Let The Wedding Industry Get Back To Work - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Tessa Gomes

Tessa Gomes is the current treasurer of the Oahu Wedding Association, in addition to owning her wedding planning company, Fred and Kate Events. She is an active member in the wedding industry, and believes that in life, love is all you need.

I remember when Gov. David Ige first announced the statewide shutdown order. It was “two weeks to flatten the curve.”

Ok, we got this. We can do this. I had weddings during that time so yes, it was hectic, and yes, my clients were panicked. But it was just for two weeks.

Fast forward a long and trying year and a half. Hawaii’s economy has struggled — barely survived — but we were slowly moving in the right direction. Covid-19 cases were low, and business across many sectors were doing well — restaurants, tourism, weddings and events.

Our economy was rebounding back, stronger than ever. Wedding companies were finally able to bring back staff they were forced to lay off during the year-long closure and businesses were finally operating out of the red.

Then, in August, something changed. We got too comfortable, and cases started to rise. Worse yet, hospitalizations increased and our fears of full ICU beds and limited space in the hospitals became reality. It was worse than any of our previous peaks.

Oahu has regressed back to social gatherings with no more than 10 people indoors, and 25 people outdoors for 28 days. That nearly month-long restriction is set to end Thursday and my industry is counting on it.

Unlike other neighbor island counties, Honolulu included professionally managed and controlled events in the same category as social gatherings. Almost immediately, the wedding industry returned back to where we were in March 2020 — couples crying on the phone informing me of their decision to cancel their dream wedding and businesses now facing major losses of income and difficult decisions on whether to lay off staff.

The Oahu Wedding Association has projected that this shutdown will directly result in 1,863 layoffs, with a projected loss of over $20 million dollars in the first five days of the shutdown in the wedding industry alone. Unlike the previous shutdown, safety net programs such as PUA, PEUC, and traditional UI programs, in addition to federal aid monies, have dried up leaving the wedding and event industry in a much worse place than the year prior.

Married couples pose for photographs along the Magic Island side of Ala Moana Beach Park. Mayor Caldwell held a press conference outlining updates to the Ala Moana Beach Master plan. 15 july 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Weddings have been held to imposed limits on the number of attendees. Many professional wedding service providers are suffering. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

A local wedding planner that I spoke with recently was forced to lay off all 19 staff members on her team, a handful of whom rely solely on their income from her company, and others who use the extra income to make ends meet.

The constant fluctuations in our industry — opening, closing, opening again, and closing again without any warning — make it impossible for hard-working employees to stay loyal. They’ll find jobs in other, more stable economies, and when it’s time to fully reopen, these former employees will be long gone. Oahu will no longer be the premier wedding destination it was pre-pandemic.

The glaring question everyone in the wedding industry is asking is why are tightly controlled and managed events at commercially licensed properties being held to the same standard as backyard barbecue gatherings?

Unlike backyard get-togethers, professionally run weddings are some of the most tightly controlled events being conducted in our community. Professional weddings follow stringent safety protocols — likely stricter than most other industries.

In addition to following the restrictions from the City and County of Honolulu — temperature checking everyone, confirming full proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, managing social distancing between groups of people while dining, not allowing dancing, collecting contact tracing information for all attendees, and managing the movement of all attendees, staff and vendors – our industry collectively complies with a list of additional practices that we can do to enhance safety.

These are nothing like my uncle’s backyard barbecues where there is no temp check happening or the crowded luaus we see happening every day. When operated by professionals at commercial venues, weddings are safer than about every other industry that has been allowed to remain open.

With experts calling Covid-19 the next endemic, we must learn to find the balance between keeping our community safe, while growing a healthy economy to keep our families fed and housed. Our industry, local economy and thousands of families are counting on our industry reopening on Thursday for professionally managed events.

Oahu needs our industry and small local businesses to thrive. We’re not asking for handouts, or sympathy, or even a free meal. We just want to get back to work. And yes, we will do it safely.

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About the Author

Tessa Gomes

Tessa Gomes is the current treasurer of the Oahu Wedding Association, in addition to owning her wedding planning company, Fred and Kate Events. She is an active member in the wedding industry, and believes that in life, love is all you need.

Latest Comments (0)

Who can afford to get married nowadays?  The first thing done was to gut the economey.

TimmMann · 1 year ago

The spike in July and August wasn’t be said we relaxed. It’s because Delta arrived and not enough people were vaccinated. If the wedding industry really wants to get back to work they would have been pushing for people to get vaccinated. But it’s been crickets.

Keala_Kaanui · 1 year ago

Most marriages are failing, look at the divorce rate. Look at how many women are having children whose fathers are not around. The whole social stratification of weddings is basically all about making money.

Scotty_Poppins · 1 year ago

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