Outdoor weddings may linger a while
Love may still be alive, but in Miami the wedding industry continues to feel the effects of the pandemic even as business begins to ramp up. Trends like smaller and outdoor weddings, local vendors say, may linger a little longer, but eventually the industry is poised for a rebound and couples aren’t ready to stop celebrating their special day.
Many hotels are already seeing more wedding business, Wendy Kallergis, president and CEO of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, told Miami Today. But according to wedding planner Maggie Rodriguez, founder and CEO of Inspired Events, different locations play by different rules.
In some hotel ballrooms and outdoor sites, Ms. Rodriguez said, it’s business as usual, while other venues have yet to open their doors.
The industry, she said, is now working with an influx of couples who rescheduled their nuptials last year for early 2021, not expecting the pandemic to wear on. Her own business, she added, is working with around half the clients it serves in a typical year, though this will increase as couples aiming for 2022 weddings start the planning process. Most, she said, begin planning a year in advance, though now many couples may take as little as six months.
As Covid shuttered businesses across the county, Ms. Rodriguez said she got creative in order to keep her core staff on board. Cares Act funds, she said, were inaccessible to many in the industry who classify as independent contractors and were left out of the package.
Making use of her catering team, Ms. Rodriguez started delivering meals and “grazing boxes” full of curated meats, cheeses and spreads for small events. She is also working on offering a virtual Wedding Masterclass, will walk married-couples-to-be through the planning process and offer a range of related projects.
Even when the pandemic ends, Ms. Rodriguez said, she will probably continue with the delivery products and lean more into the online space.
Though nuptials may remain small as covid is fresh in many minds, she said, eventually the industry will rebound as people long for celebration.
Lisa Merritt-Lee, owner of styling and makeup company Alluring Faces, also jumped into the digital space as covid made in-person makeup visits rarer. Clients, she said, are starting to come back to the studio, but they often have smaller weddings and prefer to have their makeup done at Ms. Merritt-Lee’s facilities now rather than having her come to them.
For the first time, Ms. Merritt-Lee said, she is offering online makeup consultations starting at $50 for brides or clients around the world looking to learn to do their own makeup professionally.
She said her makeup line, Alluring Faces Cosmetics, has also started taking off and now accounts for up to 40% of her overall business. With the help of her children, she learned to get more comfortable with social media platforms and advertising in the process of boosting the brand. Now, she said, in-person clients account for around 50% of business while online consultations are another 10%.
At the moment, she said, the makeup sales are balancing out the loss of some in-person work due to Covid. But Ms. Merritt-Lee said she had no plans of shifting her focus away from application entirely.
“I don’t want to get overworked with the makeup,” she said, “because the application is my craft. I don’t want to stop that.”
Ms. Merritt-Lee’s next goal, she said, is to open a non-profit dedicated to helping the families of children with special needs, whether that’s helping them pay the electric bill or giving an overworked mother a “day of glamour.” Ms. Merritt-Lee, the mother of a special-needs son herself, said there are lots of organizations out there for the children, but few for the parents, who give so much of themselves to being caretakers.
For Jenise Castro and Viviana Planas, owners of consignment wedding dress boutique La Vie En Blanc, a strong start to 2020 balanced out the rest of the year’s losses, but some trends are changing. While the volume of sales is trending back up, they said, many brides are spending less on their dream gown as weddings shift from ballrooms to backyards.
Starting their business, the team sought to fill a need, that of a more affordable and eco-friendly bridal shopping experience, which didn’t always exist in Miami. They sell designer dresses off the rack from recent seasons or design shows at 25% to 75% off retail, and feature some consignment dresses from individual brides.
This model, they said, has actually been pandemic-friendly. While manufacturing and deliveries slowed for made-to-order dresses, selling off the rack was less affected. The team also received more consignment dress offers, as many brides who cancelled their nuptials sought to sell.
Currently, Ms. Planas said, the team is working on curating its next collection of gowns. With the pandemic still affecting trends, she said, she predicts fewer ball gowns will be in demand as brides continue to focus on outdoor and smaller weddings.
Many, the team said, are shopping more intentionally – and closer to the big day. While in the past brides could make an event of visiting multiple different bridal shops and sipping champagne with their bridal party, those days have yet to return as boutiques continue to follow covid protocols and limit guests. Now, many come with the intention to buy.
Many vendors in the industry, especially smaller service-oriented vendors like photographers and florists, suffered through the pandemic. But, each expert noted, weddings will probably keep picking up.
“It goes back to the Roaring ’20s, where everything just took a turn for the better,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “I think we’re going to see a resurgence in celebrations for sure.”