The Vermont wedding industry is facing one of the longest battles in regard to the state’s plan to reopen Vermont. Wading through the gray areas and “what ifs,” wedding vendors and engaged couples alike are left in limbo when planning for the 2020 wedding season.
The Vermont wedding industry comprises a great number of businesses including venues, catering, tents and rentals, bands and DJs, makeup artists, stationers and many more. Representing nearly 200 of these businesses is the nonprofit Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals, which connects and educates members and helps them provide professional, personalized service to the thousands of couples and guests that attend weddings in Vermont each year.
Nuptial services in Vermont contributed $164 million to the state’s economy — 0.53 percent of GDP — in 2019, according to statista.com.
A large portion of this amount comprises entrepreneurs, family operations and small businesses. It does not reflect the exponential spending of wedding guests at airports, accommodations, gas stations, grocery stores, rest stops and more.
Of the 5,665 weddings that occurred in the state of Vermont, nearly half of those were destination weddings, where out-of-state couples and their guests traveled to Vermont for these events, and Vermont has the highest rate of out-of-state weddings compared to other New England states, according to The Wedding Report Inc.
The Association’s main goals at this time are to reopen the industry as safely as possible for wedding vendors, wedding couples and their guests; and to retain as many revenue dollars within Vermont borders and in the hands of as many wedding vendors as possible.
The Association is asking for the state to provide authoritative mandates on gathering restrictions, which will help businesses and individuals understand how to proceed forward with postponements, perhaps in 60- to 90-day windows.
“Establishing these benchmarks will help paint a clear picture on whether or not couples can plan to have their wedding on their selected date, but also provide us adequate time to logistically postpone these large events to future dates, with the ultimate goal being to preserve that revenue by preventing clients from canceling completely, or resorting to weddings in their home states,” said Lindsey Leichthammer, president of the Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals and owner of Lindsey Leichthammer Events.
“These are large investments for couples that also come with a great deal of emotional investment. Vendors need to be ready to educate clients on rules and regulations that will likely be required to fulfill their jobs,” Leichthammer said.
This includes, but is not limited to:
• Social distancing
• Mask requirements
• VOSHA (Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration) practices
• Sanitizing stations
• Square footage and guest count limitations
• Tented versus indoor venues
Guidelines could also aid industry categories with large perishable inventories, particularly caterers and florists, to plan their purchasing, especially since business interruption insurance usually does not cover COVID-19 related incidents.
“The fear is that those businesses will be subject to ‘loss of business’ if the gathering mandate updates happen too close to the event dates,” i.e. less than 30 days, Leichthammer said.
“It is imperative those vendors purchase their product with confidence, with the added benefit that the majority of that spend is with other Vermont farms and businesses,” she said.
The Association also hopes the state will consider financial relief of some form to wedding and event industry members.
“Our industries will be the last to open up. We’ll be expected to endure the longest period of time without work, and the spigot will open the slowest for us, coupled with the likelihood of stringent regulations as we move forward,” Leichthammer said. “The preservation of the wedding industry and all of its components is an integral piece of the Vermont state economy, tourism industry and the livelihoods of many hardworking Vermonters.”
The Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals is a nonprofit organization representing nearly 200 wedding related businesses in the state of Vermont.