Manitoba couples, businesses cautiously optimistic for upcoming wedding season

Emmanuella Osinaike got engaged to her partner Sikiru Lawal in July 2020, but when they started to look for wedding venues last November, spots were hard to come by.

Wedding industry struggling to fit 3 wedding years into one season: event planner

Emmanuella Osinaike dressed in her traditional wedding attire. After nearly two years of waiting, her wedding has been set for April 16. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Emmanuella Osinaike got engaged to her partner Sikiru Lawal in July 2020, but when they started to look for wedding venues last November, spots were hard to come by.

"It was a bit scary," she said about being told by many venues that their wedding bookings for 2022 were full due to postponements.

"I was really starting to panic, but thank God, we found a hall." 

Some businesses involved in the wedding industry say this year is gearing up to be one of the busiest wedding seasons they've ever experienced.

The wedding boom is happening after Manitoba eliminated all public health restrictions on Tuesday, meaning mask mandates and capacity limits no longer apply.

Allison Polinsky, owner of Alli Mae Events, says 2022 is a unique year for the wedding industry since businesses are having to fit three wedding years into one season.

Allison Polinsky, owner of Alli Mae Events, has been working in the wedding industry for 10 years. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Couples looking to tie the knot may not snag their first choices for vendors or venues and may have to consider booking less-prime days of the wedding season, said Polinsky — or they may even have to wait until 2023.

'Still a little bit nervous'

Elsie Gunther, general manager of Urban Prairie Cuisine, said 2022 is set to be her company's busiest wedding season yet, even prior to the pandemic.

"We are expecting a really big year and we're ready for it," Gunther said, adding that many of her clients this year have been last-minute calls from couples who lost their caterers due to business closures.

But while it may be the busiest year, it's not necessarily the most profitable.

Forty per cent of the weddings booked at Allie Mae Events this year were previously postponed, Polinsky said.

"It's not necessarily new revenue that we're bringing in," she said. "These are just backlogged couples that have been with us for a few years."

Even though public health restrictions have ended, some businesses are still worried another wave could prompt a return to public health rules.

"I think that everybody is still a little bit nervous," said Carly Dalmyn, director of clubhouse operations at St. Boniface Golf Club. 

Bookings for weddings at the golf club are now stretching into 2023, which is far ahead of where they usually are, according to Dalmyn.

There's not a lot of room for error in the upcoming wedding season for many businesses, and if public health restrictions were to change then her venue would have trouble finding space for booked couples, Dalmyn said.

And despite the risk of returning health restrictions, some in the wedding industry say they are seeing a return of big weddings in Winnipeg. 

Ken Lozano, owner of Aldo Formal Wear, said in an interview with CBC's Information Radio that the pandemic created tough times for his store, but demand has begun to reach normal levels again.

"I think people are kind of sick of the last two years and are now ready to kind of move on," he said.

Weddings with over 150 guests are the average for Alli Mae Events this year, whereas Polinsky thought they would remain below that number for a little while longer. She said while some of her clients are more than ready to proceed with their weddings in a pre-pandemic fashion, others remain cautious of returning public health restrictions.

'It's not easy'

The possibility of restrictions also weighs on Osinaike's mind.

She invited about 150 guests to her April wedding, even though the Winnipeg venue has capacity for 450.

"We're keeping half just to be safe in case anything happens again," she said.

Emmanuella Osinaike says some of her family in Nigeria may not make it to her Winnipeg wedding, due to prolonged wait times for visa applications. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Osinaike and her fiance initially wanted to hold the wedding in their home country of Nigeria last year to avoid health restrictions in Winnipeg, but the wait times for their visa applications took too long, she said. 

Now, the biggest issue they face with the wedding is getting some of their family members from Nigeria to Winnipeg in time. Osinaike said they have been waiting around six months for their families' visa applications to be approved, while it took two months maximum before the pandemic.

"So we don't even know if our loved ones will be able to make it. I hope so."

Although it took some time for their families to get on board with a Winnipeg wedding, Osinaike said they have been supportive from afar, and have been sending gifts and helping to cover the costs of the event.

She said she is grateful for her family's support, and Osinaike's advice for planning a pandemic wedding would be to give the process time.

"Have a great support system, guys. It's not easy."

Couples cautiously optimistic for upcoming wedding season

5 months ago
Duration 2:05
This wedding season in Manitoba could be the busiest yet. People in the wedding industry say the pandemic means three years of weddings will happen in one season.