The wedding industry in Saskatchewan is bracing for an unbridled boom in business over the next year.
Sherri Dlouhy-Stevenson is the owner and lead designer for Bella Dolce Wedding & Events in Regina.
She told CBC News there’a backlog of people waiting to get married. She saw an 80 per cent decline in business during the COVID-19 pandemic these last two years.
“I’m getting triple the number of inquiries now, maybe even more,” Dlouhy-Stevenson said.
“There’s such a backlog of people that have waited so long to get married. It’s really unusual. I think it’s going to be a record-breaking summer for sure.”
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan announced it will end its vaccine passport policy on Feb. 14. That means businesses, workplaces and other public venues will no longer be mandated by the province to require proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Premier Scott Moe confirmed current public health orders, including a requirement to mask in indoor public spaces, will not be renewed when they expire on Feb. 28.
Dlouhy-Stevenson said couples are booking weddings on less popular days of the week because the number of venues in Regina can’t accommodate the number of requests.
Despite the uptick in business, Dlouhy-Stevenson said she is staying cautious — and helping her clients do the same — when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We certainly err on the side of caution and definitely encourage our clients to have a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D,” she said.
Adeola Umoh, who runs Events by EPI in Regina, said the pandemic is still a looming consideration for couples planning their big day.
“A lot of brides are still very hesitant,” she said. “So people are still thinking, with the pandemic, are there going to be restrictions? What does it look like for guests?”
Wedding venues filling weekends
Event spaces that were often booked out a year or more in advance, still have space available for 2022 — but it likely won’t stay that way.
Don Agar owns Agar’s Corner, a 200-person indoor and outdoor event space just southeast of Saskatoon. He said that once COVID-19 restrictions eased on public gatherings last July, the business was able to salvage most of 2021.
“Compared to the year before, anything seems good,” he said.
Agar said the early days of the pandemic sent his business “into a tailspin.” Agar’s Corner was just getting back on its feet after a fire destroyed the family homestead and restaurant at the site in February 2018.
Agar said the business was able to keep going without any weddings in 2020 by hosting outdoor family movie and pizza nights.
Pre-pandemic, the venue hosted around 25 weddings a year. Last year, he said, they had a wedding every Saturday from mid-July to mid-October.
“We did a lot of postponing and shuffling, a lot of it moved to this year actually,” he said. “As of how things are going, we’ll be booked a year in advance again.”
Wedding DJs also booking up
Trystan Meyers is the owner and operator of Armed with Harmony, an event production company out of Saskatoon employing around 35 people in full and part-time capacities.
In the first month of 2022, Meyers’ company has worked five weddings — with more weekends bookings coming up to 14 months out.
“The thing is, just because there’s an uptick in business, can we handle that, because we’ve had to lay some staff off over the last two years,” Meyers said.
“I don’t think it will be a record year, mainly because it’s a challenging part to get the staff back.”
Meyers received some federal assistance and provincial grants to keep his entertainment company afloat the last two years.
He estimated losses at more than $150,000 over that time, during which Meyers said he chose to refund deposits for cancelled events.
“On a human level, the right thing to do is offer that full refund, which is what we’ve been doing,” he said. “But from a business front, you still have to pay for your storage … your website, general business overhead.”
Like Meyers, Gil Campbell also provided refunds for cancelled events with his company Danceland DJ and Photo Booths.
Campbell has been in the wedding and event industry for more than three decades. Pre-pandemic, the Saskatchewan company was doing about 30 weddings a month, mostly in Saskatoon and Regina, but also in smaller communities.
There’s just a backlog of demand. So it’s good, everyone is just going to be working really hard.– Gil Campbell, Danceland DJs and Photo Booths
But from March 14, 2020, until June 15, 2021, he didn’t have a single event.
While some of his clients have postponed their weddings several times, Campbell said more inquiries and bookings have been coming in over the last six months.
“I’ve been turning people away for dates in August for a long time. It’s going to be 150 to 175 per cent the business we have been doing,” he said.
“People want to get married and people want to have a party.”
Campbell said he has enough staff to handle an uptick in requests, adding that pre-pandemic summer weekends often included nine events on a Saturday alone.
“2023 is going to be strong as well. There’s just a backlog of demand. So it’s good, everyone is just going to be working really hard,” he said.