Southern Alberta wedding industry coping amid COVID-19: ‘I wish I knew what was in the cards’

Tying the knot during a pandemic isn’t the ideal situation for some couples, with COVID-19 restrictions limiting ceremonies to 10 people or less in Alberta, and preventing receptions altogether.

But some southern Alberta couples are choosing to go forward with their nuptials, despite needing to downsize.

For longtime wedding photographer Tanya Plonka in Lethbridge, mini-weddings are right up her alley.

“I normally do a lot of small weddings, they’re my favourite to do, so we are used to being the only professional business they’ve hired,” Plonka said.

“But it has been weird not having (those) 200-people weddings anymore, and not having a big reception that we’re at all night.”

Tips for planning a wedding during the pandemic – Apr 13, 2021

During a typical year, Plonka would attend around 20-24 weddings. In 2020, she says that number was cut in half.

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“Luckily I do all types of photography so being able to do family photos has really kept us afloat this year,” she explained.

Southern Alberta-based boudoir and wedding photographer Katlyn Prins says her 2020 was also slow, but things are looking up this summer.

“But last year we went from 10 to three (weddings).”

Some are holding onto hope that restrictions will ease later this summer, and they’ll be able to hold a larger celebration.

“People that were planning originally for 2021 are either rescheduling to next year, or they’re doing plan A, B, C and D, basically,” Prins said.

Read more: ‘Do we postpone again?’: Couples on planning their weddings in 2021

In 2020, receptions were permitted with a 50 person capacity, and some are hoping that happens again.

“I had some May and June weddings booked who have postponed a few months ahead hoping that restrictions lessen a little bit,” Plonka said.

Prairie Stone Catering in Claresholm, Alta. has been able to pivot its business model to offer a storefront retail option, helping them stay on their feet despite a lack of events like weddings.

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“I desperately miss doing weddings,” said owner and chef Shadow Revel. “I really miss the planning process.”

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Revel isn’t entirely confident restrictions will ease up anytime soon, but is keeping an open mind.

“I’m not so optimistic that the wedding season’s going to open up this year for us,” she admitted.

Chelsa Larson, owner of BLOOMdigity sloral studio in downtown Lethbridge, says she also misses the creativity that comes with weddings.

“Anybody in the wedding and event business will tell you that it can be a stressful business but it’s lots of fun,” she said. “It gets to test your skills as a designer.”

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Larson says walk-in sales have been up slightly during COVID-19, but with weddings being a large portion of their income, things haven’t entirely evened out.

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