COVID-19 presents tricky issues for wedding industry

Business owners scramble to accommodate, switch gears

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By Carol Mowdy Bond
Contributing Writer

Well wishers aren’t tossing very much rice or many rose petals these days. Instead, the pandemic is showering mayhem on the wedding industry.
Weddings typically involve large groups of people. And one big problem involves government declarations of no more than ten people gathering together.

Another is the sheer fact that a virus doesn’t know what date it is. So, even if the government allows venues to open and larger groups to gather, the deadly COVID-19 doesn’t care if restrictions have been lifted. It’s still out there doing a bad number on people.

A tricky issue is getting a marriage license. Canadian County Chief Deputy Court Clerk Karen Fox says, “Our court house is closed. No doors are open. You can’t get a marriage license now. We don’t know when the court house will be open again. But we’re tentatively looking at May 18th. It depends on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Canadian County Commissioners, and the district judges. I don’t know about other county court houses.”

“A marriage license is only good for ten days,” says Fox.

This past October, Sara and her groom set their wedding date for the middle of May 2020. In November, she ordered her bridal gown, paying in full when she ordered. They originally planned on, and prepared for a church wedding with 250 to 300 people attending.

A Piedmont resident, Sara and her groom are keeping their wedding date this week. “We will get our marriage license from Oklahoma County,” says Sara. “I’ve already called to check on that. And now we’re having a small, private ceremony in a friend’s home.”

Sara has possibly lost some money due to deposits her family put down when originally booking services for the larger, traditional wedding. But rather than postpone, Sara says, “I want to marry the man I love, and the man that God directed me to. Nothing can stop what God has put in motion! We have seen the hand of God in everything, even through the tough decisions we recently made about the wedding. So many people are praying for us, and we feel at peace with our decision.”

The bridal industry itself is in upheaval, with business owners scrambling to accommodate and switch gears, so as not to go under. But the economic impact is extreme.

Angie McPherson, co-owner of The Arrangement, 451 W. Main Street in Yukon, says, “We have had eight weddings cancel or postpone. The brides that wanted to go forward have had small weddings. Their spending on flowers has gone from thousands to a couple hundred.”

Aimee and Robert McGranahan own Yukon’s historic McGranahan Barn Venue, 12310 Northwest Expressway, a popular choice for weddings. Discussing the impact COVID-19 is having on the wedding industry and their venue, Aimeé says, “It’s been a complete shutdown with no weddings allowed. And, of course a ripple effect on so many people is difficult to watch, from florists to disc jockeys to the bakers and caterers. And for photographers, who are self-employed, unemployment is not an option for them. Gratefully, most people have rescheduled instead of cancelling their weddings. We look forward to the future and celebrations to come.”

In 2019, Allie Diaz opened Allie’s Baking Boutique, 113 S. Rock Island Avenue in El Reno. “Weddings cakes are one of the biggest financial parts of our business,” says Allie. “All our weddings have been postponed. We were lucky that our brides were very understanding and didn’t ask for refunds. Now, our first wedding planned is May 30th, and we don’t know if it will happen or not. It’s a pause, and we’re waiting to see what happens.”

Allie’s shop is not a dine-in bakery. During the pandemic, she has shortened the shop’s hours, and offered curbside pickup only for her other baked goods. Last week she opened the doors, allowing customers to come inside for pickup.

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Very popular for her wedding cakes, Marie Stephens owns Nothing Bundt Cakes. She opened her Oklahoma City location, 2520 W. Memorial Road, in February 2012. And she opened her Tulsa location, 7890 E. 106th Place, in August 2014. Of the COVID-19 impact on her wedding cake business, she says, “We have kept both stores open. But the COVID-19 impact has slowed down our business. We are being flexible with a lot of alternatives. People have decided to go in new directions. Many weddings have been postponed to later in the year. Orders that we were expecting to fulfill have been moved to later in the year. It has impacted our revenue. But we find couples are still wanting to come in for cake tests, and make plans, but for later in the year.”

“COVID-19 has also impacted our other pastry sales,” says Stephens. “It has been a business roller coaster. When the executive order had been executed, our sales dropped. People are unsure, and they are staying home. It’s been tricky. We are a walk-in bakery with a lobby. We’ve never been a dine-in bakery. We’ve always been pick up, and we’ve always offered delivery. But we were able to change our options to accommodate, by offering curbside pick up, and we offer a discount now for no-contact delivery. I was able to keep all of my staff. That was very important to me to keep all my staff.”

Stephens says, “For this recent Mother’s Day weekend and graduations, we had unprecedented Friday and Saturday sales, and we could not fully accommodate in a timely manner. We appreciate our community standing by us through all of this uncertainty. We know our brides and grooms want to celebrate their love, and we’re still here.”

Charlene and Ken Monier own Oklahoma Bridal Shows/okBride.com, 7300 NW 23rd Street in Bethany, which hosts the largest bridal shows in Oklahoma. Since 2002 they’ve produced over 60 premiere bridal shows.

With four annual bridal shows, their vendors include every possible kind of wedding retailer.

“We promote and do the shows, rent the venues, do all the media, and more,” says Ken. He and Charlene say that COVID-19 “is killing the wedding business. All businesses involved are really hurting. There are at least 200 wedding venues in the Oklahoma City metro area. “

“Our biggest show is always in January,” says Ken.

“It’s always the largest no matter which state or city, because so many brides get engaged at Christmas. And we did have it, because it was before the pandemic hit.”

“Our third largest annual show is March 29th in Norman. We cancelled it. Usually 250 to 350 people attend,” says Ken. “Our second largest is July 19th at the Oklahoma City fairgrounds. It doesn’t look good. But we are waiting before we cancel it.”

“Anyone who had paid in full for the March venue, we did offer to give them 40 percent of their money back if they had to have it,” says Charlene. “We also gave them the option of moving them to another show in the future, whether later this year, or next year, or the year after. We could not fully refund their money because we had already spent the money for venues and advertising.”

Ken says, “We’ve concluded that we’ll be shut down for maybe a year, or until there’s a vaccine.”

“We grossed $275,000 in 2019, and that was a low year,” says Charlene. “This year we will gross $150,000 at most.”