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Couples cut weddings, not cake, as Covid-19 wrecks indu...

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Couples cut weddings, not cake, as Covid-19 wrecks industry

(Photo: Flickr / Greg Astill)

As Covid-19 continues its destructive trail, couples wanting to tie the knot are being forced to cut down or cancel their wedding ceremonies, threatening to bring the sector to its knees.

It’s till Covid-19 do us part for couples on the verge of getting married as the pandemic wrecks the wedding industry, forcing many who seek to tie the knot to cut down on ceremonies, cancel or postpone.

“We went from trading at full capacity before lockdown to absolutely no trading at all currently. We went down 70% in turnover during this time,” Thabong Wedding Venue owner Tanya Marais said.

Décor Mechanics has a large client base and used to do on average 200 to 300 events/hires a week before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Currently we are lucky if we do one or two a week. Our turnover is almost non-existent. We are not able to cover our expenses,” manager Mary Krchnavy said.

Caroline Njovana, owner of events venue Riverton Station, said, “In our experience, couples have decided to carry on with wedding ceremonies, but not at the same scale and type – couples opt to go for a simple ceremony with a handful present, and instead of spending a lot on the reception with a full menu they opted for a cocktail.”

Palesa Phiri of Stones Wedding and Conference Centre said that, “As a wedding venue/function venue we have suffered a huge financial loss as we were unable to host weddings for five months in 2020 due to the restrictions, which we understood were necessary, though, to save lives and limit the spread of the disease.”

Daniela Bray, owner of The Forest Walk, said that in 2020 with the first lockdown they could not work for eight months and had no income. Bray said that with the 2021 restrictions, some people had moved their dates and others had cancelled.

“We were supposed to have a total of 11 weddings between January and February and now we have nothing,” Bray said.

“Now you can do the maths. If a wedding costs R40,000 and you had 11 [weddings]? We have not received one payment break from house payments, car payments. And we also had to send staff home again as there is no income.” 

Thabong’s Marais said, “We had to move or pre-postpone around 120 events including weddings, but we were fortunate to only have around 15 cancellations. Due to the postponements, we do, however, suffer from a cash-flow perspective as we have to maintain the venue with income when we can’t make any.

“We are predominantly a wedding venue and our income came to an abrupt stop. I had to fund the business from my own pocket during this period.”

Phiri said: “Our clients who had made advance payments demanded refunds and cancelled.”

Bray said their business was fully adhering to the Covid-19 protocols. “Hand sanitisers, screening, social distancing… everything… and we have not had a single Covid-19-related incident on our premises, but still we’re not allowed to operate.

“My husband and I need all the help we can get as we are deeply affected by the shutdown of weddings,” Bray said. 

Phiri said: “It’s tough. No gatherings simply meant no income and unfortunately bills piled up, which we are still battling to pay off.

“We are living from hand to mouth. Waiters who relied on being paid at least once a week are now on zero.”

NetFlorist brand manager Kriszti Bottyan said: “We have seen a decline in wedding gifting since lockdown.”

Businesses in the sector have had to explore a number of innovations in an effort to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and the lockdowns.

“We have opened our accommodation as a B&B but the process is long and tedious. As a result, the move has not been helpful,” Thabong Wedding Venue’s Marais said. “We also started offering romantic getaways and other services.”

Krchnavy said that, “We have tried to do a few online events; however, this is not exactly the same. People prefer personal interaction. An event, a wedding, conference or celebration is something where you interact with other people. 

“Our core business is making sure that events and functions are visually pleasing and this has been very limited by the current government Covid-19 protocols. People would rather be cautious and wait.”

Krchnavy said Décor Mechanics was hardest hit from mid-March 2020 right through to the present. 

“As soon as the number of guests was limited to 50 pax or less we had cancellations and postponement of most of our events. Décor Mechanics is an event, floral and hiring company which specialises in dry-hire of items… florists right through to full events for 2,000 people. People were not able to host anything; no dinners, weddings, conferences, celebrations – so literally no business at all.”

Phiri said, “Every business needs start-up capital, including innovating new ways of generating an income. Banks are not so excited to give loans without assets attached which we’ve worked so hard to acquire over the years.”

Krchnavy said that, “We are unable to pay our staff and we are a labour-intensive business. We have lost our ‘spirit’ as we have not been able to do what we do best – help people to celebrate. This pandemic has killed all positivity.”

Businesses told Daily Maverick that what made matters worse was that getting funding from the government was near impossible. 

Phiri said that, “What’s really sad is all the red tape to get business from government or funding; it’s a complete headache.” DM

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