Ontario's wedding industry is swamped, but is a full recovery within reach?
Industry members thrilled with bookings momentum, but pandemic wedding boom has its challenges
Couples are finally making their way down wedding aisles in Ontario after years of pandemic-related restrictions derailed many matrimonial plans.
For industry members, the 2022 wedding season is like nothing they've ever experienced. But some wonder what their businesses will look like after the chaos has subsided.
"I have been a wedding planner for about 15 years now. This is by far the busiest wedding season I have ever seen in my career. It is insane," said Shalini Misir, owner of Maid for the Bride and Swag Events in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Some industry experts say this season has seen a "wedding boom," with vendors handling a backlog events due to pandemic postponements.
"We have about, well, three years of weddings that we're doing in one year," Misir said. "It's all being piled into this year and it's just a non-stop, non-stop wedding season. And we're here for it and we're excited about it.
"But it is crazy."
An average of about 61,000 marriages were registered per year from 2015 to 2019, according to Ontario's Data Catalogue. But in 2020, when the pandemic began, that dropped down to just over 40,000.
In 2021, the number of registered marriages climbed up to around 50,000.
Weddings are big business, estimated to be worth more than $2 billion in Ontario alone, according to the consumer information website HelloSafe. The Wedding Planners institute of Canada, meanwhile, estimates the Canadian wedding industry to be worth $5 billion per year.
A recent article from HelloSafe suggests Ontario's wedding industry lost $780 million in 2020 due to lockdowns and other restrictions. It estimates that overall, 2022 could be a record year, with some 70,000 weddings in the province.
Businesses face staffing, supply shortages
While industry members are excited to be back in business this summer, the wedding boom has faced challenges.
One of the big issues for Misir has been a general staffing shortage she's seen faced by other businesses.
"I had to let go of all of my planners and co-ordinators because we had two years of no weddings. So then to have to rehire and retrain for one of the busiest wedding seasons. It's been really tough."
Many vendors are working two to four weddings per week, which Misir finds unsustainable.
"It's creating a bit of a burnout, I think, across the board. I know the majority of us vendors usually take one weekend off in the summer to be human. That has not happened, she said.
"That's been the hardest because I think as wedding vendors, we all give it, we give every wedding our heart and soul."
For Natalia Fernandez, a florist and designer in Thunder Bay, staffing shortages and other floral-specific industry woes have left the reality of pandemic recovery out of reach this season.
"We source flowers from all over the world. The floral supply is globally impacted. So not only just with COVID, but, a lot of the political issues that are happening in some countries, for example, in South America.
"We're seeing prices now from a wholesale level that are unprecedented in the 10 years I've been in this industry. Never have I seen pricing like that."
'Profit margin isn't there'
Fernandez said political unrest in countries like Ecuador has created a major supply chain issue in the floral industry, leaving her to crunch numbers.
"When you look at the amount of weddings I'm doing, it's like I'm incredibly busy, just like all of us are. But when you look at it from a business perspective … just the sheer cost of everything, the profit margin isn't there. And so, yes, it has been a struggle," she added.
Experts in the industry believe the current wedding boom will taper off by next year, even with many vendors already booking into 2024.
Misir said she hopes things will stabilize in the industry and grow even after such difficult economic times.
"We have seen some of our favourite people lose their businesses or have to shut down. And now we're trying to make up for it. We don't have as many vendors as we had two years ago and we don't have as many startups because people are afraid to get into the industry when it hasn't been so supported."