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The wedding and event planning community has come together with flexibility and adaptation, demonstrating that even in a pandemic, love conquers all.
A year after COVID-19 changed the world, industries that rely on bringing people together are demonstrating resilience and choosing to pivot wisely as we head into the 2021 wedding season.
Rewind 12 months when it became clear that the summer of 2020 was going to be a game-changer, and the team at Truffles Fine Foods snapped into action.
“Our first instinct was to protect and help our clients, especially our wedding clients, for whom this was going to be especially emotional,” says Melissa Caviglia, sales and events manager at Truffles Fine Foods. “That meant rescheduling weddings or reducing to ‘microweddings’—50 people or less—but that was just the beginning.”
Caviglia and her staff did whatever legwork they could to ease the burden on couples, including scheduling new venues, and of course, adapting food service to exceed provincial protocols with style.
“We changed our dining service, for instance, switching from buffet service to plated dinners, and we got creative with our pre-dinner cocktail hour service,” she says.
Flexibility and adaptation have also been mantras for Natasha Lowcay, wedding co-ordinator at Oak Bay Beach Hotel, who has been working tirelessly to help couples navigate the ever-changing landscape.
Couples booked at Oak Bay Beach Hotel in 2020 had the option to shift to a 50-person maximum wedding for 2020, plan for a smaller wedding in 2021 or optimistically plan for a regular size wedding in 2021. In the meantime, with its safety measures exceeding provincial guidelines, the hotel has continued to host elopements, which include planning, décor, florals, two night’s stay and access to the hotel’s amenities—think breakfast in bed and relaxing couples’ massages.
“We had one on New Year’s that was absolutely breath-taking and intimate,” Lowcay says. “The photographer and I witnessed the event. We felt grateful to be there when the family couldn’t and to have the special day still be full of love and celebration.”
Another plus has been using out-of-the-ordinary spaces, like the Salish Seaside Gazebo typically used for couples’ massages and the Grand Lobby, which wows visitors with a beautiful copper fireplace and floor-to-ceiling ocean views. With optimism in the air for a less restricted summer, these areas may provide the perfect backdrop for slightly larger but still intimate gatherings when the time is right. “We want couples to know they can still have their beautiful weddings today and into the future, even if they are more intimate than before,” Lowcay says.
Although there are still questions about summer 2021, Caviglia is sure of one thing: “First and foremost, we will be here,” she says. “We cannot wait to welcome our clients back once conditions allow it.”
Truffles Fine Foods has revamped its entire menu and pricing structure, re-developed its website, and is enjoying new office space and a new commissary kitchen. “If there is a silver lining, that is it,” Caviglia says.
With things changing so quickly, people like Lowcay and Caviglia have also developed their superpowers as educators. “We have the resources and know-how to help make changes and requirements digestible for couples so they can focus on what they can do instead of what is restricted,” Lowcay says.
Caviglia says there was also a degree of educating each other within the planning community. “We held Zoom meetings with planners to find out how we could help, and we now have closer relationships with our vendors as a result,” she says.
“Our hearts really do go out to the couples whose plans have been affected by COVID-19,” Lowcay says. “There have been tears, but there has been joy, as well.”
No matter what 2021 brings, success will mean staying flexible and working together. “We all have the same goal,” Lowcay says. “Coming up with collaborative solutions so we can create memorable, beautiful experiences for couples, no matter what we are working with.”
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