywhere from $2,000 and up, or 12 to 15 per cent of the total cost of wedding. Are they necessary? Well, if you don’t want all the work to fall on the bride, groom and family, they kind of are. My daughter and her husband did the wedding themselves and by the time everything was done they were stressed out and exhausted. Given the choice now, I bet they’d cough up the funds for a planner.

The biggest cost is the venue, which includes food, bar and staffing. That’s about 50 per cent of the total. And of course, if you’re renting Centennial Hall in Kimberley that’s going to be cheaper than a venue in downtown Vancouver.

Average cost of a wedding cake? $600. Yikes.

Average cost of a wedding dress. $2000. And plenty of people pay way more than that.

Men’s formal wear. $400 rental per guy or $800 and up to purchase.

Wedding hair and makeup. $500.

Wedding rings. Totally variable. Start at $1200.

DJ. $1750. A live band, much more.

Flowers. $3000. That’s a top estimate, I think.

Wedding stationary. $2,000. Really? Yes, that includes your invitations, save the date cards, RSVP cards, and more. I think a quick phone call might suffice.

An officiant will cost from $350 to $425.

Photographer. About $4500. And if you want it on video, that’s about $2750 more.

And then there’s transportation. If you’re renting a limo, open your wallet.

We’re not even going to get into the wedding night accommodations and honeymoon.

How does anyone afford all that?

I grew up in an area very heavily influenced by Ukrainian culture and out of that came the wedding social. Basically it was a dance, hosted by the bride and groom, a sort of pre-reception reception. It was good fun, you paid a certain amount to enter, there was a cash bar, and you brought along a congratulatory card, with some money in it. You didn’t have to be invited to the wedding to attend. In fact it may have helped keep numbers at the actual wedding down, as the bride and groom would visit with you at the social. If everything went well, the bride and groom could be expected to make a profit that evening, which then went to wedding costs.

Seems like an idea we should explore anew. If we can ever gather in crowds of more than five again.

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