MUMBAI-INDIA - November 27, 2020: Bride wear mask after getting married at a temple in Bandra, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Editorial credit: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock.com
For Raveena Verma, who runs a Delhi-based wedding planning company called Drumrolls & Dreams since 2014, history is repeating itself in rapid succession, thanks to the second wave of coronavirus sweeping the land.
"We lost a lot of business last year. While things started picking up in the second half of 2020, in January and February this year weddings did not happen on a large scale and many of them were shifted to April-May, 2021. May was a heavy season. But now we have eight of our weddings cancelled and some have been postponed. Clients booked for May have now shifted to November," Verma told Moneycontrol.
Ankur Sarawagi, Country Head, The Knot Worldwide, has a similar story - around 80 to 90 percent of weddings are either cancelled or postponed. "The second wave of coronavirus has come as a shock to the industry. The guest size, as per new government protocol, is 25 people. This comes at a time when families were planning a guest size of 100-150. So, the challenge is that people are not ready to do a 50-guest wedding," he says, dourly.
Currently, the number of guests allowed at a wedding is one of the major reasons for cancellations or postponement.
Says Ambika Gupta, a wedding designer who runs The A-Cube Project, a Chennai-based company: "From May 21 to June 14, I had a packed calendar. But now, outstation events are cancelled. I had a client from Mumbai who was planning to do the wedding at JW Marriott, Mussoorie. But they changed the venue to JW Marriott Mumbai because of the rising cases of COVID-19. Now, as only 25 guests are allowed at a wedding, a business group like theirs, who were planning for 300 people, is rethinking. The client hasn't called back."
She added that weddings in Mumbai are on a pause and even Delhi is posing a major challenge for the wedding industry due to the COVID-19 situation.
"In Delhi, people are looking at destination weddings. They are thinking of going to Gurgaon because the Delhi market is bad and rules and regulations are changing frequently," pointed out Sheena Seth, Eventador Productions, a wedding planning company.
According to her, if the restrictions on the number of guests allowed at a wedding is not lifted, then the industry will be in a mess.
Sharing similar sentiments, Drumrolls & Dreams’ Verma said, "Now, people are thinking that if gatherings have come down to 50, why do they need to hire and pay a planner”?
Sour Deja vu
Wedding planners are calling the second wave of COVID-19 a bad Déjà vu, which has come when they were just about beginning to see some recovery in their businesses.
Gupta, who had planned actress Kajal Aggarwal's wedding last November, was happy to see bookings take place since she reopened in July last year. ``During the first wave last year, we had around five cancelled events. Later, out of the five cancelled events, two took place. Overall, we did 15 weddings and three events beginning August last year," she said.
The situation is similar for other wedding planners, who saw good business even in the first three months of 2021.
They were all betting big on April and May, which seems to be a lost opportunity now due to rising cases of coronavirus and stringent COVID curbs.
"There are around 30 mahurat (auspicious) dates in April-May as compared to 23 in November-December last year. After the winter season (last year) the momentum was continuing for this season until the second wave of COVID-19," said Sarawagi.
He also pointed out that night curfews are posing a challenge as night gatherings are the most happening events at summer weddings, which cannot take place currently.
"Weddings are a perishable commodity. For most of the partners, it is revenue loss. So, immediately there is a cash flow shortage," admits Sarawagi.
Last year's losses
Talking about the losses, he said for the entire wedding industry, the number of events had come down by 30-35 percent and revenue was lower because of the guest size restriction.
"Overall, the wedding industry saw a 30-40 percent loss last year. This is after business started picking up from October onwards. People were booked out from November last year to February this year. Even venues, photographers were booked out. But due to the impact of COVID-2, revenue has reduced because the size of weddings has come down," Sarawagi points out.
With the wedding size only being a fraction of what it was in pre-COVID times, the second wave of coronavirus is a double whammy for the wedding industry.
Says Eventador Productions’ Seth: "The biggest wedding in 2020 was with 250 guests. In pre-COVID times, we have done weddings with 1,000-1,500 guests. In fact, we were in conversation with a client who wanted to do a wedding with 5,000 guests. But that conversation is a missed opportunity now."No helping hand
For her, this is the worst time for business - she has no clue when work will resume.
"Since last March, we have faced so many challenges that we are tired. Plus, our helping hand, the labour force is heading back to their hometowns," points out Seth.
If that was not bad enough, adds Verma, many from the labour force had not yet come back after they returned to their hometowns last year post the first COVID-19 wave. "And now many are not ready to come back looking at the rising cases," she said.
Both Seth and Verma said that people who play the band at a wedding or florists are daily wage workers, who are devastated because of the current situation. They cannot be held back either as there is no work for them currently.
Hope rests eternal
While the wedding industry is perplexed due to the second wave of the pandemic, their hopes are rising on business coming back in the second half of 2021.
"Industry players are losing money due to the current situation and weddings are getting cancelled or postponed. Still, in terms of market size, the impact of the current situation will be less because these weddings will happen in the second half of this year," said Sarawagi. Hopefully, for him and his ilk, that is the way things pan out.