A typical wedding would involve wedding planners playing the middlemen between venues, caterers, guests, florists, families, and couples themselves who are tying the knot. But all that came to a halt in March 2020 when COVID-19 put events on hold, and wedding planners were in dire positions facing cancellations and payment postponements.
Thus, we spoke to 4 wedding planning businesses to find out how they’ve managed to keep their companies alive during the pandemic.
Planning for the unplannable
During the MCO’s first announcement, all 4 companies reported that clients were now choosing between 2 options: a) take the “wait and see” approach and delay their ceremonies, or b) have a more intimate home wedding instead, the latter of which was embraced by my colleague and her husband.
“I think we realised that the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, and we also didn’t want to wait a whole year to get married. And the wedding day was never really the end goal, what my husband and I wanted was to be married,” my colleague shared.
Aware that technology enabled them to livestream their ceremony, they found it a win-win situation since most of their close friends lived overseas, unable to cross borders for the ceremony anyway.
Noticing this market shift during MCO 1.0, Eventistry pivoted its business to offer party services through its “Party In A Box” and “Party To Go” packages. Both delivered compact party essentials like decorations, balloons, and cake for couples who wanted small, intimate weddings.
Eventistry went a step further in MCO 2.0 and launched a side business, Messy Play Don’t Care, curating and selling sensory play kits for children who were spending more time at home.
Leticia Hsu, President of the Association of Wedding Professionals (AWP) and founder of her own wedding planning business, Elysium Weddings (Elysium) told Vulcan Post that Elysium held a virtual wedding fair allowing couples to snag affordable deals from wedding services for use in the near future.
Though Love & Love tried offering similar promotions, it was to no avail as customers were uncertain. So its team instead diversified their wedding planning expertise into hosting an academy with short wedding-related courses and weekend hobby workshops.
Moments chose not to open up new revenue streams nor offer promotions or discounts for its work.
“There are more people who have major needs besides us. We are still able to cope at the moment even though it was a rough patch,” co-founders Tricia and Evelyn told Vulcan Post. “Many people out there lost their jobs, lost their homes, and barely had anything to eat. They needed donations more than us.”
The small business halted signing new clients and focused on serving existing ones who hired them pre-pandemic, which actually increased the team’s workload. This was because planning a wedding was now a 2 to 3-year job (as opposed to a few months previously) since clients are holding off until extravagant ceremonies are allowed again.
And due to Moments’ 80-90% drop in revenue, Tricia and Evelyn took on part-time jobs elsewhere to sustain themselves and the company. That was one of their ways of managing cash flow.
Keeping the dream alive
With weddings and events postponed and cancelled by clients, all 4 businesses have been in tight spots with their cash flow. Their employees have all taken pay cuts as well.
“We faced a heavy decline in revenue, but our operating costs remained the same. Although there were subsidies provided by the government, in the short run we can’t stay afloat unless demand picks up,” explained Juvien and Laverne, co-founders at Eventistry.
To reduce cost and minimise the impact on the business, both founders received no income during the first MCO, while employees’ salaries were cut.
All of Moments’ permanent staff were converted to contractual ones so they could find part-time jobs elsewhere if they pleased. That means, the wedding planners will only work and be paid depending on the demand of projects.
“The future was so uncertain and it was impossible to keep paying our staff their full salary, EPF and SOSCO, and wait for another prospective MCO,” shared the founders who have not drawn a single salary from Moments for the past 1.5 years.
Love & Love’s staff received salary deductions and were promised the necessary reimbursements once the business returned to normal post-pandemic.
On the behalf of Malaysia’s wedding industry, AWP’s President Leticia said, “In the beginning everyone was just on ‘pause’ mode hoping that it would just blow over, so weddings were just postponed. I would say 100% of the wedding services were in that mode.”
“We are more ready with the announcements [of MCOs] now and it has already become an internal SOP in itself on how we should work from home, reassure our clients, and move forward. Our meetings, plans, [and] proposals do not stop with the lockdown. This is our new normal.”
People will still want weddings
As with all industries, there’s no surviving this seemingly unending pandemic without an online presence. Moments has learnt that events can be managed remotely, even doing so for its clients’ home weddings both in Malaysia and overseas.
“We did not attend and coordinate the wedding in person. However, we drafted the programme, briefed the vendors and the family members, who proceeded to run the programme smoothly without much of a glitch,” Moments’ founders shared. “We’ve also come to realise that we may or may not even need a physical office in the near future.”
As Malaysia’s daily COVID-19 case count is still concerning, Eventistry couldn’t provide a definitive answer on its business’s future plans.
“The pandemic is still so real right now in our country. We’re more focused on the short-term for now as we feel that it is unnecessary to look too far out into 2021/2022 since there’s still so much uncertainty,” confided Juvien and Laverne.
Love & Love’s founder Joey Ling, however, is hopeful in the wedding industry’s recovery. “People still want weddings and we are pretty sure that so long [as] the government manages this pandemic correctly, things will be back to normal again,” she said.
- You can read about other MCO-related topics here.
Featured Image Credit: Moments