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Kim Paris and Aran Armutlu. When booking wedding vendors for 2023, the couple said they had to rush and commit without doing proper research.Handout

Setting up a wedding was not unlike buying a house for Kim Paris and Aran Armutlu: They would have liked more time before putting their money down. But any hesitation would have led to vendors and venues getting booked up in the frenzied rush of couples getting married.

“The word elopement has come up a lot in the process,” joked Paris, who lives in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

In the end, they had to compromise and book for summer 2023, since every venue and vendor told them a wedding in the summer of 2022 would be impossible. Even when booking vendors for 2023, the couple said they had to rush and commit without doing proper research.

“It was like the whole world was trying to get married,” said Armutlu, who added that their struggles with booking a venue were back in January, and things could only get worse now that British Columbia has dropped restrictions such as masking requirements.

Pop-up weddings prove popular even as COVID-19 restrictions loosen

As pandemic restrictions ease across the country, industry experts say a massive surge in demand, supply chain issues and inflation are creating a chaotic environment for anybody trying to plan a wedding. Paige Petriw of the BC Wedding and Event Industry Association said the average cost of a wedding in the province was roughly $50,000 before the pandemic, and it’s safe to assume that will increase by 20 per cent to $60,000 for weddings this summer.

Petriw, acting board chair of the association and founder of Spotlight Events, said one caterer’s prices were increasing by more than 25 per cent for this summer, and the cost of seasonal produce and beef has increased in particular.

In Toronto, wedding planner Lynzie Kent said one florist charged $12,000 for pending nuptials, when the same service would have cost $5,000 a couple years ago. The floral industry was particularly hard hit because of its reliance on foreign workers, she added.

There’s also more pressure to book events in the summertime, she said, since some clients are noticing that restrictions come back into effect in the colder months when COVID-19 cases have tended to climb.

“This would be the first year that people have started having that perspective, and I have started seeing that among some of our corporate and charity events,” Petriw said. “There’s definitely a hesitation and events that would normally happen in October or November, some clients are thinking of pushing it up into the summer.”

But the intense demand doesn’t necessarily mean venues and vendors are raking it in.

Businesses are getting squeezed too as it becomes harder to get a hold of products that would usually come from overseas because of shipping backlogs, and the cost of everything from butter to gasoline has an effect on margins.

Mona Prifti, who runs the Mona Richie Boutique in Woodbridge, Ont., said wedding dresses at her shop have gone up 5 per cent to 10 per cent in costs compared with prepandemic, partly owing to an increase in shipping costs for products that usually come from the United States. The average customer at her shop spends between $1,500 and $3,000 on a dress now and she expects prices to go up further.

Her shop is also dealing with an immense backlog for alterations, as they try to accommodate both new customers and clients who booked before COVID-19 and are finally going through with their weddings. She added that she isn’t charging for additional alterations to honour original agreements, and that is also having an effect on her bottom line. Labour costs have gone up as well, as she says some of her old alterations specialists quit because of the intense hours, and new workers are demanding higher wages.

She would usually deal with 1,000 wedding clients in a year, but she expects to have 1,500 in 2022.

“It’s crazy, it’s not at all organized this year,” said Prifti, who added she is currently working seven days a week from morning to late hours.

Danielle Andrews, president of the Toronto-based Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, said some businesses are charging rescheduling fees to help their bottom line. “Some people are saying, ‘Oh it’s not fair that we’re being penalized for having to reschedule,’ but they’re forgetting that the vendors have to put in all these man hours to make that happen as well, and it takes work to make rescheduled events happen.”

A survey of B.C. wedding businesses found they suffered 70 per cent to 90 per cent drops in revenue during the pandemic, and many businesses are still expecting to have a 50-per-cent drop in revenue this year as they struggle to get back up to speed, Petriw said.

Even worse, some businesses closed up shop during COVID-19, meaning there are fewer options for couples.

Kelsi Leaming, who took a leap of faith and booked her wedding for this summer last year, says that getting the final vendors booked is a challenge and source of stress.

She left things such as flowers to the last minute because she wasn’t sure whether the wedding would be postponed again. Now that she’s confident it will take place, she’s rushing to get things sorted. “We’re going to have to pick up our socks and get going pretty quickly,” said Leaming, who lives in North Delta, B.C.

The planning process may be more stressful than usual, but Paris and Armutlu say they’re focusing on the positives. Even though their big day is more than a year away, they hope it’ll mark a reunion for their families after more than two years of hunkering down.

“Coming out of the pandemic, it’s going to be an opportunity for us to see all of our friends and family and I think that’s the biggest thing that we’re looking forward to,” Paris said.

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