San Francisco Chronicle

Vendors are racing to keep up with U.S. wedding boom

- By Leanne Italie Leanne Italie is an Associated Press writer.

NEW YORK — Couples in the U.S. are racing to the altar in a vaccinatio­nera wedding boom that has venues and other vendors in high demand.

With restrictio­ns on large gatherings loosening, wedding planners and others who make the magic happen said they’ve started pushing their bookings into late 2022 and early 2023.

“We’ve run out of trucks for some dates this year and that hasn’t happened before,” said Ben Goldberg, cofounder and president of the New York Food Truck Associatio­n. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook with clients looking to have the weddings they had to put off during COVID.”

Also contributi­ng to the rush are couples who went ahead and got hitched during stricter pandemic times with few or no guests and are now on their second gorounds with larger groups. They’re competing for services with those who had always intended to marry this year.

“We’re seeing a lot of lastminute bookings with shorter planning windows,” said Anna Noriega, who owns the luxury Alore Event Firm in Miami. “With vaccinatio­ns becoming more prevalent and onsite COVID testing available for events, we’ve seen an uprise in guest counts and a push for bookings.”

Namisha Balagopal, 27, in Emeryville, is among the double brides.

She and Suhaas Prasad, 33, met in 2014 and got engaged in May 2019. They planned a traditiona­l South Asian Indian wedding last August in Utah, where Balagopal grew up, with 320 guests and events over five days. But they couldn’t make it happen under pandemic restrictio­ns. They decided on a small sunset ceremony that month with fewer than 10 people in attendance on Muir Beach near San Francisco. It’s where they had their first date and where Prasad proposed.

Now, their big celebratio­n is on for Aug. 15 outdoors at their original venue in Park City, Utah, with about 230 guests and events over several days, including seven clothing changes for bride and groom. Many of their closest loved ones in India aren’t permitted to travel to the U.S.

“It’s just a really big part of our culture,” Balagopal said of the extravagan­za. “In the end, it was really important to our parents.”

The boom is on in bridal and bridesmaid­s dresses, too.

The budgetfrie­ndly David’s Bridal chain, with 282 stores in the U.S. and more in the U.K., Canada and Mexico, has 300,000 dresses in stock due in part to the wedding drought of 2020.

“Moving forward it’s going to be an unpreceden­ted wedding season this year,” said Maggie Lord, a vice president at David’s whose online wedding planning guide, Rustic Wedding Chic, was acquired by the company. David’s has been tracking broad wedding data through the pandemic.

“Couples are getting super creative and having Thursday night ceremonies or Friday afternoon ceremonies just because of the amount of people getting married this year,” Lord said. “We do know that 90% of brides this year are looking to have their weddings at outdoor venues,“where there are fewer restrictio­ns.

Justin Warshaw, creative director and CEO of the global Justin Alexander Group, a bridal design and manufactur­ing house has seen wedding dress bookings increase by 593% from April 1May 15 2020 compared with the same period this year. Eightyeigh­t percent of his 2,200 retailers in 80 countries are now operating, with the U.S. his largest market.

Comparing January through May 2019, before the pandemic began, with January through May this year, Warshaw experience­d a 40% increase in sales of madetoorde­r gowns in the U.S.

 ?? Suman Naishadham / Associated Press ?? Mannequins in wedding gowns are seen in a window at a bridal store in Nogales, Ariz., that has been closed for nearly a year due to the pandemic. Couples are now racing to the altar.
Suman Naishadham / Associated Press Mannequins in wedding gowns are seen in a window at a bridal store in Nogales, Ariz., that has been closed for nearly a year due to the pandemic. Couples are now racing to the altar.

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