The area is experiencing a “wedding boom” after over a year of postponed and downsized weddings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The wedding industry is seeing a surge in couples planning 2022 and 2023 weddings, so the demand for venues, vendors and goods like attire, flowers, food and cakes will be competitive. Lifted restrictions for capacities in venues and mass vaccinations are possible reasons for the wedding boom.
Stress on the wedding industry
Lu Ann Vander Zanden, Owner/Certified Bridal Consultant at Bridal Elegance and Formalwear in Kaukauna, says the last two years leading up to the boom have been difficult. It was hard for brides and grooms to host large weddings with the restrictions put on most wedding venues, bridal stores, retail stores and restaurants.
“We saw many wedding parties cancel the wedding entirely and get married at a courthouse, not get married and waited, or hosted a small wedding at a parent or relative’s house,” Vander Zanden says.
She furthers that although the boom is happening, the slow business from the pandemic is not over yet. She is still seeing cancellations of large celebrations like weddings, proms, homecoming, funerals and first communions due to the pandemic. Not only that, but because of COVID, timelines are changing for these 2022-2023 weddings.
“Most of our wedding families from Bridal Elegance want to keep the tradition going and have a large wedding with everyone involved,” Vander Zanden explains. “I… see that the shipping and ordering times are being delayed… this is going to affect these parties for almost another two years.”
Kate Wyman, Marketing and Community Relations Manager at The Waters in Oshkosh, agrees.
“I think we’re seeing wedding booms because of what happened in 2020 when people couldn’t gather,” she says. “I think people are more excited to get together now and aren’t taking it for granted anymore that we can get together with our loved ones. I also think [the pandemic] made us more aware that life can change at any minute so we may as well do what we can now to enjoy each other.”
Wyman says the smaller weddings are starting to “go to the wayside” and even this year into 2022, bigger weddings will take place and more people will get together without as many health concerns.
“I do think that everybody needs to be a little bit more flexible in working with people and understanding that there is still a crisis going on, so people may be a little bit slower to return calls and emails,” Wyman says.
Transforming dress, tux and style trends
Vander Zanden sees some positive changes in her company since the pandemic. For instance, they have enlarged their “Mother of the Bride/Groom” section to include over 470 dresses.
“With this large of a supply, we can sell off the rack and not worry about shipping times,” she says.
Dress trends have also changed. Simplicity is in, and styles of wedding dresses are changing as well as colors of bridesmaid gowns. The wedding gowns are simpler, but accented with beautiful, detailed cathedral veils and intricate necklaces. Bridal Elegance is also seeing an increase in brides wanting ball gowns instead of the “fit and flare” style.
“The ball gowns don’t always have to have all the fluff in the skirt, but they want that accent on the waist instead of at the knee,” Vander Zanden says. “The bridesmaid gowns we have been selling are simpler, less lace, but with pockets. That seems to be a selling point for most. The colors are the deep forest green, sage green, slate blue and wine.”
For the men, she’s seeing more suits in deep blue and grey than standard tuxedos.
Vander Zanden says her hopes for 2022 are to continue to sell many of their gowns to the larger parties, but to let customers know they can sell off the rack.
“I will order given we have the time frame allotted,” she says.
Wyman sees more nontraditional weddings as the years go on. Traditions like sit-down meals and waiting until the ceremony for the bride and groom to see each other are fading.
“I think [there will be] more modern takes on weddings… not as traditional,” she says. “People are really looking at their own ways to do things… so I think that that’s different. I think that people are really just taking their own personal touches and embracing each other more… instead of listening to outside influences.”
She wants people to know weddings are still happening and says not to be afraid to reach out to vendors and start planning.
“People are already planning into 2023, so the weddings are still going on, but I would also encourage people to be creative and think outside of the box in ways that would make you happy and make the day special for you, because it is a day about the couple and the couple should just enjoy each other and enjoy the time,” Wyman says.
The new normal
Travis Zielinski, Owner of 88 Events in Appleton, has a slightly different opinion on why we’re beginning to see a wedding boom in 2022.
“Simply put, people were putting things off and waiting to see what was going to happen,” he says. “I think we all got to a point where we realized that, although I might get some flak for admitting it, this may be our new normal, and couples started planning again.”
He says although we’ve learned nothing is predictable throughout the course of this pandemic, he expects for couples to see continued competition for vendors through 2023.
His advice on how couples should navigate this time of planning?
“[Plan] early, early, early. Do not wait to book the vendors you love,” Zielinkski says. “We are seeing couples taking care of all wedding-related tasks a solid three to eight months sooner than normal.
Couples are opting for smaller, less traditional weddings, and are splurging on what they want for themselves. He says they love the smaller, more intimate gatherings at 88 Events.
“Couples are able to celebrate with the people who are most important to them,” Zielinkski says. “This also allows their budget to go a little bit further.”
Zielinkski says there is more venturing away from standard wedding practices and traditions as well. He sees things like the garter toss and guest favors as becoming less important, while including special details like having their dogs involved in the ceremony are becoming more common.
“Couples are customizing their day to be uniquely them,” he says. “[They] are being more comfortable and confident in spending to secure the vendors they love and making compromises for the things they deem less important.”
A lot of facets of the wedding day have changed due to COVID. These changes are the same ones seen “across the board” at restaurants, stores, gatherings, etc.
“We think a big change within our industry specifically is what happens prior to the wedding day,” Zielinkski says. “As virtual consultations and meetings became the norm, we’ve found ourselves servicing events this year for clients we’ve never even met in person or seen until the wedding day. We think it’s incredible for people to be able to trust us with managing their day without having met us in person. And we feel really honored by that.
“Think of your wedding day as an experience like it’s a destination wedding, even if it’s happening in your hometown. What details and things can you include that will make the day amazingly special for both of you, as well as your family and friends. As we have all been gathering less and less these past couple years, it’s more important now more than ever to cherish the time we do have together, and make it a day to remember.”