Wedding venues are reopening with Illinois, busy days ahead
Following vaccines becoming more widely distributed and people around the Metro East, St. Louis area and Illinois getting vaccinated, wedding venues are starting to...
- Rajiv - CEO & Founder
- Jul 24, 2021
Following vaccines becoming more widely distributed and people around the Metro East, St. Louis area and Illinois getting vaccinated, wedding venues are starting to reopen after slow days during the pandemic.
With a fully reopened Illinois since June 11, wedding venues like Alton's The Lovejoy Wedding & Events center and the Ink House -- located in the former home of The Intelligencer -- and Crystal Garden Banquet & Event Center in Edwardsville are hosting larger weddings again, even if some effects of the pandemic can still be seen.
"We recommend unvaccinated people wear a mask," Kristen Pfund, co-owner of Ink House, said. "We are doing as much cleaning as we can, every entrance has hand sanitizer and those are located throughout, we and our staff maintain our distance as much as we can, a lot of notifications posted everywhere, what rules there are to follow if sick. We see people who come in who wear masks and people who do not. Nobody feels awkward wearing a mask, we’ve been very fortunate with that."
Weddings, which often went remote during the peak of the pandemic and were sometimes thrown into doubt in some venues both in the state and nationally, were often rescheduled for this year or next year, when people predicted the pandemic was to die down. That's creating an effect some are calling wedding fatigue, as this summer has seen two combined seasons of weddings, those originally scheduled for 2021 and those that were moved after 2020.
"Towards the middle through the end of 2020, saw future bookings increase," Pfund said. "We found a mix of a new facility and a lot of folks who had their event canceled and had to rebook but had nowhere to do so, we were a good option, us being a new venue, we weren’t available when they first booked and we renew dates. We’re pleased, our 2022 bookings are going great, we've already opened up 2023."
That uptick in rescheduling started around the middle of the pandemic and continued through to the end of 2020. Both Crystal Garden and Ink House said many of the couples who rescheduled had already been married but were throwing the reception to be with friends and family.
"One couple, they ended up having their wedding on June 25, a Friday event. It was great, fun. The bride said it was so much less stressful because they were married already. They came in and decorated, you would never have known they weren’t at a church getting married," Pfund said. "They got to do some of the things they weren’t going to do at a winter wedding at a spring wedding; they got everything they wanted at their wedding."
Ink House opened its doors on Feb. 1, 2020, a month before the pandemic hit. That made for some changes to the venue, as Pfund said adaptation was necessary.
"It was challenging. We were able to hold events, we just had to have a completely different strategy to host events — we introduced microweddings or microevents, able to stay within the mandatory gathering number, able to create events around those numbers, came up with different packages, created a la carte, worked with different vendors to come up with packages, worked with those vendors to get them some business."
The Lovejoy in Alton was also a relatively new venue that was greeted with the pandemic early on its life.
"Most events were canceled last year," Russ Smith, owner of the Lovejoy. said. "We started the year before, got out of the gates well, booked a lot of weddings for 2020 and lost 90% of them. This year we weren't sure if we'd open, (but) towards the end of the year decided to. Got a couple this year, but 2022 is going really well."
Smith said The Lovejoy had to redo its business structure and use the back patio of the property as a restaurant and bar, including a smoking area. Smith said wedding guests are welcome to use this space, but mostly use the indoor space provided to them.
The wedding fatigue happening this wedding season may not be a one-year trend, either. Multiple weddings have been rescheduled for 2022, including at The Lovejoy.
"We booked more weddings for 2020 before the pandemic than we have yet recuperated," Smith said. "Not as many in 2022 yet as I had in 2020; there’s an uptick and more calls are coming in all the time. I believe I’ll see more in 2022, the wedding and event business is going well, the venue is beautiful, employees coming back, we'll get more attention because of the bar in back. I’m optimistic."
Crystal Garden shut down business at its wedding venue for most of the pandemic until it had a couple seek permission from the city.
"When we initially started doing it, we had a wedding scheduled that was shut down but the couple got tacit approval from the city," said Bill Hatton, Crystal Garden co-owner. "We’re large enough and the wedding was small enough, they said. We’ve been able to move on from there and start carrying out weddings again."
Both venues said they've experienced couples excited and grateful to finally have the opportunity to throw the wedding.
"They were so thankful. A lot of them had already gotten married, they were really grateful to really have that moment with family," Hatton said.
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