The government’s stringent measures to contain the COVID-19 spread are indeed affecting all facets of our lives, including the wedding plans of people, among the most known of which is that of celebrity couple Richard Gutierrez and Sarah Labhati. And that’s for good reason—what the world is facing, after all, is a life-and-death situation.
The Gutierrezes’ grand wedding, set for last weekend at Shangri-La at the Fort in Taguig, was postponed. (Instead, the couple wed in simple rites with only family in attendance.)
The BGC hotel now has to juggle event schedules set until April 15, when the Metro Manila quarantine is scheduled to end. For event suppliers, this means delayed payments.
The pandemic has also put events planners and caterers on tenterhooks. In a phone interview with Lifestyle, events planner Rita Neri and Bizu Catering managing director Audrey Tanco-Uy said that they were able to manage logistics in the aftermath of the Taal Volcano eruption. It was only a matter of transferring events to venues far away from the volcano’s danger zone.
The COVID-19 spread, however, is a different story. Last March 7, as tensions mounted, a couple from San Diego, California, pushed through with their wedding in Boracay. Though the guest list was at 220, only 60 people attended. Some 30 friends and relatives from the United States did not make it.
A Chinese couple, who celebrated their wedding anniversary in a deluxe hotel last March 6, was somehow luckier. Only 10 percent of their 600 guests were a no-show.
Neri has nine more bookings of Chinese weddings this year, with guests coming from Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. She expects the possible reduction of attendees. “For destination weddings, everything is wait-and-see,” said Neri.
Her company, Rita Neri Event Planners—arguably the biggest event planner in the country—was supposed to organize a wedding in Lake Como, Italy, in October. Since Italy is worst-hit by the COVID-19 in Europe, the couple postponed the wedding to next year. Neri was set to fly there in late April for ocular inspection of the venue and to meet with suppliers. But Italy is now on lockdown, and inbound flights have been grounded.
“You can’t work on a venue last-minute or close to wedding date. In any transfer of components, you must notify suppliers and the venue management. It becomes a domino effect,” Neri said. “The postponement or cancellation will affect prenuptial shoots, the honeymoons, the entire hospitality industry.”
Neri pointed out that the pandemic has impacted the events industry. Some of her corporate accounts and children’s parties have been canceled.
“We are realigning,” Neri said. “What reassurance can I give them when I can’t reassure even myself?”
As CEO, Neri also expressed concern about her staff. “As an events planner, we have to be proactive especially with social contact.”
She is concerned about the safety of account managers who face clients and other people. A pregnant employee was told to hand over her clients to another manager. “You have to understand what the rank and file, and middle managers go through. They can’t always be wearing masks and gloves,” she said.
Although they’ve been holding video conferences and Skype calls even before the pandemic, she foresaw that this would already become the new normal.
COVID-19 has posed uncertainty. “Why book when you don’t know when this will end? There is so much fake news that you don’t know what to believe,” Neri said.
As a caterer, Tanco-Uy saw the dramatic decline of guests in a wedding held last week. The guest list nosedived from 600 to 200. In the past two weeks, Bizu Catering’s business slumped due to cancellations. “Nakanganga kami. (We’re at a loss.) There’s no business,” she added.
The office staff of Bizu Catering has begun social distancing by going on a four-day work week and conducting transactions online. The waiters, who are casual hires, will face severe loss of income due to the canceled events.
“We’re on survival mode right now,” said Tanco-Uy. —CONTRIBUTED INQ