State of the Wedding Industry: COVID’s Impact on Multicultural Wedding Planning

COVID’s impact on the wedding industry was immediate and vendors are still navigating unknowns even in 2021. In our State of the Wedding Industry series, we’re talking to different wedding experts to see how COVID affected their business process. Read on to get a behind-the-scenes look with the help of three wedding planners to see COVID’s impact on multicultural wedding planning.

HOW COVID IMPACTED MULTICULTURAL WEDDING PLANNING

Travel restrictions as well as the restrictions on people gathering put a strain on all couples, but especially those who were planning multicultural wedding celebrations. Many times, these include destination events, multiple-day celebrations, and large guest lists.

Through it all, love prevails — and couples found creative ways to celebrate this special moment in a new way.

We’ve asked three wedding planners who specialize in South Asian and multicultural wedding celebrations to share their insights about COVID’s impact on multicultural wedding planning.

The Storybook Event

As far as the multicultural weddings, were most couples postponing their weddings all together initially, or did you also have smaller weddings with plans for a larger celebration later? 

It has been almost 1 year since the Pandemic completely flipped the world we lived in and the normality we were so accustomed to.

Many couples have had to reassess the best and safest ways to celebrate their wedding celebrations that fit their family and friends. The majority of the couples have reduced their 3-4 day wedding celebrations to 1-2 day events with reduced counts to accommodate family only which range from 10-350 guests. These weddings may have had events planned for up to 900 guests and are now reduced events.

We have also reduced pre-events to family and friends only in their homes instead of venues, and then hosting one large event to invite the community in a limited capacity to keep the community and family in good standing. We are currently in a state where couples are ready to continue their lives but need the blessing of their parents and families to begin that next step.  

What have been the most significant changes to the multicultural weddings you plan due to COVID? Have any of those initial changes stuck around in the face of potential for delays or cancellations? 

The significant pieces that have truly had a large impact is the danger gatherings and wedding pose on the elderly, and having grandparents for events is very important to many of our couples.

We have also seen some families who have a large immediate family that hinder our ability to find a venue that is willing and capable of being able to host our events given the CDC guidelines. We have worked with many great vendors and vendors that have allowed us options and ways to meet in the middle. 

With multiple vendors and venues it limits the number of dates we are able to potentially postpone our events to, since it is very rare to have all 14-20 vendors available on the same weekend and dates required. It has become a challenge to many couples, but we have made it work thus far. 

We have also seen lots of couples remove their reception event, but they still keep a Sangeet event to provide a nice “party” style event instead of a formal reception. 

Are you seeing any long-term effects from COVID on multicultural weddings? (Such as the size going down or location changing, etc.) 

Many families have looked at the pandemic and appreciate the smaller group sizes, and the more intimate wedding celebrations. Many of our couples originally wanted a small initial wedding, and with the pandemic were able to get what they wanted.

With such large guest counts, we have been limited to the venues we are able to host our events too, and with the pandemic, families are able to look at more intimate venues throughout Texas and see the joy and beauty of not having to be in a ballroom or convention center we are so used to. I certainly see that more couples are likely to continue forward with smaller weddings and reducing the number of events that “need” to be hosted by families. 

One major piece we have seen is with families unable to travel to India for their wedding attire and traditional favors and gifts to provide on day of, they have looked more seriously at stateside designers and decor vendors that are able to make things stateside with having to worry about wedding attire being caught up in customs. 

Are destination weddings coming back at all for couples planning a multicultural wedding celebration? 

YES! We recently came back from Mexico where we hosted a 3-day wedding event for 87 guests.

Destination weddings are more relaxed and guests are able to come and go between events as they feel comfortable. With the majority of the events being outdoors, it allows more opportunities for us to social distance and spread out versus feeling cooped up in one space.  We have a handful of destination weddings coming up in 2021, both in Mexico and across the state and country. 

Are there any new traditions or trends coming out of this season with COVID’s impact on multicultural weddings? 

Favors have become more creative. We have seen more Indian- and Pakistani-designed masks to encourage guests to keep masks on. With smaller counts we are able to personalize more aspects of the wedding celebrations from customized stationery pieces like programs and sparkler tags to seated family and plated dinner options.

Many couples have split their wedding and reception events into two days to allow more time between events for the couple to enjoy with family and friends that have travel. 

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like to share about COVID’s impact on multicultural weddings or wedding planning? 

South Asian weddings are full of color, culture, and customs – that has been a blessing and a curse for couples I am sure. With so many traditions it is hard to convince parents and families that getting married with fewer guests is still possible and okay. Since many of our couples are in the healthcare industry, they understand the risks that come with hosting gathering and events, but also make attempts to keep their guests safe and enforce CDC guidelines to the best of their availabilities. 

Source: Amy Patel | Wedding planner and Storybook Event owner. The Storybook Event is a boutique-style planning company focused on creating beautiful moments for your special occasions.

Lillie Jane Designs

As far as multicultural weddings, were most couples postponing their weddings all together initially, or did you also have smaller weddings with plans for a larger celebration later? 

I’ve had a little bit of both. One of my multicultural weddings – Islamic Nikkah for an African bride + Indian groom – decided to keep their 12/20/20 wedding date because they were ready to finally be married. Without COVID, they would’ve had probably 500+ guests with family and friends coming from California, India, and basically all over the world.

Instead, they started with a small guest list of about 100 and dropped even further down to 75-ish after California implemented another stay-at-home order the week before the wedding. The groom and his family all live in California, so he only ended up with his mom, dad, and two brothers being able to travel to Houston to attend from his side. The rest of the guests were from the bride’s side, who had local family and friends willing to attend.

Another two of my multicultural weddings, Sri Lankan bride + American groom and American bride + Indian groom, decided fairly early on in the summer to postpone their weddings – one for only six months, since that’s the only other time that would work with their school and work schedules, and the other for a year.

Guests were invited from all over the world. So to not drastically decrease their guest count or risk family getting sick, they checked with all of their vendors and decided to postpone.

What have been the most significant changes to the multicultural weddings you plan due to COVID? Have any of those initial changes stuck around in the face of potential for delays or cancellations?  

Definitely the reduction in guest count. We usually see a minimum guest count of 200 for multicultural weddings, but COVID has made every decrease substantial, and we’re even preparing for the same possibility with rescheduled weddings since we just don’t know where COVID progress will be even later this year.

So many guests travel from outside of the country for multicultural weddings, so many are preparing to possibly not have all of their attendees in person. This also makes our new trend of adding a virtual streaming option of at least the ceremony portion of the wedding very popular now – almost an automatic requirement from most multicultural couples.

Are you seeing any long-term effects from COVID on multicultural weddings? (Such as the size going down or location changing, etc.) 

From a planner perspective, I permanently have couples sign a COVID liability waiver when planning any event, no matter how small, during this new pandemic normal. I also never go to a wedding without bringing a box of extra masks and several hand sanitizers. It’s just an automatic necessity in my wedding emergency kit now.

Timelines for multicultural weddings that would have usually been several days are being shortened to only one or two days to not extend the length of exposure time for their guests. If not shortened, many are limiting the number of guests for the additional celebrations before or after the main ceremony.

Are destination weddings coming back at all for couples planning a multicultural wedding celebration? 

I haven’t personally seen destination weddings coming back because the travel restrictions are so different for each location and constantly changing with the new strain of the virus, new president in office, and vaccine distribution.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like to share about COVID’s impact on multicultural weddings or wedding planning? 

I see a lot of the changes due to COVID just becoming a permanent trend, with the exception of wearing masks. I see so many people bothered by wearing them and definitely not wanting them in their wedding photos because they don’t want to remember their special day as “a COVID wedding”.

Source: Sabrina Lee | Lead wedding planner and Lillie Jane Designs owner. Lillie Jane Designs collaborates with busy couples and corporate teams to plan and design stress-free weddings & events, creating personalized vision boards and selecting top-notch vendors, all while keeping the budget in check.

CG & Co. Events

As far as multicultural weddings, were most couples postponing their weddings all together initially, or did you also have smaller weddings with plans for a larger celebration later?  

COVID has seriously affected my CG & Co Events couples. While most of our couples postponed one, two and in some cases three times, we did have a handful of couples that wanted to proceed with their original wedding date no matter what that looked like. 

In some cases they hosted weddings that went from hosting 250 guests to hosting 20 guests, after the gathering restrictions were in place.  In other cases, our couples hosted weddings for 100 up to 300 guests (safely).  Most of these larger weddings were originally supposed to take place inside either at a hotel or other indoor venue and were switched to an outdoor space where we could spread out.  So needless to say, COVID definitely changed the look and feel of what was originally planned for the actual wedding and wedding weekend.  

With that said, other safety precautions needed to be added that were not originally planned or budgeted for such as COVID testing for guests and vendors, staffing to take temperatures upon arrival, hand sanitizer, custom masks, etc.  For couples who chose to postpone, there were lots of factors they had to consider.  With normal guest lists hovering around 300-400+, even reducing guest counts can still leave you with 150-200 guests and therefore the latest gathering restrictions did not allow for these weddings to realistically happen. As of now, it seems like the postponing has ended and we are starting to see “the light at the end of the tunnel”.  

What have been the most significant changes to the multicultural weddings you plan due to COVID? Have any of those initial changes stuck around in the face of potential for delays or cancellations? 

The most significant change has been the individual states’ gathering restrictions and the lack of information and consistency from the states and District of Columbia regarding a plan on how to move forward and when these restrictions will change. It has been extremely heartbreaking to watch a thriving industry basically come to an abrupt halt. 

Planning a large wedding or wedding weekend takes months and in most cases, a year or more, and without knowing when a couple can actually host their wedding makes it nearly impossible to plan properly.  

It goes without saying that our couples’ priority has been to keep their guests and vendors safe.  Over the last year, we learned so much about all the ways that we can do this while keeping things moving. 

Since March 2020, each of our weddings has had some or all of the following in place for their wedding weekend: COVID testing for guests and vendors, staffing to take temperatures upon arrival, hand sanitizer stations, custom masks, air purifiers in event spaces, larger dance floors, more spread out layouts, buffet sneeze guards, just to name a few. I do believe some of these safety precautions will continue even after COVID but it is just too early to say what that world will look like.

Are you seeing any long-term effects from COVID on multicultural weddings? (Such as the size going down or location changing, etc.)  

Here at CG & Co Events, we are excited to get back to doing what we love.  We are definitely having discussions with our couples about the benefits of outside celebrations.  I do believe once the gathering restrictions are lifted and as vaccine rollout continues, weddings will get back to the sizes they once were.  We are already getting quite a few inquiries for Fall 2021 and 2022 with guest counts in the high 300s and higher.  

Are destination weddings coming back at all for couples planning a multicultural wedding celebration? 

I have found that most of our destination wedding couples are choosing destinations with larger outdoor venues.  Farms, beachfront, and mountain views have been a top priority for those couples.

Are there any new traditions or trends that are coming out of this season with COVID’s impact on weddings? 

Outdoor weddings have been more of a discussion this year than in the past.  Trying to cut back on the guestlist to accommodate those particular spaces has also been discussed.  COVID has given our couples the time to reflect on their priorities and what is truly important to them. 

Source: Christine Godsey | GC&Co Events Founder and Lead Planner. GC & Co. is a luxury wedding and event planning company based in the Washington D.C. area. They specialize in South Asian and Multicultural weddings and pride themselves on balancing beauty and tradition with the unique style and personality of each couple.


Thank you to each of our multicultural wedding planning experts for sharing their insights on the state of the wedding industry.

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Written by Corrie McGee
Courtesy of 
GC & Co. Events

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