January is wedding season in New Zealand. But even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had to cancel her own ceremony due to the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
“My wedding will not be going ahead but I just joined many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic to anyone who’s caught up in that scenario,” Ardern said during a press conference last January 23. “We are all so resilient and I know we understand that we’re doing this for one another and I know that will help us continue on.”
According to government statistics, there were over 20,000 marriages and civil unions registered in New Zealand in 2018, a time before the pandemic. But in 2020, this number dipped to less than 17,000.
Louise Campbell, owner of Churchwood Bridal and the Taranaki Weddings website, shared with Stuff NZ that the wedding industry is experiencing a lot of pressure. “Normally at this time of year on a Saturday we’d be fully booked in the store, but we’ve had consultations cancelled because brides don’t want to buy their wedding dresses right now, ’’ she said.
Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, Ardern already placed the country under Red, following the traffic light system implemented for COVID-19. “The red setting allows businesses to remain open and domestic travel to continue, but includes mask wearing and gathering restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus and keep pressure off our health system,” Ardern said in her announcement last January 20.
Under the Red, events are allowed but limited to 100 people if everyone has a My Vaccine Pass. But this doesn’t seems to encourage the wedding industry. “But the reality is, if you can’t have the wedding you’ve dreamed of, or you’ve planned, then people are choosing to postpone, so vendors are losing bookings and there is no Government support,” shared Campbell.
Since the mandate, couples have been postposing their weddings at a month where wedding bookings should be packed. In neighboring country Australia, Easy Weddings report that businesses in the wedding industry expect to have an average loss of 50 percent in 2020. And with COVID-19 still around, it’s unlikely that the numbers will start to pick up again until the pandemic is over even in New Zealand. As postponements continue to hurt wedding businesses, only a few decide to continue. But until things get better wedding businesses will continue to face tough challenges.