How the pandemic is affecting BOLI’s favorite vendors
The beginning of spring on Long Island has always been ripe with beauty. Clear blue skies, budding blossoms, and comfortable temperatures make this season a popular choice for many BOLI members to say “I do.”
But this year, the outdoor gardens are empty, save for the bees and butterflies. The halls are silent. The antique cars are parked.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered most businesses for the foreseeable future, and some of Long Island’s top wedding vendors are, unfortunately, no exception. Brides have been forced to reschedule and cancel events that have been months and years in the making, and the effects on every aspect of the wedding industry are widespread.
“For us, the impact of COVID-19 has been severe,” says Jarrad Kulick of All Star Limousine. “We are not only a limousine company but an international executive car service, so we saw a big drop off in rides and reservations the first weekend in March.” Kevin McClafferty, owner and CEO of Absolute Entertainment, agrees. “Things are a bit challenging here, as I’m sure you can imagine,” he says. “Personally, it has been hard and very sad. I miss my crazy guys and the incredible ‘buzz’ that happens here all day long.” Wedding Warehouse owner (and BOLI founder) Heather Cunningham made a hard but necessary decision. “Wedding Warehouse closed its doors one week prior to the mandate in order to help flatten the curve and set a good example for other local businesses,” she says. “The other hard truth was that business had stopped. The cost to keep the store open far surpassed any money we were bringing in, and I literally couldn’t afford to to keep the lights on.” For Amanda Hawthorne, live painter and owner of Live Well, Paint Often, a typically busy season has emptied out. “At this time, all of my March, April, May, and some June weddings have been postponed.”
With events upended and plans changing by the day, vendors have been working overtime to help their clients find new dates or alternative offerings. McClafferty says “We are all working crazy hours to move hundreds of events into already packed 2020 schedules.” The situation proves challenging for both brides and vendors alike. “I think it is harder for us than any other industry, as there is always another photographer the studio can provide and DJs and florists can outsource if needed,” says Kulick. “There are only so many specific types of vehicles we carry and only so many in the market, and if the 1962 white Rolls Royce Phantom that you originally booked is not available, we need to be creative.” For Hawthorne, providing options is key. “I have been giving my clients alternatives if I’m already booked on their newly selected date,” she says. “My clients are welcome to send me photos or videos, or I have also offered the option of having my assistant personally go to the wedding to take photos and videos, so I can recreate their moment on canvas in the studio.”
Many vendors are adapting to this current landscape, finding different means to continue providing the same great service. For Kulick and All Star Limousine, that means implementing new guidelines and practices. “We feel for the brides and are doing everything we can to switch dates and accommodate postponements. We, of course, completely disregarded our cancellation policies (which are typically pretty strict) and are doing whatever it takes to help. In addition, our safety standards have changed drastically. We have people in our equipment, and we are responsible for them.”
McClafferty and his team have found a way for clients to still experience what Absolute has to offer, all from the comfort and safety of their own homes. “We have re-fitted the website with all the items a bride and groom would need to see to get excited and get a real feel for their future big day,” he says. “We made a virtual office tour video, loaded new hall videos in our catering hall partners section, and put up new videos of the musicians and photos of our equipment in different hall applications. The boys have been doing virtual appointments for the past two weeks and the clients seem to be enjoying the presentation!”
Social media has always been a useful marketing tool, but during this pandemic it has also provided vendors another outlet to communicate with their clientele. “We have created a Bridal Beauty Facebook group where we can connect in real time with our clients on a deeper level,” says Jennifer with Victoria Elizabeth Official. Through these channels, Hawthorne has been able to provide a little respite from the madness. “To help and give back to my community, I’m offering a free service on social media (Facebook and Instagram) during these times of anxiety and stress. Every Monday evening at 8pm EST I creatively guide a 2 hour live virtual healing painting workshop. My heart is open and willing to bring as much healing as possible to my followers and clients. This new reality doesn’t mean we can’t connect in many other ways.”
One thing is for certain: vendors are just as eager as brides for life to start looking a little more normal again. “I (and my amazing team) am doing everything in my power to deliver the same great service and quality once we get the green light,” says McClafferty. Jennifer at Victoria Elizabeth had a similar outlook. “We look forward to the time when this situation will be behind us, and we will all be able to go back to doing what we love the most: bringing out the beauty in our brides while making lifelong memories.” Cunningham is ready to have her shop up and running again. “I pray that myself and my fellow wedding industry business owners can come out of this without having to close our doors for good. I miss my brides, my employees, and the happy smiles from my happy customers.” For Hawthorne, staying true to her mission is what will help sustain her through these distressing circumstances. “Being in service and giving back to my community during this dark time our history has given me the fuel to keep going,” she says. “I’m here to serve, even though at times it has been emotional, and things are changing by the minute, I will still show up and paint for you and with you.”
For information on Wedding Warehouse, please visit www.weddingwarehouse.com or follow @weddingwarehouseny
For information on All Star Limousines, please visit www.allstarlimo.com or follow @allstarlimo
For information on Absolute Entertainment, please visit www.absolutedjs.com or follow @absolutedjsli
For information on Victoria Elizabeth Official, please visit www.victoriaelizabethofficial.com or follow @victoriaelizabethofficial
For information on Live Well, Paint Often please visit www.Livewellpaintoften.com or follow @livewellpaintoften