The world as we know it changed in 2020. The new normal brought as many unique opportunities as it brought challenges for small businesses, especially in Quinte’s wedding industry.
The industry was booming pre-pandemic, with locals (as well as couples from urban areas) enjoying the area’s scenic beauty as the perfect backdrop for a dream wedding. With the pandemic’s restrictions on gatherings, business slowed like never before. But that did not deter the industry from exploring opportunities that helped them hustle their way through the rough waters to somewhat smoother sailing, almost one year on.
Tim McKinney, owner of The Loft on St. Paul, an Airbnb and small event venue, recounts not being able to accommodate weddings when the pandemic first hit. “People were reluctant to book anything until there was a clear indication that weddings can happen,” he says.
Runway Bridal’s Brooke Miller says her business was hit hard by lockdowns, especially the most recent one, which fell during peak wedding season. “Our business is one that for the most part requires an in-store experience. Brides want to be able to try on and see, touch, feel their wedding dress. It is one of the most important garments they will wear, and a large purchase—not easy to just buy online,” she says.
Local vendors worked hard to keep their businesses going despite the hurdles they faced. Tim McKinney and his team kept their doors open and started offering their Airbnb to frontline workers. “These workers were permitted to stay for free as many could not return to their homes for fear of infecting their families,” Tim says. The Loft also became available for micro-weddings when COVID restrictions allowed.
Jessica Saint-Dic, owner and lead planner of SaJess Events, initially saw wedding bookings get postponed or cancelled. With rapidly changing restrictions, planning small weddings was a challenge with more and more details being added to the mix.
Jessica embraced the new wave of small-scale weddings to enjoy being able to give her clients the option to have their dream wedding day. “I also took advantage of the slow wedding season we had last year to work on the business, broadening my knowledge in other areas of event planning and entrepreneurship, participating online webinars, and again, resting,” Jessica recalls.
Runway Bridal started offering smaller items on their online shop, which helped boost business. “We have been spending time virtually with a lot of brides with wedding dates to help them work through some dress they are interested in and then we have created a ‘Runway at Home’ experience package. After the bride has worked virtually with us in the show room we can offer her [the chance] to pick up the top (selected) dress curbside to try on at home, and join her again virtually at home to assist with any questions,” Brooke says.
Quinte’s wedding industry continues to adapt in the face of volatile pandemic restrictions through ongoing support from the community. These vendors are optimistic for a brighter, post-pandemic future with new initiatives lined up to make up for this slump.