The wedding industry is reeling from the coronavirus outbreak, according to those who help brides, grooms and their families prepare for their special day.
“I haven’t seen a customer all day,” said Valerie Kettl, owner of That’s My Dress, located at 1 Towne Center Blvd. in Fredericksburg. “I’ve never seen anything like this. We’re seeing a major decline in customers.”
Kettl, who has been in the bridal industry for 35 years, said a sharp and noticeable drop-off in customers began last week as the number of coronavirus patients across the country began to escalate.
Last Tuesday, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 3,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 67 in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam banned gatherings of 10 or more people in the commonwealth.
That followed a March 15 announcement by Northam of a statewide ban on events with more than 100 people in attendance.
“I normally have seven appointments a day during the week,” Kettl said last week. “So far this week, we literally have had nothing.”
Angela Gordon, of Woodbridge, is a bride-to-be, as well as a That’s My Dress customer. Gordon and her fiance, Sean Perkins, also from Woodbridge, had planned to be married last Saturday.
“I had a little breakdown at work on Friday, but I’m OK now,” Gordon said last week. “I’m anxious and I’m overwhelmed.”
The couple postponed their wedding until August following Northam’s March 15 announcement. Combined, both Gordon and Perkins had nearly 140 guests on their invitation list, with many of them coming to their wedding’s Centreville venue from Ohio, Florida, New York and Texas.
“I was worried about our guests and their health,” said Gordon. “It’s nerve-racking, but I want to make sure everyone is in good health and the virus is not being spread.”
Angeline Frame, chief executive officer of Virginia Bride Magazine in Saluda, said would-be brides shouldn’t panic, as there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“You have to wait and see where this going to go,” said Frame. “It’s not going to be that long term.”
According to Frame, there’s no way of officially knowing how many weddings are currently in the planning stages throughout Virginia, but notes the most popular months for weddings are September and October. The least popular are March and April.
“When things like this happen in this industry, people really jump in and pull together,” Frame said. “It’s going to play out positively.”
Frame predicts a real boom in future months with merchants willing to lower their prices. She also believes dress shops will see a burst in volume sales, and there will be an abundance of business for venues that previously may not have had openings.
“They will be inundated with people trying to book new dates,” said Frame.
Fortunately, there are no shortages of wedding venues to choose from in Virginia.
“There’s pretty much a venue on every corner,” said Frame. “In Richmond alone, there’s over 200 of them.”
But some reception halls and wedding venues are really feeling the bite of the coronavirus right now. As the number of virus cases climbs every day, imminent weddings are being downsized, rescheduled or canceled, and some managers of wedding venues are implementing creative tactics to accommodate wedding party guests.
Stevenson Ridge, a 90-acre site at 6901 Meeting St. in Spotsylvania County, features a 12,000- square-foot main event hall for weddings, along with 11 cabins and cottages for overnight stays.
Jennifer Mackowski, managing partner of the facility, said she has had several wedding parties recently inquire about rescheduling, but two weekends ago, a bride and groom wanted to proceed with their wedding as planned. The event was held at the country resort with extra precautions in place for their guests.
“Every hour, we did a complete wipe down of shared spaces, such as door handles, bathrooms and railings,” said Mackowski. “The client made safety a priority.”
All dinnerware for the reception was pre-set at the tables and common-use serving utensils were not placed at the buffet for guests to share. Instead, servers wore gloves to serve each guest individually as they passed through the line.
“People weren’t as worried about it, knowing we took extra precautions,” said Mackowski.
Keri Walker, owner of Arbor Haven Weddings, 7510 Arbor Haven Lane, Spotsylvania, said although her busy season isn’t usually until May, she is already experiencing a drop in visits to tour the facility for weddings later this year.
“We do have some nervous brides,” said Walker, who has two wedding receptions currently scheduled within the next two months.
Although both of those events are proceeding on schedule, Walker is in constant contact with family members who have last-minute changes or concerns due to the virus.
One of the planned receptions was recently downsized from 100 guests to 50.
“The best man, who is in the military, can’t come now due to the ban on military travel,” said Walker.
Last Monday, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a television personality and cardiothoracic surgeon, received a call from a viewer during a morning network television talk show regarding her daughter’s upcoming wedding plans.
“My daughter is getting married this weekend in Charleston, S.C. The wedding is outside, about 150 people,” Janet asked. “All are healthy individuals. Do you think we’re OK?”
“Delay it. Not the marriage, you can get married,” said Oz. “Just delay the ceremony. Do it later on.”
The doctor’s advice seems to be paying off for Gordon and her future husband.
“I do feel optimistic about this whole thing because we really wanted a summer wedding, but we couldn’t have one because it was going to be so expensive,” said Gordon. “Hopefully this will work out in our favor.”
Gordon also found each of the vendors she contracted with for her wedding are willing to work with her.
“It’s all so new, it’s different,” said Gordon. “Most of them are willing to work with any date that they are available or will give us a refund.”