People who make their living from Calgary’s usually booming Indian wedding industry are facing a huge financial hit while they wait out COVID-19 for what could be the rest of 2020.
The large and lavish events can run for several days and can involve up to 500 guests travelling from India, the U.S. and Europe. Weddings without those families in attendance are simply not an option for most brides and grooms.
The weddings, which usually run from March through October, mean big money for a long line of Calgary businesses from planners, venues, hair and makeup artists, DJs, caterers, performers, dancers, photographers and many more, who all now face an uncertain future.
“Typically we’d do two to three weddings every weekend, around 10 weddings per month,” said Ramandeep Sabharwal, who runs the Calgary-based wedding planning company Fusion Bollywood.
That number has now dropped to zero.
“We probably have lost all the revenue now. Everything is cancelled until the end of August and I don’t see a very promising time for September and October also,” said Sabharwal.
“It’s a multi-million dollar industry in our province so we really need to have these businesses up and going,” she said. “Waiting for the next season in 2021, a lot of businesses are going to have locks on their doors.”
The events typically run for three or four days with many customs, prayers, traditions and ceremonies taking place before the wedding itself, with hundreds of guests attending every day.
The sheer scale of the weddings makes meeting safety guidelines around COVID-19 an impossible task.
In Calgary, weddings take place in a handful of huge banquet halls whose owners are also worried about the future.
“The impact has been heavy. We are feeling a huge hit right now. It’s scary,” said Jimmy Gill, owner of the Magnolia Banquet Hall in northeast Calgary.
Gill has cancelled 80 events planned to take place between March and August.
One solution being suggested by wedding planners and venues is to try to hold weddings over the winter season, which is a tough sell in Calgary.
“People want to do it in the summer time. Schools are off, there’s better weather and relatives can travel,” said Gill.
Gill thinks the ethnic wedding industry will be impacted for much longer than mainstream weddings.
He says he’s now running into problems with people postponing until 2021, creating a backlog and frustration for families hoping to book for next year, whose plans might now have to be pushed to 2022.
But many businesses that make their money through Indian weddings might not make it until then. Gill is hoping for some form of extended financial aid for those business who face having to wait it out for almost a full year.