Bengaluru: Even as most businesses are limping back to normal, wedding planners and caterers are still struggling because of restrictions imposed on gatherings and cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a second wave of cases is imminent, no relief seems in sight for them.
“My business is down by 70-80 percent. I’ve only organised three weddings after the lockdown and a few virtual weddings,” said Antara Baruah, wedding planner and owner of Katha Weddings.
The government of India’s standard operating procedure (SOP) allows 200 people to attend a wedding. Halls and closed wedding venues are allowed to function at 50% of their capacity. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, sanitizing hands, and thermal screening of all has been made mandatory.
Anjali Ratnam, senior sales manager, Rings And Roses, informed The Observer: “We used to conduct 10 weddings a month before the pandemic, (and) a little more during the wedding season (December to January). After the lockdown was lifted, we organised 45-50 weddings, which is five or six on average with a maximum of 200 guests. Managing overheads was a challenge as we had taken a hit. We couldn’t retain our staff. The prices of labour and raw materials like flowers went up and budgets went down. Clients were not willing to pay what they would have paid before. So costing was difficult and profits took a hit.”
While organising weddings, many organisers could not find labour. The ones that did had to be tested for Covid-19.
Keeping employees safe when they were exposed to large gatherings was stressful. “Availability of good labour was challenging in the first few months after the lockdown as many people went back to their hometowns/villages and did not return,” Ratnam added.
Also hit by the pandemic are wedding caterers, decorators and venue owners working with wedding planners.
Mohan Kumar, owner of Mohan Wedding Caterers, said many of his employees have gone back home. The price of diesel has gone up, leading to an increase in the prices of vegetables and cooking oil. Small gatherings are unremunerative as the price per plate is higher and people are reluctant to pay the difference.
Wealthy people have begun hosting lavish weddings that have kept some wedding planners afloat.
“Things are slowly getting back to normal. Although people have small weddings, they have started spending more on the type of experience. They are spending well and doing lavish weddings,” said Zeeta D’Souza, owner, Why Knot Wedding Planner.
Viveck Bharadwaj, executive committee member, Karnataka Events Management Association, said: “On-site events have gone down drastically. Most of them have become virtual, and so have weddings. Business is getting back to normal, but a second wave has instilled fear in people and that has led to cancellations.”
Suresh L., PRO at the BBMP head office, said: “SOPs are there. Permission is given to very few functions and events. BBMP marshals have been deployed to supervise them and impose fines on people who are found flouting rules. As of now, we have no plan to allow events with big gatherings.”
India is reporting over 40,000 cases daily. Experts have predicted a second wave of corona virus infections. As Bengaluru is again registering a sharp rise in cases, restrictions on activities are likely to be increased. Even though the government has allowed everybody above the age of 45 to get vaccinated from April, Covid-19 is expected to be around for a long time. The businesses of wedding planners are unlikely to revive soon.