Local wedding venues say they're getting ready for a very busy season ahead

With couples forced to reschedule their weddings due to the pandemic and capacity limits, some venues in Waterloo region say 2022 will be busy as they try to deal with a massive backlog.

Christopher Jupp with Steckley Heritage Farm says cost of having a wedding has gone up

It's expected 2022 will be busy for local venues and caterers after many couples pushed their wedding date because of COVID-19 and pandemic measures. (Ciro De Luca/Reuters)

With pandemic restrictions gradually lifting, some Waterloo region wedding venues say 2022 will be a busy year as they try to get through a massive backlog of weddings and events.

Many couples chose to reschedule their weddings due to pandemic mandates, restrictions and capacity limits.

Kyle Priestly, co-founder and creative director at Gas Light Events Company in Cambridge, said they were able to host a few weddings in the summer of 2021 when some capacity limits and restrictions eased, but on-and-off pandemic measures have been tough on business. This year, however, the venue has over 100 weddings and events booked.

"We do not have any weekends available," Priestly said. "Looking into 2023, I think we should have our backlog fulfilled and looking forward to some new bookings."

Priestly said the company's event and wedding venue, Tapestry Hall, will host some weddings this year that were booked in 2018, when the venue was still under construction.

"Some of the weddings we booked here were when we were still a dirt pit and selling weddings on a rendering of what the space would look like," he said. "[We're] constantly meetings with brides to remind them of what they booked two years ago."

At Steckley Heritage Farm in Kitchener, staff there are also preparing for what is expected to be a busy wedding season ahead.

Christopher Jupp, executive director, said they have less than 10 available spots for this year's wedding season, and with more capacity restrictions easing, he said it's good news for their business and for couples.

Jupp said that this year, they'll be able to host weddings of up to 120 people — the number his staff and their catering partners are comfortable working with, as it allows for social distancing.

"We took direction from our caterers because we wanted to make sure that they are safe," he said, noting the venue also requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Kyle Priestly, co-owner and creative director of Gas Light Events Company in Cambridge, Ont., oversees the wedding and event venue Taperstry Hall. Priestly said 2022 is going to be busy and have "no weekends available". (Tapestry Hall/Facebook)

Increasing capacity 'bittersweet' for some couples

Though the lifting of pandemic restrictions means weddings can have more guests, Jupp said people may opt to keep their weddings small due to inflation.

"Prices are going up per head now for a wedding and I think that's putting a strain in people's ability to want to increase [numbers] because it's no longer $80 a head and for some people it might be $110 a head and that may be out of some people's budget, especially if they were laid off."

Jupp said his venue has also had to increase prices and staff pay.

"We still get a lot of interest, but the time of having a wedding at $3,000 to rent the barn for 12 hours is long gone," he added. "I suppose that's the bittersweet of people increasing their numbers. It's going to be at an increased price."

Stephanie Soulis, chief executive officer of Little Mushroom Catering in Cambridge, said it's been challenging having to balance increasing their prices, while remaining affordable for people.

"We don't want to price ourselves out of the market, but at the same time we have to make sure our costs are covered and we're living wage employers as well," Soulis said.

She said most of their food and ingredients are locally sourced, and she's had a few supply chain "hiccups" with getting certain items in the quantity they need.

"There are supply chain issues, but on top of that, costs of meats, especially our sea food ... has gone up in price."

Despite that, Soulis said, demand for caterers is still strong. They will be growing their team this year and have had to turn some people away because they are booked with weddings during the busy months of June and September.

With files from Hala Ghonaim