The pandemic triggers a tsunami of weddings in 2022

MINNEAPOLIS — For 16 years as the owner of Lasting Impressions Weddings, Sarah Trotter has been advising her clients to be flexible when choosing a date for their nuptials. She still offers that advice, although this year it took on a whole new dimension.

Be flexible on the day of the week. Be flexible on the time of day. Be flexible on the date. Be flexible on the month. And if none of that works, be flexible on the year.

“Customers need to be much more open-minded,” she said.

A tsunami of weddings – some pushed back by the pandemic and others slated for this year – have flooded the wedding industry. This year, finding someone to marry might be easier than finding a time and place to hold the ceremony.

Some venues are booked for the rest of the wedding season, which generally runs from May to October. For venues that have openings, the busiest times have long since been ripped out. (How about a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on a Monday?)

And wedding planners go out of their way to try to make sure everything goes smoothly. After two years of very little business, some planners are so busy they have to turn away new clients.

There are expected to be between 2.5 million (the Marriage Report estimate, which tracks market data) and 2.6 million (from the wedding website Knot) couples exchanging their vows in across the country this year. Whichever number you use, it will be the highest number of weddings in nearly four decades.

And Minnesotans are doing their part to contribute to the tidal wave, with 35,000 weddings expected in the state – and another 35,000 in Wisconsin.

“It’s kinda crazy,” said Jenna Culley of Minneapolis-based Jenna Culley Events. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

So what happened? In this case, it’s more a matter of what didn’t happen — marriages, in particular.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of many, if not most, of the weddings scheduled for 2020. For example, Trotter had 45 weddings on his calendar that year, 39 of which were postponed until in 2021.

There were already weddings planned for 2021, so the delayed ceremonies had to be incorporated into the calendar. And then the delta variant swept through, forcing the postponement of 2020 weddings as well as the postponement of 2021 ones.

As a result, the 2022 wedding season opens with a backlog of postponed ceremonies and a full slate of new ones that will likely stretch into 2023.

And it’s not just the ceremonies that are in question. Frustrated by the repeated delays, “some couples have had weddings involving just their immediate family, maybe five or 10 people, and now they want to throw a big party,” Trotter said. Of course, that also means finding a place to do it.

To cope with all this, wedding planners had to get creative. With traditional models flying out the window, traditional solutions won’t work either.

It starts with the days of the week. Weekend weddings are nice, but there aren’t enough weekends for this year.

“Before, we were busy every Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” said Christy O’Keefe, chief operating officer of Bellagala, a St. Paul wedding service. “Now it’s Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and even the occasional Tuesday.”

Weekday weddings are scheduled for late afternoon or early evening, giving guests options not normally available.

“Guests in town can go to work that day, if they wish,” she pointed out. “You still have time for the ceremony, a dinner and then dancing until 1 p.m..” And if you’re a real trouper – or if you don’t have enough PTO in the books – you can even stagger back to the office the next morning.

Another option that would gain popularity is the morning wedding. With the service scheduled for 10 a.m., you can host the wedding and reception while clearing the venue in time to reset for a second ceremony in the afternoon.

A downside to this schedule is the bridesmaids’ ritual of spending hours doing their hair and makeup can end as early as 5 a.m. On the other hand, everyone is home by 3 p.m. and can take a nap.

Some couples set broader parameters for their timing.

“You start thinking about different months,” Trotter said. “Everyone thinks of summer or fall, but maybe you want to consider a winter wedding.”

Extending your planning calendar also helps.

“Most of our clients used to plan 12 months ahead,” she said. “Now we’re getting clients who expect 15 to 16 months to get the location they want.”

The most sought after locations tend to be in or near the metropolitan area. Opening up the search radius also opens up scheduling options.

“A lot of our clients go much further,” Culley said. “They look at 20, 30 or 40 minutes.”

Again, the other side of the coin is to stay at home.

“We have seen an increase in garden weddings,” she said. There are no worries of a scheduling conflict there. “People control their own backyard.”

Entrepreneurs Carolyn Germaine and Louise Nyquist launched Backyard Wedding Sites, a service that plays matchmaker for engaged couples looking for something more scenic than your typical swing and trampoline-dominated yard and proud owners of their gardens elaborated.

“It’s for couples looking for private, one-of-a-kind sites and hosts with beautifully landscaped backyards,” Germaine said. “We consider ourselves the Airbnbs of the wedding world.”

The company is looking to circumvent long waiting lists at other locations.

“Traditional venues are struggling to accommodate all the couples” looking to marry post-pandemic, Germaine said. “A lot of them don’t want to delay their wedding any longer. For smaller weddings – 50 guests or less – finding a venue can be difficult.”

Even if you’re going for a backyard wedding, one of the best ways to ease the strain on the schedule is to hire a professional, Culley said.

“I don’t mean just me, I mean any wedding planner,” she said. “We know the sites. We have connections to the people running them and are able to contact them. We know the options. The customers, not so much.”

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