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Wedding planners feel the brunt of pandemic

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Bermuda's wedding planners will take years to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic, an expert in the sector said yesterday.

Nikki Begg, the founder and lead planner of Bermuda Bride, said the outbreak had been “disastrous” for the industry.

She explained: “All of our weddings have been cancelled through until October and, while we're handling wedding inquiries for next year and the year 2022, many of the preferred dates for 2021 have already gone because of the postponements from this year to next year.”

David Burt, the Premier, told MPs during a remote session of the House of Assembly last Friday that amendments to allow weddings to take place had been approved by Cabinet.

He explained that under the amended rules, weddings and domestic partnerships would be allowed, as along as ten or fewer people were involved, including the celebrant.

Ms Begg said any sign that the island was returning to normality was welcome.

She added: “It means Bermuda is beginning to open for business.”

She added: “While it will be great to have weddings take place again, we tended to enjoy the income from smaller weddings to cover our fixed costs and rely on the larger weddings to cover salaries, marketing and educational growth.”

Ms Begg, who has planned more than 1,700 weddings since the business opened two decades ago, said that Bermuda Bride organised 40 to 60 ceremonies over the April to October wedding season in normal times.

She added that the bulk of the company's business was smaller weddings and that it focused on destination weddings and organised only a “handful” of domestic ceremonies.

Ms Begg said that about 65 per cent of weddings on the island were destination events.

She added: “Until the borders open again, simply put, fewer weddings will take place and there will not be the need for as many wedding planners.”

Ms Begg warned that weddings would be “quite different” in the future.

She explained: “It will be some time before people want to have larger gatherings, guests may think twice before wanting to travel and couples will need to be laser-focused on creatively managing their budgets.”

Emily Boden, of Bermuda Event Solutions, said that confidence in travel safety was needed before Bermuda's wedding sector bounced back.

She said: “We anticipate this will take a whole year.

“We have a lot of weddings that have moved to fall 2020, but we anticipate that they will be much smaller than originally planned as some guests will still not feel that it is safe to travel.”

Ms Boden agreed the pandemic had hit the industry hard. She added: “All weddings have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

“It should be our busiest time right now, so the impact is devastating for everyone involved in this industry.”

She said that the announcement by Mr Burt was a step in the right direction — but highlighted that the move would likely have “minimal impact”.

Ms Boden added: “The vast majority of the weddings we do involve large numbers of guests from overseas.”

She said the business, which helped organise about 60 weddings a year, had one event scheduled for later this month, but that she did not anticipate more until the airport and hotels reopened.

Ms Boden added: “The sector cannot operate properly without the airport being open for business.”

Ms Begg said that the economic havoc wreaked by the pandemic had hit many more businesses than wedding planners — including photographers, florists, hair stylists and make-up artists, as well as hotels, restaurants, and other venues.

Ms Begg added: “We have all been impacted and continue to be impacted.”

Melanie Fiander, the owner of Fiander Foto, said that the pandemic had hit her business “very hard”. She added: “All of my weddings that were scheduled for March, April, May and June have now been rescheduled either for the fall or for 2021.

“I've also had couples who are scheduled to get married anywhere from July to December reach out to inquire about rescheduling.

“New bookings for 2020 weddings that would have normally come in on a weekly basis have ceased.”

Ms Fiander said that 65 per cent of her business was wedding photography and the majority of her clients travelled from the USA, Canada or the UK.

She added the announcement by the Premier was “very good news”.

Ms Fiander said: “When it comes to Covid-19, I think it is wise for the wedding industry to reopen slowly and one of the ways to ensure this is to place a limit on the amount of people attending a ceremony.

“As much as I'd love to photograph a larger wedding right now, we still need to be careful to help slow the spread of the virus.”

Ms Fiander agreed reopened borders were crucial to the sector. She warned: “Without this happening, the wedding industry along with several other industries that depend on tourism will not thrive and, maybe, will not survive.”

Body blow: photographer Melanie Fiander relies on weddings for 65 per cent of her business (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Body blow: photographer Melanie Fiander relies on weddings for 65 per cent of her business (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Owners of Bermuda Event Solutions Ltd Emily Boden, left, and Kathleen Dodwell

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Published May 12, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 12, 2020 at 8:14 am)

Wedding planners feel the brunt of pandemic

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