As restrictions ease, the wedding industry hopes for a busy summer
When the COVID-19 shutdown hit last March, weddings were postponed, canceled or significantly downsized. But vaccination efforts coupled with declining case numbers are making the larger gatherings associated with weddings more of a possibility heading into the summer, and wedding venues, planners and caterers are finally starting to book up.
The Silverthorne Pavilion is almost fully booked with weekend dates for weddings this summer, according to Silverthorne Arts and Culture Manager Sydney Schwab. Schwab said many of the weddings were rescheduled from last summer, as the pavilion has had to postpone or cancel more than 100 so far due to the pandemic. Other bookings have come from couples changing their venue from a smaller location to the pavilion to increase the capacity of their wedding.
Schwab said that the pavilion typically hosts weddings in the winter and early spring, but the trend has changed this year with the first wedding booked in late April. While there were some weddings booked for March and early April dates, they have already been canceled as couples turn to more modest accommodations. Other couples are hopeful that a summer booking will let them host more people than current restrictions allow.
“They’re all aware of the public health order right now, so I don’t see any of them canceling unless we don’t get to a higher guest count,” Schwab said of couples planning their weddings at the pavilion. “They know where we’re at right now, and they’re always checking back to see if we’ve gotten to the next level yet or not.”
The pavilion can host 50 guests at a time under the current public health restrictions in level orange. As the county’s COVID-19 dial changes, events can use the state’s social distancing space calculator to determine how many people can attend. Under level yellow, the pavilion can host 80 people. In level blue, the pavilion can host 175 people, which Schwab said is nearly the same amount of people the pavilion would see for a pre-pandemic wedding. Schwab said the town is also hoping that Summit County will consider expanding the 5 Star Business Certification Program to indoor events late this spring or early this summer so that the Silverthorne Pavilion’s capacity could increase.
Schwab noted that in the past week some couples canceled their summer venue booking at the pavilion due to uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions. She said that many of these couples are planning to host smaller and more informal backyard-style weddings with close family members.
Elizabeth “Ebs” Long, owner of Distinctive Mountain Events, said her business has also received bookings for new and postponed weddings rescheduled for this summer.
“The people that I work with, I’ve been working with for a really long time,” Long said. “So back when I was hired, even in March when all of this was starting to happen, they were looking at June of 2021 as being normal. I think that now it’s just kind of a wait-and-see game.”
Long said she thinks couples who had to postpone their wedding and are now scheduled for this summer will likely keep their new wedding date, even if they have to make some changes to their original plan.
“People booking for 2021, they knew this could be a reality,” Long said. “It wasn’t like all of a sudden (COVID-19 restrictions) came out of nowhere like in 2020.”
However, Long anticipates that some weddings might still be postponed if couples aren’t able to have the wedding they’re hoping for. She noted that couples from out of state who are planning their weddings in Summit County are often surprised by stricter restrictions, but tend to be more optimistic that restrictions will loosen.
Long pointed out that it’s not just the capacity of weddings that has changed, but planning has been thrown for a loop. Long said plans changed frequently for weddings that have happened amid pandemic restrictions — sometimes up to the day before the wedding — which under normal circumstances rarely happens in her line of work. She noted that everyone in the wedding business is eager for work, and if weddings do move forward in 2021, the pent up energy could make for one of her best years in the business.
Andre Hampton, owner of Black Diamond Gourmet Catering, explained that as weddings normally make up about 85% of his business, he has had to change his business model to serve smaller, private settings until larger events can return. Hampton said that the events he’s catered over the past few months have been accommodated with plated meals instead of the buffets he used to put out. However, he said his call volume over the past three weeks has doubled, or potentially tripled, with inquiries about weddings and other larger events this summer.
“I’m hoping for the best,” Hampton said. “I’m really expecting to pull some of these bigger events off … maybe not so much in the early spring, but I would like to see numbers in the 100 range mid-to-late summer. That’s what I’m projecting for.”
While Hampton is optimistic about ramping up business, he noted that his catering business is facing the same staffing issues seen throughout the county’s service industry. He said that the suspension of international work visas has further reduced his staffing pool.
“Staffing is always an issue even in a normal year,” Hampton said. “We had to scale down, and now that we’re building back up we’re dealing with staffing issues again.”
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