Trying to get married during a pandemic is a challenge for just about everyone, and wedding vendors are no exception.
Many of them get the bulk of their annual income from final payments that come through just a month or two before the event itself. With couples here in Seattle and all over the country postponing or canceling big events, everyone from florists to photographers are facing an uncertain financial future that could continue for months.
Cindy Savage, a Seattle wedding planner who runs Aisle Less Traveled, has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help fellow LGBTQ+ vendors bridge that gap.
“As the economy ‘re-opens,’ gatherings will likely be one of the last things to come back and they will probably look very different for some time,” Cindy says. “The financial outlook for wedding professionals is grim, and I personally know more than a handful who are considering a career change because they don’t expect their businesses to survive.”
We checked in with Cindy to hear how couples and vendors are coping. The following excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.
What are most couples doing? Postponing? Virtual ceremonies? Some combo of the two?
Cindy: It’s really up to the couple to make the decision themselves. But for the most part I’m finding that people feel best about rescheduling and maybe doing a legal ceremony in the meantime.
I think personally if I was getting married right now, I would not be very excited about dropping my guest list down to 10, or 50 if you’re lucky, and then having a socially distant wedding where nobody can dance or hug each other. It’s cool that the wedding industry is starting to come up with some creative options, but I’m not sure how popular they’re going to be with the people who are actually getting married.
Couples are also concerned about the pre-wedding rituals, like not being able to take your mom and best friend to go shopping for the dress, or not being able to have a wedding shower in person. There are other peripheral events that are affected, too.
What’s life like as a wedding planner these days?
Cindy: Honestly, I’ve been very lucky. Partly because I was in transit with a move, I had already planned on a light season. And I’ve been able to reschedule all of my spring weddings to next spring.
But rescheduling is often a challenge itself. It’s hard enough to get the right team of vendors for a specific couple in the first place. No two weddings are exactly the same, and people have different needs and desires.
Ideally, we want to (move) the whole wedding with the whole vendor team intact, and that becomes a nightmare of scheduling matrixes on the planning end. In some cases, unfortunately we can’t keep everybody, and we have to go back and do work we’ve already done to source new vendors.
I’m also still booking and planning weddings for next year, with the hope that we’re going to be able to have weddings as usual in 2021. I know many people are having a slow time in their life right now, but I personally am having a very busy time.
How is the crisis affecting LGBTQ+ couples and vendors in particular?
Cindy: Even in very liberal places like Seattle, it’s still hard for LGBTQ+ couples to find supportive and inclusive vendors. It’s a real burden, because we already spend a lot of our time in life coming out to people over and over again, and there’s a lot of hurt and pain for us as we plan.
Thankfully more and more vendors are starting to say explicitly that they support marriage equality, but it can be tricky to figure out from someone’s website or social media if they are inclusive.
Let’s say you research a bunch of vendors and decide you’re going to reach out to four or five to get more information. Well, every time you reach out to a vendor, you either don’t say anything and hope they’re going to be inclusive, or you have to start the email by saying, “We’re an LGBTQ+ couple. If you’re comfortable working on our wedding, we’d love to get some more information from you.” And that just sucks. That’s not the experience anyone should have when they’re planning a celebration of their relationship.
Those of us LGBTQ+ folks who are in the industry are the ones putting in the effort to educate our fellow vendors (about inclusion and transparency). So it’s extra important that our businesses don’t die as a result of this pandemic.