Wedding industry already feeling impact of virus

March 18, 2020

Wedding industry already feeling impact of virus

Wedding vendors and bridal parties are losing thousands after the government tightened international borders. Photo: Maia Hall

The COVID-19 epidemic will put many wedding vendors out of business, says a New Zealand wedding planner, while one venue had three cancellations within 24 hours of the strict new border rules.

Penny McLae, who is also a Facebook group admin, warned it will also rob engaged couples of life savings as those forced to cancel because international guests cannot make it might lose their whole budget.

One Auckland venue had three cancellations within 24 hours of the government announcing mandatory self-isolation for all international arrivals.

The Sorento in the Park venue owner Neil McCormack fears it will only get worse from here.

“It’s slightly concerning they think it might be half way through next year before they come up with a cure – we might all be bankrupt by then!” says the Royal Oak business owner.

While the industry is taking an enormous hit, brides are also panicking on Wedding Discussion Group on Facebook.

Planning to get married in July, bride-to-be Tessa Judd is desperately hoping her family in Australia can make it to her Rotorua wedding.

She is relying on her older brother to walk her down the aisle, as their father passed away.

While Miss Judd would be devastated to go ahead without him, she has no choice but to continue with her original date, knowing how much money she and others have invested.

“My mum's already paid for her flights, everyone’s paid for their accomodation, we've paid for the whole wedding… everything!”

Mrs McLae says it’s heartbreaking to see the financial stand-off between couples losing their life savings or entering debt, and local wedding vendors who will not survive the impending recession.

“They're both losing out. You can't save one without hurting the other.”

Those relying on overseas guests or waiting for their overseas wedding dresses to arrive in the post have to choose between cancelling or going ahead with an imperfect wedding day.

For a lot of couples, the sticking point is pandemics and most contagious diseases are not covered by travel insurance.

“It's going to probably get a lot worse before it gets better,” Mrs McLae adds.

The wedding planner and celebrant has been an admin of Wedding Discussion Group on Facebook for two years, and talks here about filtering the page to avoid mass hysteria.

General Manager of Auckland Weddings Bex Murphy says if the outbreak happened in November it would be even more devastating.

“The season is almost over. It's actually come at a good time, considering,” she says.

Mrs McLae says here, while weddings are quite a luxury in the scheme of things, the epidemic has come as a shock to all New Zealanders.

Mr McCormack from Sorrento says, “I have nervous brides and conferences that have overseas speakers. I’m expecting a big flow down, a recession for sure. Depending on the government, possibly a depression as a lot of people will be unemployed.”

Mrs McLae suggests brides and grooms should look to support local vendors, as many are willing to be flexible and help people affected by the virus.

“It's a beautiful thing to come together as a community and as a nation to support each other through crises.”

She says it may be worth investing in an iPad or a videographer so loved ones stuck overseas can feel as if they’re there, rather than cancelling or postponing the day and losing the deposit.

New Zealand couples spend an average of $30,000 on their weddings.

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