By Lucas Pino
The coronavirus pandemic roiled the wedding industry in 2020 through 2021, with couples left scrambling after having to cancel their ceremonies only to reschedule and cancel and reschedule them again. In this radio podcast for The Long Island Advocate and WRHU Radio, reporter Lucas Pino looks back at this tumultuous time on Long Island and in New York State.
Script: Boom in weddings
In early 2020, just about every kind of business was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Companies that are dependent on in-person events were left trying to figure out how to continue
to operate while the world was in lockdown. Perhaps no sector was impacted more negatively
than the wedding industry. Couples that had a wedding scheduled in 2020-21 had to delay or
even cancel their wedding all together. Throughout the country, the wedding industry lost
considerable revenue as a direct result of the pandemic. On Long Island it was no different, as
Correspondent Lucas Pino tells us in this report:
Music: Play the song “Here Comes the Bride” for a few seconds, then fade down
Narration (with “Here Comes the Bride playing in the background):
Getting married. It’s man and woman’s dream. Being with the person you love for the rest of your life. The perfect day. What could possibly go wrong?
(record scratching sound effect)
Trump soundbite: “Tonight, I want to speak with you…This is a global pandemic.
Cuomo soundbite: “The number one opportunity…reducing density=.”
de Blasio soundbite: “In light of several new developments…state of emergency in New York City.”
In March of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the world went into lockdown. Numerous couples went into a panic trying to figure out if they should delay their wedding or even cancel it all together due to the uncertainties of Covid-19. For some couples, however, the pandemic was not going to stop them from getting married. Although, as one would expect, these COVID wedding ceremonies were not exactly what most couples had in mind when they started making their pre-nuptial plans. These weddings were mostly held outdoors, albeit with a very small number of guests. Some were even done via Zoom, with no other guests in person. This is what it was like for the staff members at the Inn at Fox Hollow in Woodbury, Long Island during that difficult time.
Cut #1: Samantha Argondizza (2:27-2:44): “So, they were calling me like, Sam, please, I
just wanna have my wedding. I don’t really care. It’s about the date. I want the date. It
could just be my husband or my bride. But we want to get married on this day.”
That is the voice of Samantha Argondizza. She’s the catering and events manager at the Inn at
Fox Hollow, which stayed open during the pandemic. The Inn at Fox Hollow is a hotel that holds ceremonies such as rehearsal dinners, welcome parties, and after wedding brunches. Across from the hotel is Fox Hollow, a catering hall, which holds the actual weddings.
Since the catering hall was temporarily closed, Samantha and her crew had come up with the idea of outdoor weddings called “mini-monies”, that is short for miniature – ceremonies.
Cut #2: Samantha Argondizza (3:11-3:17): “We did weddings of ten people. It was literally,
the bride, the groom, were in included in the 10, and eight guests. That’s all they were
allowed to have.”
They used the space in between the hotel and the catering hall to allow the ten people to enjoy a
very small wedding ceremony.
Cut #3: Samantha Argondizza (3:31-3:54): “It was all outdoors. We did a 10-person
wedding and then we did individual packed food for each person outdoors. And then we did that
for about six months. I did about 15 of them here until we were able to finally reopen the
catering hall towards the end of 2021 with strict guidelines.”
The pandemic was so sudden for the entire world, especially the wedding planning industry.
Katie O’Malley Maloney is the owner of Katie O Weddings & Events in Troy, which is located in upstate New York, where there are a lot of weddings and events held. She remembers how she had to handle the lockdown, and how it impacted her business.
Cut #4: Katie O’Malley Maloney (3:46-4:00): “So, there were a lot of stressors. People
didn’t want to cancel. People didn’t want to change their date and it became ‘well if we
cancel and don’t book another date are we going to miss out on the next date, because it’s
going to be scooped up by everybody else?’, it was almost like the survival of the fittest the
first couple months.”
And this game of survival of the fittest was felt most by the couples who had to change their wedding plans again and again. This was certainly the case for Kourtney Van Patten, of Halliday Financial Group, in Albany
Cut #5: Kourtney Van Patten (1:14-1:35): “There was no end in sight, so when we made
the decision to move it, we wanted to make sure that we moved it far enough out. We didn’t
want to do the “we’re on our third, fourth date. So, we moved it a year out.”
Her wedding was originally scheduled to be on April 10th, 2021. However, due to the rising
concerns of Covid-19 and high rates of positive cases, Kourtney and her then-finance,
decided to push it back a full year to April 9th, 2022. Needless to say, she was very upset
Cut #6: Kourtney Van Patten (2:22-2:41): “I cried. I had been waiting for this forever. It was too stressful to try to move forward with this really celebratory event. But in the back of your mind. You don’t know if you can have it. You don’t know if people will feel safe to go. And we were getting to the point that we needed to start booking and buying things that were going to not be returnable.”
With the pandemic largely in the rearview mirror in 2022, it is expected to be a monumental
year for weddings. There are projected to be 2.6 million weddings this year, compared to 2.2
million in 2019. That’s according to a CNN Business report. This big boom is due to the
number of couples who had to delay their weddings over the last two years due to the
uncertainties of the pandemic.
As a result of this boom, the wedding industry has seen a large increase in business over the past
calendar year. Once again, Katie O’Malley Maloney of Katie O Weddings & Events:
Cut #7: Katie O’Malley Maloney (7:50-9:23): “Actually, it’s been one of the best times for
our business. As we made our way through 2021, our business shifted a lot. Last
year pushed us to be prepared for the influx of this boom, so to speak.”
Samantha Argondizza of the Inn at Fox Hollow says she’s never seen anything like this:
Cut #8: Samantha Argondizza (4:15-4:45): “this past year has been the most insane year
we’ve had in forever because people just don’t care anymore. They’re like, well, I’ve waited
so long to have my wedding. I’ve pushed it three times at this point, we’re gonna do
whatever we want and make a whole weekend out of it. We are just so busy. We’ve been
sold out every single weekend pretty since we’ve come back to full capacity.”
This boom, which has been great for the wedding industry has not been so great for the couples themselves. It has also resulted in higher prices on just about everything, as well as a lack of availability of venues. According to Newsday, the average cost of weddings in Long Island this year is at just over $61,000, which is nearly twice the national average of $33,000. Miki Sobot is a financial planner at Halliday Financial Group on Long Island. He’s getting married next June. The costs of the wedding are not exactly what he expected:
Cut #9: Miki Sobot (2:19-2:24): “It was a little more pricier than we had hoped for. So, it
was a little bit out of our budget.”
Sobot and his fiancé dreamed of getting married at a winery in the Hamptons, but due to the high
price, they have chosen a different venue.
Cut #10: Miki Sobot (1:27-1:42): “So the venue is called Watermill, and it’s located in
Smithtown here on Long Island. It has an outdoors and indoor. Obviously, the reception
will be indoors.”
Despite the tumultuous last couple of years in the wedding industry, and the rising costs, many couples still remember the essence of what it means to get married.
Cut #11: Miki Sobot (5:18-5:25): “at the end of the day, you want to choose what’s best for
you and your fiance and you want to make that day, the best day of your life.”
63% of couples put off their wedding in 2020, so that they could have the big day that they had envisioned. As for the wedding industry, it suffered during the height of the pandemic with strict guidelines. However, it has since gotten back on its feet and has seen more business than they’ve had in decades and it will only continue to grow from here on out.
For the Long Island Advocate and WRHU, I’m Lucas Pino.