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Erin Dawson of Jade Garden in Vankleek Hill says that with smaller weddings now the norm, customers are spending more on decor. Photo by Reid Masson

Area wedding industry bouncing back after more than a year of cancellations

Local businesses that serve the wedding industry were hard-hit in 2020, but are seeing a small bounce-back so far this year and looking forward to a boom in 2022.

The wedding industry in Ontario lost an estimated $780 million in revenue in 2020, according to a study by the insurance comparison platform Hellosafe.ca. The study showed that only 39,764 weddings took place in Ontario in 2020, compared to 66,257 in 2019. Those numbers are expected to rise to 48,000 weddings in 2021, before booming to more than 70,000 in 2022.

There were 40 per cent fewer wedding events in Ontario in 2020 than during the previous year.

“Starting last year, all the reservations we had for the summer were canceled,” recalls François Joanisse of the Maître Charle menswear store on Hawkesbury’s Main Street.

Maître Charle had suit rentals for weddings drop by 90 per cent over the past year and a half. Things have improved somewhat in 2021, but sales are still well below regular levels.

“Even this year (many weddings) were postponed again,” Joanisse says. “Right now doing a wedding in Ontario with 25 people outside, people are either waiting, or even postponing until 2022 to be able to have the amount of guests that they want.”

Sales at the Hawkesbury menswear store have also been hurt by the lack of weddings and other events.

“Without people going to weddings or other events we have less sales, because guests are not dressing up,” Joanisse says. “Sales in our dress part of the store – the shirts, ties, jackets, dress pants, and suits – for the last year and a half has been really, really low.”

Jade Garden in Vankleek Hill is seeing a bounce-back in 2021 for its floral design and wedding planning services. The store also saw most weddings for 2020 pushed back, and many will not take place until 2022. However with Ontario moving to Stage 3 of its pandemic reopening plan later this month, business is starting to pick up.

“I have quite a few the week of July 24,” says owner Erin Dawson. “We have quite a few for August and a lot have booked for end of August, September, October and November.”

Maître Charles has also seen a recent uptick in rentals, particularly for weddings taking place in Quebec, where outside gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed.

“Every month that is going by, it’s picking up,” Joanisse noted, adding he is looking forward to 2022. “Once we have the population more vaccinated with their second dose we’ll see a change.”

The Hellosafe.ca study agrees, forecasting a record-breaking year for weddings in Ontario, with expected sales of more than $2 billion for the industry.

“2022 is already booking, which is unusual,” says Dawson, who previously worked in the wedding industry. “I think 2022 is going to be a big year, because we have a lot of brides who have waited.”

The owner of Jade Garden says the COVID-19 pandemic created a trend towards smaller weddings that she expects to continue.

“I think the days of 250-people weddings are gone,” Dawson says. “I think that’s going to be the trend for a while.”

Smaller weddings may actually be a silver lining left over from the pandemic according to Dawson, who has noticed customers spending more on decor and details.

“Weddings for 50 or 75 people are really quite intimate. If you’re not feeding 250 people you can add a beautiful archway, you can add more decor to your ceremony, which will add so much more to photos. And you’ll have those photos forever.”

François Joanisse of Maître Charle. The Hawkesbury menswear store saw suit rentals for weddings drop by more than 90 per cent in 2020. Photo by Reid Masson

Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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