Aug. 28—ANDERSON — Business has picked up recently for SeBrina Love, who with her husband, Chris, co-owns LovEvents Banquet Hall and Catering in Anderson.
The Loves rent out their venue for class reunions and other gatherings, but they specialize in wedding receptions. As more of the population opts to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, banquet halls, photographers, florists and bridal shops are scrambling to keep up as rescheduled ceremonies from 2020 fill calendars.
"Everything got put on hold last year," Love said. "It's funny because everyone has so much sympathy for restaurants, but I think banquet halls got hit harder than restaurants, because restaurants could still do to-go orders. But banquet halls that specialize primarily in weddings, we just were shut down."
According to The Wedding Report, an industry research firm, there will be about 2.77 million weddings in the U.S. in 2021, compared to 1.2 million last year. That estimate also represents a 30% increase from 2019. Essentially, two years' worth of weddings are happening this year.
For many vendors who operate on a smaller scale, rescheduled ceremonies have created logistical challenges which have made it difficult to recover lost business from last year.
"We have multiple kitchens, multiple crews, so we can accommodate more events," said Jeremy Brown, owner of Nameless Catering, an Indianapolis-based food service company with an office in Anderson. "On any given weekend we can do up to 25 weddings on a Saturday. For a smaller caterer who might only be able to handle one or two weddings (per weekend), it can be hard to reschedule."
Brown said that by early February this year, his company had booked more weddings in 2021 — he estimates more than 400 — than in any year since its founding in 2014.
"We had already beaten our sales goal by February," he said. "To say (business) is booming would be a drastic understatement."
Similarly, Cathy Gray's outdoor facility, which she rents out for weddings as well as graduation parties and corporate events, is booked well into 2022. She said she hears from many fellow vendors that their schedules are more crowded than ever.
"Everyone is so busy this year compared to last year," Gray said. "There's not enough of us when it comes to photography and all that. It's just a lot."
Although bookings are returning to pre-pandemic levels for the Loves, they concede that much of their lost revenue from last year won't be coming back. SeBrina Love said their banquet hall hosted a total of seven events last year. At least half the couples who cancelled wedding receptions chose either to elope or to have scaled-down ceremonies without a reception, she said. Even the receptions that have taken place have done so with drastically pared down guest lists.
With the county confronting another surge in COVID cases due in large part to the virus's delta variant, Love said her optimism about her business rebounding and remaining profitable has been tempered.
"With the COVID numbers rising again, I'm not sure," she said. "I'm just not sure. It's sad that people aren't able to share one of the most important events of their lives with all of their loved ones."
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