Wedding industry players need to be nimble and adapt to new norms

By Jamari Mohtar & Tam Mei Si,

One consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic is that people have to cancel or postpone their weddings. This has led to a severe problem – wedding industry players have been hard hit because they have little-to-no income.

According to the Malaysian Wedding Council Entrepreneurs Association, 150,000 weddings planned during the outbreaks of Covid-19 have been cancelled across the country since April.

However, the decision to cancel the wedding has been supported by the government as grand weddings can spike up Covid-19 infections. A very clear example of this was when 88 Covid-19 positive cases were reported at a wedding banquet in Bandar Baru Bangi in April this year, bringing the cluster into the fifth generation.

This is due to wedding is usually attended by a lot of invitees, so the physical distancing and constant masking are difficult to maintain. They may also share food or drinks together, which could have a serious impact on the pandemic, especially if the weddinga are held indoors.

For this reason, Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, a non-communicable disease epidemiologist and public health medicine consultant recommends that hosts either postpone their wedding or carry them out on a small scale with close family members.

As a result, wedding industry players should take the initiatives to adjust their businesses to new norms as well as strengthen their businesses through digitalisation in order to continue to survive in the industry, especially during this pandemic. Thus, they can take steps to turn a traditional wedding events into a virtual wedding.

A virtual wedding ceremony is one in which guests participate virtually via video chat platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime or even Facebook Live.

There are many reasons why couples may choose to have virtual wedding, such as family members cannot travel but still want to join the wedding, but the most important is, of course, the recent Covid-19 outbreak has placed severe restrictions on mass gathering.

On top of that, the average cost of a wedding in 2019 is $33,900, according to data from The Knot, All-In-One Wedding Planner. However, by hosting a virtual wedding, couples definitely would be able to save money on venues, meals and so on.

Virtual weddings can be as lovely, emotional and perhaps even more personal than traditional weddings. As the saying goes, it kills two birds with one stone.

Zola, a wedding planning and registry company, launched a virtual wedding feature in July and created more than 1,500 virtual weddings in the first week alone. A survey of 12,000 couples who have booked weddings for October shows that more than 37 percent are considering a virtual wedding as it has many advantages, especially due to the Covdi-19 pandemic.

Therefore, our country’s wedding industry players should strive to make virtual wedding as a trend in our nation, so that they can generate income to sustain their businesses in this sluggish economy.

They can be more creative and interesting in arranging virtual weddings for couples, such as a customized wedding gift box to virtual guests to create unforgettable memories for them. Wedding industry players should also keep adding new features and tweaking their plans to create a virtual wedding concept, each with its own unique identity.

In fact, some wedding companies predict that virtual weddings will continue to be a trend even during post-pandemic – when mass gatherings become possible again, because couples may have grandparents or pregnant friends who cannot attend their wedding in person. Therefore, our country’s wedding industry players should put efforts into holding virtual weddings, because it will become more of the norm now.

Apart from that, our government should also provide financial assistance to the wedding industry players, who received no assistance in the Budget 2021. Since they have no income for consecutive months, so they could not apply for bank loans. As a result, they are forced to dip into their already meagre savings or company reserves.

Therefore, our government should offer loans to wedding industry players in a bid to cushion the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. The loans can be low in interest rates and lower in requirements, so they can apply for cheaply and easily.

I can’t change the direction of the windbut I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination

The above quote from Jimmy Dean, American country music singer, television host, actor and businessman is very relevant for many businesses to ponder on, especially those in the wedding industry.

They should take the pandemic as an opportunity to adjust their business sails by venturing into other related industries or businesses. For instance, wedding industry players who have gained international recognition in photography can attempt to venture into home-based photography business to become portrait photographers or fashion photographers.

The home-based photography business not only allows them to manage their time flexibly, but also able to earn money with existing skills and equipment.

Besides that, wedding industry players who have an expertise in planning wedding can apply their business concepts to handle small-scale event management activities that could be implemented during the pandemic. They can assist the organisers with their existing expertise and creativity.

Moreover, wedding industry players who specialised in food preparation or catering can deliver food by themselves, or collaborate with Food Panda, Hungry and other food rider platforms to deliver food for customers. They can also boost their sales by selling popular desserts and healthy foods, and promoting it through the social media.  

By being flexible and nimble, they don’t have to sell their business assets when they venture into other related industries or businesses mentioned above, because they will still be using these assets. When the pandemic is contained in the future, they can go back to the wedding industry and continue to run their business as before.

Jamari Mohtar and Tam Mei Si are part of the research team of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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