The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in all our lives. Brides and grooms around the world are forced to come to terms with the fact that their big day pales in comparison to the deadly pandemic. These couples are faced with the ultimate question – to postpone or cancel their big day?
On the other side of the coin, the wedding industry vendors are in dire straits. Photographers, cinematographers, gown designers, tailors, makeup artists, florists, decorators, cake designers, entertainers and masters of ceremonies are having a tough time with the lack of income and unsettling next few months.
We speak to the vice president of Wedding Professionals Association of Malaysia (WPAM) and founder of Malaysian Indian Wedding Photographers and Videographers (MIWPV) Convention, Kamalesan Kamalakaran about the situation. “With this pandemic and the ensuing movement control order (MCO), everyone is facing difficulties,” he says.
“Many couples are resorting to postponements,” The problem is, Kamalesan says, couples have stopped looking for new dates until the Covid-19 situation is settled, which in itself is riddled with uncertainty. Vendors, on the other hand, are struggling. “Us vendors have no income since the MCO began and we expect to be in this position for a few more months,”
WPAM has come up with a list of reminders to assuage couples who are looking to tie the knot. We run through these with Kamalesan, and discuss the effects on both couples to be wed and wedding vendors.
Your dream wedding can still happen, soon.
Most couples have postponed their weddings and engagements to end of 2020, says Kamalesan. “The problem is, for Hindu weddings, there are very few muhurtham dates this year. Since there have been no events for the past two months, most have rescheduled to November and December,”
“As a result of this, there may be a bottleneck of dates for events planned for the last quarter of 2020,” he warns. “This makes it even harder for couples to engage vendors of their choice,”
Kamalesan proposes couples to push their events to next year. “Any deposits that have been paid can be brought forward to next year if couples are unable to engage their vendors to a proposed new date later this year,”
If couples are determined on being wed this year, Kamalesan suggests they look at options of weekday weddings instead of weekends.
Continue your wedding planning virtually.
The MCO is the perfect time to assemble all your pinterest boards, couples! Most industries have returned to work this week, it is therefore the best time to speak to your vendors about any ideas pertaining to your big day. The process of wedding planning can still go on. Better yet, it can be done virtually.
Many wedding vendors have also gone online. These creatives have taken to platforms like Instagram Live and Zoom to talk about what they do best and how they can be of service to a couple.
Couples and vendors can also work together during this time to plan their event with a new concept, taking into account crowd control and social distancing.
Couples and vendors, talk to each other.
While some may find it frustrating to deal with the uncertainties, Kamalesan believes that without empathy, we will go nowhere, “It’s important to keep calm and be understanding of each other’s plight. Vendors should work closely with clients and vice versa,”
He advises both parties to come up with terms that don’t put one side at a disadvantage. These were some of the advised guidelines that were proposed during the meeting between MIWPV and WPAM for wedding vendors pertaining to deposits that have been paid:
- Extend the deposit to a later date
- Allow the deposit to be transferable
- Convert the deposit into other services or events
- If the new date is not available to the vendor, work on the installment-based refunds or partial refunds.
As for couples, Kamalesan urges them to be understanding of the vendors’ plight, and have a chat with the vendors about other services they can provide for the deposit paid. “Take photographers, for instance. We are hired by the number of hours. So if a photographer has been paid for 5 hours, and the wedding has been downsized, perhaps more portrait shots of the couple or the family can be done in the extra time,”
Kamalesan does admit that photographers have it easier. “Wedding decoration vendors will face difficulties when it comes to making changes in terms of size of the event. You can’t even use the same hall,” Communication between both parties, he says, is key.
Utilise the promotions offered right now.
“The wedding industry has been hit the hardest, with a possible outlook of no events happening and no new bookings coming in, as the future is incredibly uncertain,” Kamalesan says.
This has resulted in many businesses offering special deals and promotions to their clients to tide over. Couples should make use of this while it lasts, the photographer suggests. This will not only help the industry, but also secure a service for the couple at a later date.
If you need to, downsize your wedding.
“Indian weddings have always attracted an average of 800 guests, so scaling down to 50 – 100 is a difficult thing to do. However, for the time being we may have to accept it as the new normal,” Kamalesan says. “It does take away the whole wedding experience that we are accustomed to, but we should look at the positive side of it – this is a one of a kind wedding experience,”
The photographer emphasises that public health and safety should come before all else. “It is imperative to follow the guidelines set by our government. It’s not something that should be taken lightly,”
Echoing the voices of the many vendors of the wedding industry, Kamalesan thanks the government for the Prihatin SME Economic Stimulus Package. “But it is hardly enough to stay afloat,” he says. “Other industries like banks and restaurants have clear guidelines on what to do. Not us wedding vendors, though,”
Thankfully, WPAM has been taking proactive measures since the MCO began. The association has submitted a letter jointly signed by the Association Of Wedding Professionals (AWP), Penang Wedding Professionals Association (PWPA), Malay Wedding & Portrait Photographers Malaysia (MWPPM) and Malaysian Gifts & Premium Association (MGPA) to the Minister of Economic Affairs highlighting the plight the industry is facing.
MIWPV and WPAM are also currently looking at measures to better prepare the industry from situations like these, including wedding insurance as well as a way to protect vendors and clients for the future.
While many couples are now in a pickle about their upcoming ceremonies, it is important to remember that all of us are facing the terrible uncertainties that this pandemic has brought with it. Let’s be kind to each other as we weather this together.
Keep up with MIWPV here.
Cover image credits of Kamalesan/Instagram @kamalesan.
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