Inflation a concern for those getting married

CHICAGO — When Evan Cooperman and Rachel Ambrozewski got engaged in October 2019, in true Chicago style, the couple made no small plans: an elopement at a resort in Bali in June 2020, followed by a wedding in the United States to the Michelin star, and now closed, Bohemia Strip.

But with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, just months after Cooperman proposed at a Halloween party, the frightening trajectory of the virus abruptly derailed the couple’s initial wedding plans, forcing them to postpone their celebration for two years.

“It was almost like planning four weddings, so it was crazy,” said Ambrozewski, 36, and researcher.

“Luckily everything was secured, so God willing our wedding will be on June 18, with the theme ‘Bali to Chicago,’ which is a nod to the original plan,” Ambrozewski said.

The couple, who tied the knot in front of a judge at City Hall in July 2021, followed by a ‘micro-wedding’ at Salvage One, will have their ‘big wedding’ on June 18 at Park Hyatt Chicago’s NoMi Kitchen , she said.

“Yes, plans may change, but our overall vision is honored,” Ambrozewski said.

With most COVID-19 restrictions lifted in Chicago and much of the United States, those who have postponed their dream wedding celebrations, along with a contingent of newly engaged couples, have led to a surge in demand. marriage-related businesses.

But as the wedding industry welcomes a surge in the number of couples seeking caterers, florists and bakers for wedding celebrations this year, soaring inflation rates and severe labor shortages work make business resurgence bittersweet.

“There’s absolutely pent-up demand and the floodgates have opened,” said Chicago wedding planner Diane Brisk, owner of HBIC Weddings.

Brisk said of the 32 weddings she booked before the pandemic, she had one cancellation, two “micro-weddings” and 29 weddings “that were postponed at least once.”

“People were postponing, first from July to September, and then they realized the longer you delayed, the more likely it was to happen,” Brisk said.

Brisk said in Chicago that the total tab for a formal wedding celebration with 150 guests can cost around $80,000, but most wedding planners will try to help couples create an event that meets their personal tastes with a more modest budget.

Indeed, while Brisk said pre-pandemic couples typically spent around 45% of their budget on food and beverages, those costs reached at least 55% or more of total expenses, with severe labor shortages. which found some hotels and caterers “monumentally understaffed. ”

“There’s less, but there’s still room for negotiation as the cost of food goes up,” Brisk said. “The other big issue across the industry is labor – a lot of event production, wedding, catering (and) lighting staff have found other careers and now work in other areas that aren’t weekends, and more 9 to 5 work.”

“Maybe you’re a caterer who typically books 10-15 events on the weekend, and now you have to stop at six because you just don’t have enough staff, and it’s not worth it. to take the business and ruin your reputation, and possibly ruin someone’s night or wedding,” Brisk said.

Couples should also be aware of supply chain shortages. Brisk said she had heard of shortages of men’s suits – and said she was “all about ordering clothes as soon as possible in all areas”.

Certainly the impact of the pandemic on the wedding industry over the past two years has been significant, with a 2021 survey of 468 wedding vendors finding that most were able to serve less than 25% of work dates in 2020, and 32% reporting an estimated financial loss of more than $50,000, according to the website of Zola, an online wedding registry, wedding planner and retailer.

The outlook for this year is more optimistic.

In a recent Zola survey of 3,309 couples planning celebrations in 2022, 68% of couples said they were inviting 100 or more people and two-thirds said they had increased their budget since they started planning.

The survey also found that couples were “super specific” when it came to their wedding themes and colors, as well as expanding their guest lists. According to the website, they “really care about the kids, the plus-ones, and how their relationships with friends and family have changed.”

“A major trend we’re seeing is that couples really want to personalize their experience, and the meaning and emotions around weddings seem to be heightened,” Zola spokeswoman Emily Forrest said.

“Everyone’s been through so much, and the couples are really thinking about what this day means to them, especially as it may be the first time they’ve been together in person with all their friends and their family,” Forrest said.

While inflation has affected the prices of some products and services, Forrest said even before the pandemic hit, about two-thirds of couples end up going over budget for what she called “such an important event.”

Chicago bride Courtney Lee, who along with groom Alexander Garcia hosted 130 guests at their April 9 wedding reception at the Rookery in Chicago, said getting engaged in December 2020, amid the pandemic, has added an extra layer of anxiety.

“We were stressed when Chicago implemented the vaccination mandate, and we thought we needed to get everyone’s vax card information, but other than that, everything is fine,” Lee said.

Inflation caused sticker shock when Lee was selecting her flowers and discovered that the $1,000 the couple had budgeted was unrealistic, she said.

“Luckily, we were able to adjust our budget because the flowers ended up costing $4,000,” Lee said.

Jennifer Martin, virtual stylist at Prix Fixe Party, said those who got married during the pandemic are not lowering their expectations and instead are determined to throw a party that will be equal parts wedding celebration and long-awaited reunion for the family and friends.

“Now, with people happy that everything is reopening, there’s a lot of pressure to have an Instagram-worthy and Pinterest-worthy wedding, and couples are looking for ways to achieve that look,” Martin said.

“Some will spare no cost or effort, while others who can’t afford it find a way to DIY.”

Martin has been busy helping couples across the United States — including Ambrozewski and Cooperman — plan their weddings with her remote services, which she says helps keep expenses down, especially given the impact of inflation and rising fuel costs.

“I see couples who’ve waited a really long time to get married and are now like, ‘Let’s go! Budget? What budget?'” Martin said. “But the pandemic hasn’t been good for everyone financially , and some couples work with a smaller wallet, but they still want a wedding and get married, which really matters.

Rachel Ambrozewski, right, and Evan Cooperman, second from right, review their planned decorations with bridesmaid Ryann Rase, left, and best man Chris Robinson at their Chicago home on Sunday, April 10, 2022. The couple was forced to cancel several wedding plans. times during the pandemic and have rescheduled their celebration for June.

Newlyweds Courtney Lee and Alex Garcia sport smiles on their faces as their wedding planner Diane Brisk shows them the way to their wedding reception venue at the Rookery Building in downtown Chicago on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

Couples who rescheduled pandemic weddings now face new hurdles

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