How the Pandemic Transformed the Wedding Industry

CENTRAL COAST — To say our lives have changed over the past year and a half would be an understatement. Not only has the reaction to the COVID-19 coronavirus changed our lives, it has caused significant shifts in the way business is done.

Our beautiful Central Coast is home to a bustling wedding industry, as couples travel from all over the globe to say “I do” right here in our special corner of the world. However, the wedding industry took a major hit when health officials placed heavy restrictions on travel, social gatherings, and events.

Dawn White of Pacific Harvest Catering & ToGo said, “Our business pivoted and created a to-go dinner program for locals that we still do in addition to weddings—which are still half of our business. However, weddings used to be ninety percent of our business.”

Getting through this together, Atascadero

“At the beginning of 2020, I had 120 events on the books, and I did 35,” said Bottles & Ice owner Anissa Hedges. “Of course, at that point, they were all micro-events, like eighteen-person weddings…We were masking up; we were wearing gloves; we had seven bottles of hand sanitizer on the bar. A lot of venues built plexiglass barriers for the bar.”

The pandemic not only changed how weddings are done, but in a lot of ways, it made couples and vendors rethink what weddings are.

“As a result of the pandemic, we have recognized many changes in the industry,” said Kristen Pinter, Managing Partner of Higuera Ranch. “Elopements were not as common before the pandemic, but there seems to be a new surge! Couples are focusing more on their weekend experience surrounded by their closest family and friends. The vows have become very intimate, and the celebrations have a fresh energy!”

“I think it also changed my perspective of weddings,” said Hedges. “Everybody was just so grateful to be out doing something or to have a sense of normalcy, but… those eighteen to thirty person weddings were so fun, and everyone was so nice and so happy to be there.”

Wedding videographer Chelsea Schmitz of Stories Told by Film explained that with couples unable to invite as many family members as before, therefore, an increased priority has been placed on securing a professional videographer.

“I used to be one of the last vendors booked,” said Schmitz, “but in a lot of cases, I’ve suddenly become the first vendor couples book for their wedding. Video has become more important than ever now that weddings have become smaller.”

Schmitz described an elopement to which herself, the photographer, and their two assistants were the only guests in attendance. In fact, the photographer’s assistant also officiated the elopement. This is one example of the larger trend toward smaller, more intimate ceremonies.

“Some of the smallest weddings I’ve filmed have been my favorite,” said Schmitz.

“Another positive impact of the pandemic has been family created through vendor relationships!” said Pinter. “We weathered the storm together, and now we embrace the opportunity to bring dreams to life. I love seeing the smiling faces of vendor friends at the ranch!”

While we have no way of knowing what the future will bring, restrictions have begun to lift for now, and things are beginning to resemble something like normalcy. As the clouds begin to part, perhaps some of our silver linings will remain with us to remind us that there is always a way through the storm.