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Tales of a Covid-19 wedding

While families are still tuning in virtually to their loved ones’ pared-down celebrations, 2022 holds hopes for a chance to party in person again.

By Avi Krawitz
It was 3:15 p.m. on a Sunday in mid-August, and there was simply no more delaying. The ceremony was about to begin, and I could not be late. After all, my task was clear and important: to make sure my dad got to experience as much of the celebration as possible, as per my cousin’s plea.

No problem, I thought as I grabbed a T-shirt, shifted my laptop to the lounge and dialed my father to check if he was ready to “go to the wedding.”

“Did you get my email?” I asked as I sensed him slowly sifting through his spam-filled inbox. “Open it! See the link? Click on it just once and another window should automatically open.” I was all too aware that my patience tended to be inversely proportional to the time spent in such technical conversations with my parents.

“Wait, is your webcam on?” I held my breath, praying that we could avoid repeating the previous dramas of having to remotely connect that technological beast to his aging PC.

“What? You’re in!” I exclaimed with some disbelief.

“Yeah, I see everyone. Bloody fantastic!” came his trademark reply, signaling that he was as excited to see family members virtually as I was that the process of getting him there had gone seamlessly.

As we proceeded to people-watch and name-drop while hors d'oeuvres were served through masked smiles, Romy suddenly appeared, gushing in her white gown and finally on her way down the aisle to marry her childhood sweetheart. It was always going to happen, but it unexpectedly became a question of when, how, and who would be able to attend as the pandemic lingered indefinitely.

Not what we planned
In the end, final invitations had gone out along with a third “save the date” email. “Not what we planned, but we didn’t want to postpone it any longer,” my cousin — the mother of the bride — explained almost apologetically.

It wasn’t what I had planned, either; I had hoped to make the 5,600-mile journey for the event, excited to show off my signature dance move yet again — a side fist-pump, overbite with slight grin, and a jerky hip shuffle (trust me, seeing is believing). Instead, there I was in running shorts, unshaven, swigging an uncorked Cabernet Sauvignon in my living room, getting up every now and then for a little twist in front of the mirror to prove I still had what it takes.

As for my parents, they stayed home on our insistence that they avoid crowds at their age while Covid-19 still posed a risk. On the upside, we were clearing space on that exclusive list of just 100 guests who were allowed to attend.

The experience was not unique to my family, according to Shane McMurray, CEO of The Wedding Report, which publishes data about wedding trends in the US. “People are still getting married, but they’re having smaller events and finding ways to get people involved, like through video streaming,” he explains. “Vendors have shifted their business models from catering large celebrations to micro weddings or more intimate occasions.”

Indeed, total spending on weddings in the US fell 51% to $25.72 billion in 2020, with the average cost down 18% to $20,286 per event, according to The Wedding Report’s survey. The number of such events dropped 40% to about 1.3 million. As a result, most wedding-related categories saw a decline in total spending, though jewelry saw a slight rise in the average purchase amount, the report showed. And while this year has seen a rebound from last year’s lows — McMurray’s company predicts some 1.9 million weddings in total for 2021 — the boom he expected has not materialized.

“I thought 2021 was going to be the year of the wedding, but it really wasn’t,” the CEO says, pointing to travel restrictions that hit many destination sites such as Hawaii and Las Vegas. While many states avoided shutting down during the second and third waves of Covid-19, they did impose regulations that limited celebrations.

Making up for lost time
That said, 2022 is still on track for a spike, with projections of 2.5 million weddings during the year. That would be the most since 1984, McMurray notes — a throwback to an ostentatious era when an overbite and fist pump made you the life of the party.

Of course, the increase next year will be a result of pent-up demand rather than any significant growth, McMurray says. “The wedding market has been rather flat for some time. But there is currently a very large pool of engaged couples, and I think we’re going to see a surge in weddings next year.”

This bodes well for the market, and for families like mine who are yearning to celebrate together again. And while my father has finally mastered the art of video streaming, I, for one, am ready to dust off my old, ruffled tuxedo and rock the dance floor like it’s 1984. I’m sure Romy would agree.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - October 2021. To subscribe click here.

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