May 26, 2020 - Economy & Business

The coronavirus takes the ring out of wedding bells

Illustration of the top of a wedding cake with the bride and groom figurines wearing surgical masks.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wedding postponements during the coronavirus pandemic are dropping like petals from flowers past their prime. 

Why it matters: Weddings are a $74 billion industry, employing florists, reception venues and catering halls, photographers and videographers, clothing stores and more. But waves of cancellations are crashing over vendors, and currently engaged couples are apprehensive about scheduling future nuptials.

  • Per the New York Times, most weddings in spring were canceled or scaled down to small ceremonies. 
  • Wedding planners say they expect ceremonies in late summer and early fall — the wedding industry's busiest season — to be canceled as well. 

Wedding vendors and couples have widely used video conferencing to salvage the experience and their businesses.

  • Zoom marriage ceremonies have gained popularity, and some lawmakers are adjusting statutes to allow for them.
  • Governors in New York and California have issued executive orders to allow weddings to be licensed and officiated remotely during the pandemic.
  • Colorado's governor has also expanded access to marriage licenses by allowing mail-in applications.

Vendors are adapting their services to accommodate social distancing orders.

  • David's Bridal in April launched a "virtual stylist and virtual appointment experience," to accommodate remote shopping.
  • Smaller vendors are offering add-ons and adjusting dates to retain reservations.

Between the lines: The lull could significantly amplify an already shifting decline in weddings — both in frequency and size. 

  • Millennials prefer smaller, more intimate weddings to large gatherings, shrinking the demand for services. 
  • Debt-ridden millennials last year were taking out loans to cover wedding expenses.  

Marriage as an institution is in decline, with more couples opting to skip the formal union.

  • The rate of marriages in the U.S. sank to a record low in 2018 amid declining religious observances and growing acceptance of unmarried households.
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