300-billion-dollar wedding industry disrupted by Covid: Will the culture of weddings ever be the same?
This year will go down in world history as the worst ever for would be couples. For those in the African country of Ghana it started off well with arguably one of the most expensive nuptials of the last decade . The wedding of Osei Kwame Despites son, Kennedy who got hitched to his sweetheart Tracy in one of the most colorful and glamorous weddings of 2020. It was an elite wedding, well attended by the crème de la crème. Unlike the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which cost 45 million dollars according to British press, far more than the GDP of a small country, Kenzy 2020 was grand and lavish, befitting of the status of Osei Kwame Despite one of Ghana’s celebrated business moguls.
But no sooner than later did the pandemic set in which all but disrupted the plans of many people and brought the wedding economy to a standstill. Weddings are typically big business. Globally the industry is estimated to be worth 300 billion dollars annually according to IBISWORLD report, with each feeding a collection of businesses, from caterers and florists to photographers and entertainers.
As the future remained unclear, people were no longer waiting out the virus to tie the knot. Rather they were switching to smaller weddings with 25 or less people which are now becoming popular. The Government of Ghana decreed at the time that gatherings including ordinances could not exceed 25 people, which would include everyone from the pastor to the photographer. With time, the law loosened to allow a capacity of 50 in the usually big auditorium.
Micro-weddings may not be entirely novel but the era of Covid which discourages large gatherings has seen an uptick in these types of ceremonies. Many hotels, churches and event facilities quickly ceased the opportunity and added a virtual element to allow friends and family from far and near take part in the celebration
The situation has cut down on the wedding budget considerably as weddings are organized with fewer people with zoom services for virtual guests, an officiant and 30-minute photo shoot with no bridesmaid or groomsmen. The idea of virtual weddings came up when people begun to cancel their events. CEO of Lamore Bella, Barbara Mensah an event planner tells Paakwesiasare.biz “Weddings that were planned for April and May were just canceling left and right and we were alarmed because such a thing has never happened in our lives”. Many vendors had to refund monies paid them.
Manager of event rental center at East Legon, Paul Gadzekpo says there was major uncertainty for them because they had events lined up. “So, we examined the situation, and asked ourselves what we could do to adjust to the times and be sensitive to the pandemic and at the same time allow people to celebrate this once in a lifetime program?”
Ever since we have seen people from across the world pull off weddings with sizable numbers. It also offered a chance for those who had nothing to quickly adjust and marry with the little they have. Churches and other hotel facilities have also been dynamic by allowing couples to host virtual weddings. Harrison got married to his wife in New York at the peak of the corona-virus and tells me the experience was riveting ”The feedback was great, we enjoyed it and I think its something that will continue even after the pandemic”
Harrison and his wife pulled it off with very little budget. “It’s funny because we were planning this at the time of the pandemic, apart from my jacket and my wife’s gown there were no dresses or make-up for bridesmaids or groomsmen. And we just went ahead with it,” says Harrison.
Thankfully, the church did a lot of the heavy lifting for the ceremony. It provided the wedding auditorium which was converted into a live-stream-ready venue for zoom, the video calling software which has enabled everything from work to parties in this period of Covid.
Cameras were well placed to capture every little detail from the exchange of vows to the champagne toast to the cutting of cake by the newlyweds. The church’s technical team handled all the live streaming. All the couple had to do was send out a zoom link to their family and friends a day before the big day. Hundreds had tuned in to the live stream from all over the world including Accra, Alabama, New York and Spain
Family and friends dressed up on the day and had a watch party, sipping wine and cocktails while following the nuptials on their computers as they sent their well wishes in the zoom chat. For Harrison, the virtual wedding was more than just innovation. It afforded them the chance to gather friends and family even in these challenging times to partake in their special day
For many including Harrison, the idea to downsize was not just rooted in financial considerations. The corona-virus awakened many brides who now begun to evaluate their priorities. In doing so they realized that certain things they once upheld as non-negotiable have become needless at the peak of the virus. It is now down to being married and not the event.
The disruption caused by the pandemic has left thousands of other couples confused as they attempt to cross nerve-wracking uncertainty about crucial matters such as the number of guests to invite, some have had to cancel it altogether but there are still a few though who are unwilling to let go of their dream of a big wedding and are ready to wait until things return to normal. Whichever the case, the pandemic has disturbed the status quo and it’s likely things may never be the same again.