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The bridal industry in Michigan is preparing for an overdue wedding season

LANSING, Michigan (AP) – When COVID-19 spread across Michigan last spring, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a series of orders to slow the spread of the virus. Including: no unnecessary business, no large gatherings and no unnecessary trips.

That effectively ended the wedding season before it began.

A year later, some bridal companies are seeing a return in revenue thanks to a backlog of postponed weddings on the horizon, according to the Lansing State Journal.

“We lost a good amount of revenue for the year that everything was shut down because we really felt it was necessary to completely reschedule weddings so people could have the day they dreamed of,” said Daryl Evans, owner of Pure Enchantment Photography.

Immediately after closing last year, most of the local bridal shops temporarily closed their doors and saw sales decline sharply. Some refused to reopen when restrictions eased in late May. Hawkins Photography and Haltam Jewelers at Meridian Mall closed for good.

For the companies that reopened, wedding preparation was very different.

“We were definitely wondering how we could survive if our industry grinds to a halt,” said Phebeit Ingram, owner of Eleven 11 Events, which rents out tables, chairs and other wedding decorations. “After the initial shock and the thought that I was hurting, I shook the dust off my feet, put on my thinking cap and prayed to God for funny inventions.”

Some bridal shops, like Becker’s Bridal in Fowler, have been able to stay afloat by roadside pickups. Vice President Alyssa Pung said staff worked feverishly in the months following the shutdown orders to equip brides and wedding parties for their ceremonies.

Fantastic Finds, a prom and bridal store in the Lansing community, was less affected by the closure than some others, said owner Sue Rosenberger. She attributed a steady flow of business to couples who changed the format of their weddings or postponed them but kept their dresses, tuxedos, and the like.

Now that check and vaccination positivity rates are on the rise, a more normal wedding season is on the horizon, Rosenberger said.

“Last year we were in recovery mode when we reopened at the end of May,” she said. “This year I would say that we are pretty much on par with the year before COVID. We are where we should be even in times when we are ignoring the pandemic. “

The wedding industry is preparing for a new normal

Wear a mask and stay socially aloof.

As always, these are the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services rules to stop the spread of COVID-19.

In an intimate setting like a wedding or bridal adaptation, these rules can be difficult to follow.

Evans of Pure Enchantment Photography said his photographers now take extra care to keep their distance while filming wedding ceremonies. You use telephoto lenses to get honest shots of a room. Over a dozen contract photographers work for Evans, and they all have to wear masks.

“When we take these open, emotional shots, we use longer lenses anyway because we don’t want people to feel like they have a camera on their faces all the time,” he said.

Some couples, he added, have postponed weddings several times after Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers rose this fall and last month. That weighed on the company’s revenue, but they added other contracts to the lost wedding business.

“We have contracts with various companies where we take photos of the city, the state and certain buildings,” said Evans. “We have contracts with real estate and automotive companies, and we’re going to ramp those things up.”

Some bridal shops conduct virtual consultations and equipment.

“It was really a look at what everyone is saying, what the recommendation is how we still do this work because we knew in our hearts that weddings would go on,” said Rosenberger. “We walked next to this bride and said, ‘We’ll find out with you.'”

Fantastic Finds currently allows couples to bring iPads to faucets so they can video chat outside of the state or at risk family members. Larger groups can divide the equipment into smaller groups, as only three guests plus the bride or groom are allowed at the same time.

Pung currently only sees customers by appointment.

“We had to clean up between appointments and ask that (customers) be friendly and stay (as) close to the appointment as possible to make things clean and ready and to see as many brides as we can possibly”, she said.

Both the Bridal Shops and Pure Enchantment Photography are still working on a backlog on planned weddings in 2020.

“We were really encouraged by the spirit of the brides who said, ‘My wedding is definitely going to happen, it just might be a different time. ‘(And) we said:’ We are here with you, what can we do to help you, ‘Rosenberger recalled.

Ingram, the event planner, is still working under a capacity limit of 25 people. To make her business festive, she has decorated her showroom every week for different types of events, from birthdays to weddings to Christmas parties, which she documents on Facebook. She also offers virtual consultations and roadside pickups for decorations and rental equipment.

Supply chains were an issue in the bridal business. Prior to the pandemic, several local bridal shops relied on a manufacturer near Wuhan, China, causing problems with imports, Pung said. Since production returned to normal, her store has bought a range of dresses from US designers to facilitate reliance on international suppliers.

Ingram said this season is all about improvising.

“I’ve always said that people have to be celebrated,” Ingram said. “What it teaches me is to think outside the box and find a way to do it.”

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