It might take a while—maybe years—before many of us will be comfortable attending big indoor events again. But things are starting to look up in the wedding industry, which took a hit last year due to the pandemic. Multiple weddings were postponed or rescheduled several times by couples praying lockdowns would ease or infection rates would drop.
Affairs now are more intimate, and limited to the immediate family and only the closest friends or relatives, unlike before when guests used to number in the hundreds.
While guest lists have been trimmed, the gown is a nonnegotiable; the bride still wants to look her most beautiful on her wedding day. Many tend to go for the more classic, even pared-down gowns.
“The silhouettes are always classic. Brides come to me for the design aesthetic that is distinctively Cary, so the look and feel are more or less the same,” said Cebu-based designer Cary Santiago. “The only thing that has changed, but maybe not entirely though, is that a beautiful bridal mask is added to the total look.”
Santiago is known for his beautifully rendered laser-cut gowns and his expert way of sculpting and folding fabric. He has had to trim down his workforce that includes cutters, beaders and seamstresses so they can work together but still practice social distancing.
“In my atelier now, I have several rooms. I divided my workers into groups with two or three of them per room,” Santiago said.
It’s completely different for designer JC Buendia, who described himself as a “one-man band” these days.
“My style has always been understated, and it’s become very appropriate for the intimate weddings we have today,” Buendia said.
“I do fittings alone. I go solo to dress up brides on their wedding day. I used to bring one or two assistants but because of health protocols, I don’t bring them anymore,” he added.
Measurements made online
Santiago is grateful for the interconnectivity and general accessibility of social media “because everything is now possible.” Before he conducts video calls with clients, he asks them to have two assistants ready.
“The assistants will mimic how I do the measuring on my end. They will copy what I’m doing during the call to make sure that everything is right. It’s very challenging but I thank my clients, especially my brides, because they are supportive and they understand that we have to do things this way—at least for now,” he said.
Santiago extends this cautiousness even after a gown is done. “Once the gown is ready for fitting, it is placed in an empty room for two days to make sure that there is no immediate human contact with it until the client is about to fit.”
Even with the scaled-down affairs, designer Ivarluski Aseron’s brides have stuck to their guns, so to speak, when it comes to their gowns.
“I usually work with what my brides want for their gowns so nothing has changed. My brides who pushed through with their weddings during the pandemic were those I met prepandemic. No changes were made on their gowns. Each bride wore what she wanted to,” Aseron said.
Since the pandemic, designer Joey Samson has been fielding clients, many of them from overseas.
“When they contact me, they already have specific tastes or certain looks in mind,” Samson said. The designer is known for an aesthetic he describes as “streamlined and minimal.”
One particular design that he made for a client two or three years ago has become a favorite of his half-Filipino bridal clients from overseas: an off-white pantsuit with a cage terno top. One client whose wedding had been postponed and rescheduled a couple of times asked him to make her one in bottle green.
Simple and functional
In Cagayan de Oro in the south, where restrictions are more relaxed compared to the National Capital Region and the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Rizal and Cavite, two designers have also reported a shift to simpler silhouettes.
“Bridal pieces lean more toward the minimal, as most clients want them to be simple and functional, but the elegance will always be there,” said designer Gil Macaibay.
“The pandemic really bruised the fashion business, and adjustments were considerable. Being closed for months was the hardest. Now, I open my studio only for appointments and follow a strict protocol when receiving clients. Weddings are smaller and are mostly held outdoors,” he added.
Designer Alma Mae Roa has also noted how most brides now prefer designs that are “simpler, lighter, more suited to very intimate weddings.”
“My designs now are less complicated, easy to wear, easy to carry and less expensive, too,” Roa said.
“Since weddings now are more intimate—with fewer members of the entourage or no entourage at all—we also adjusted our prices depending on the need of the couple.”
Roa likened the wedding business last year to riding a roller coaster. “When quarantine was lifted, we thought we could go on with our lives. But that wasn’t the case. Then people began getting their first shots of the vaccine at the start of the year, and things got better. We’re hoping this continues, for the best of all of us,” she said.
The very idea of a wedding is one of hope: for the future and in the future. One only needs to recall the phrase “white lace and promises” in The Carpenters’ song “We’ve Only Just Begun.”Buendia is also optimistic. “As the song goes, ‘The world will always welcome lovers.’” INQ