'Coming back in full force': As pandemic eases, couples in the suburbs commit to weddings
Like so many service industry professionals, Cheryl Gorey had a lot of free time on her hands during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, the Lake Zurich makeup artist saw her bridal bookings disappear overnight.
"Everything stopped," said Gorey. "I felt so bad for those brides. I told them, 'Whatever you need me to do, I'm there for you.'"
For more than a year, she had no wedding-related clients. Then, a few months ago, business began picking up. After rescheduling her previous clients, her new clients are competing for dates.
Business is "coming back in full force," Gorey said.
She's not the only wedding industry provider experiencing a rebound.
The Wedding Report, a research company that collects data and forecasts trends for the multibillion dollar wedding industry, reported 1.27 million weddings took place in 2020 and 1.93 million in 2021, with 2.47 million weddings projected to occur this year.
According to Vicki Dalka, wedding and event coordinator for Hoosier Grove Barn in Streamwood, 2022 is shaping up to be the best year ever for the venue, which accommodates 120 to 150 people.
The Streamwood Park District facility averages 60 weddings per year during the season, which runs from April 1 through Nov. 30, with September and October the most popular months, Dalka said. In 2016, the venue hosted a record-breaking 79 weddings. So far, they have 86 scheduled for 2022, up from 60 in 2021 and 13 in 2020, when couples had to reduce attendance to 50 people to conform with state health guidelines.
Reducing the guest list meant that attendees really were the most important people in the couple's lives, said Dalka, who recalled one 2020 bride who understood what mattered most was the marriage and not the wedding day festivities.
"She said, 'All I care about is I get to marry my best friend and we get to go on with our lives," said Dalka. "The bride and groom were giddy. They were so excited about their future."
Couples responded differently to the pressure of planning a wedding during a pandemic, said Schaumburg wedding planner Kayleigh Burnitz, owner of Event Daydreaming.
For one, the stress got to be too much and they ended up getting married at the courthouse. Another couple postponed their wedding until May 2022.
Burnitz says she thinks smaller weddings imposed by the pandemic may become a trend. Then again, it's hard for couples to decide which guests to cut.
"They'll save money by inviting fewer people, but the cost of vendors has gone up," she said.
For Buffalo Grove wedding planner Becky Goldberg, owner of Be Gold Events, business began picking up in March of 2021 as couples planned micro-weddings of 50 or 75 people.
"It's definitely on the uptick," said Goldberg, who's scheduling clients for later this year and into 2023. "Next year for sure we'll be back to normal."
Florist Donna Matthias, owner of Donna's Custom Flowers in Mundelein, expects her wedding orders this year to be bigger than ever.
"We're booking up through October," she said, adding that business is "absolutely roaring back."
"I've had nonstop phone calls for wedding appointments," she said.
While some wedding traditions have resumed, others are evolving, according to DJ Lorry Immergluck, owner of Elevated Entertainment in Arlington Heights.
For example, his employees aren't asking guests to hold hands when they form a dance circle around the couple. Instead, they suggest guests place their hands on each other's shoulders or hold elbows.
"Do what you feel is safest for you to celebrate and still feel safe," he said.
Immergluck provided DJ services for a 200-person wedding last month that felt almost like old times.
"Guests distanced, some were masked ... it was fun. It felt like the good old days," said Immergluck, who's optimistic 2022 and 2023 will make up for the down time of the last couple of years.