Weddings are largely considered recession-proof.
From flowers to photography, celebrations of marriage are a $74 billion industry, according to market research firm IBISWorld. Even as more millennials delay marriage, those who do decide to tie the knot are spending more on their big day.
Amid a global pandemic, tens of thousands of couples have postponed their weddings this spring and left many vendors scrambling.
"They are still going to celebrate, but over 95% are just rescheduling for later on this year or later on next year," said Dhanusha Sivajee, the chief marketing officer at The Knot Worldwide.
"In that sense, it is good news," she said. However, "it is definitely a very challenging time for our small business wedding professionals and vendors," she added.
"It came in so much faster and more furiously on the wedding front in a way our industry wasn't prepared for," said Amy Shey Jacobs, the founder of New York-based Chandelier Events. "Particularly in New York, it went very rapidly to the industry being cut off at its knees."
Shey Jacobs said that her clients with upcoming weddings have all postponed until later this year or next.
Typically, spring is the beginning of peak wedding season. That means that those in the wedding business must now forgo their final payments for the events that would have taken place in the months ahead – causing a significant disruption in income.
Because most vendors are self-employed or independent contractors, they have little in the way of a safety net. Many will be able to apply to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
It is one of the core provisions of the $2 trillion federal economic stimulus legislation, known as the CARES Act.
The loan program opened April 3 for applications from small businesses and sole proprietors. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals must wait until April 10 to apply, according to the Treasury Department.
However, the application process is confusing and time-consuming, according to Leah Weinberg, a New York-based wedding planner. (There's also a lot of anxiety as small businesses worry the loan money will run out.)
"I am looking into grants and loans and the paycheck protection program — that is adding a whole other level of stress," she said. "It's a full-time job to find sources to continue to support yourself on top of having to do work."
Since the vast majority of couples are postponing their nuptials, rather than canceling them, many vendors are trying to initiate an installment plan to help spread out their income during this time.
Weinberg is asking some clients to pay in full this year, even if the wedding will take place in 2021, although the financial arrangements are very much on a case-by-case basis, she said.
"Everybody is trying to protect their cash flow to some extent," Weinberg said.
At the same time, as the coronavirus outbreak spreads and the financial fallout continues, there will also likely be fewer bookings and smaller gatherings in the year ahead.
"We are used to getting several inquiries and right now it's much, much quieter," Shey Jacobs said. "We are getting between 0 to 10% of our normal phone calls."
"I do have concerns for '21 because think people are approaching it with caution," added Jove Meyer, an event planner in New York. "Only time will tell."
Meyer said he was among the first wave of applicants for a $10,000 loan from the government's small business loan program, which is being implemented by the Small Business Administration. He was told the process will take several weeks.
On the flipside, there could be increased demand to reconnect with families and loved ones once the dust settles, according to The Knot's Sivajee. "Coming out of this, I hope that there will be a stronger desire for people to celebrate love."
"I'm remaining pretty optimistic," Weinberg said. In the wake of COVID-19, "I think we are probably going to see a surge in people wanting to celebrate and be with friends and family."
The Knot Worldwide has also established a $10 million financial assistance program to help wedding professionals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.