Many weekdays at this time of year, the Aqua Azul, a private 120-foot four-level yacht, would descend the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty, as United Nations ambassadors marking the arrival or departure of a delegated colleague stuffed with spit-roasted pork dishes stuffed with dried fruits.
On weekends, in some neighborhoods on the east and west sides of Manhattan, hundreds of 13-year-olds celebrated bar and bat mitzvahs in venues equipped with game kiosks.
In heavily Latin American neighborhoods in southern Brooklyn, girls dressed up in bouncy quinceañera dresses. And at Ganesh Temple in Queens, weddings were celebrated with hundreds of guests, some of whom were from India.
After a year of cancellations and delays, many event planners, venues and caterers brace for a barrage of pent-up demand for celebrations as New York and surrounding area reopen, vaccination rates rise and people are awash in post-containment euphoria.
But many future celebrants are still cautious about planning large gatherings, event planners say, fearing the virus still poses a threat despite effective vaccines and the lifting of most restrictions.
“As Covid has shown us, when you think you’re doing fine, it brings you back,” said Roberto Santiago, director of Orensanz Events, a venue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that typically hosts a range of events, including weddings. and fashion shows. “So we just have to see.”
Some families who couldn’t celebrate Quinceaneras and Sweet 16s due to lockdown rules last year are pushing them back until next year.
“It’s funny, I have clients calling me and they say, ‘It was 16, so now it’s going to be 18,’ said Marcos Ortiz, DJ and event planner in Brooklyn. “Now it’s going to be a new trend – the Sweet 18.”
Yet outside of New York City, in suburban areas that have a large number of banquet halls with plenty of parking lots and may be priced lower than some venues in the city, event planners say business resume.
“It’s crazy,” said Jenny Orsini, wedding planner in Berkeley Heights, NJ. It typically hosts 20 events a year, but 17 weddings have been pushed back to this year compared to last year, in addition to the 10 originally slated for 2021.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotional and logistical madness, but it’s a good fool,” she said recently after juggling two weddings on the same day.
David Zaitschek, who hosts bar mitzvahs and other events for children in New York and Long Island, said he was seeing “greater demand, but people are waiting until October for bigger indoor events “.
In a normal year, it holds around 150 events, he said, none of which took place in the past year. He started organizing events just a few weeks ago.
“We can’t catch up to where we’re supposed to be, but there is definitely improvement,” he said. “People are still a bit undecided. There has been no precedent for this.
Not everyone is feeling celebratory yet, as people are still grappling with a public health crisis that has left everyone in a daze, said Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociology at Yale University and author of “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact” of the coronavirus on the way we live.
“Typically what happens if you look at the history of epidemics is it’s like a tsunami washed up on the shore,” he said. “The waters are receding, but now the shore is devastated, so it takes a while for us to recover socially, economically, psychologically from the shock.”
Weddings are one area that has seen an increase in demand, although many couples are holding smaller ceremonies, industry analysts say.
A report last month detailed how the pandemic ravaged the national wedding industry in 2020 and predicted a strong rebound this year, particularly around so-called “micro-weddings” which involve a few dozen guests with wishes exchanged outside.
In New York City, some hotels are also adjusting, offering one-hour slots for intimate celebrations instead of the six-hour minimum typically required before the pandemic, said Tatiana Caicedo, a Manhattan-based wedding planner.
Small weddings are popular, she added, because they are affordable options for couples who postponed ceremonies last year and lost deposits, and because international travel restrictions can still make it difficult “to bring everyone together in one place ”.
Carli Otero, 29, who works in communications and lives in New Jersey, was determined to tie the knot in May, having had to cancel her ceremony from the original date of June 27, 2020.
So, in order to stay within interior capacity limits at the time, she and her now husband, Alex, reduced the guest list by almost half to just over 100 of the 200 people they had originally planned to meet. ‘invite.
“I feel bad, but we had to make some tough decisions,” she said. “We were very determined to have it this year. My husband and I have been together since high school, and I said, ‘I can’t wait another year. It’s happening.
Even as the pandemic recedes, company executives are cautious about planning large gatherings, said Dorit Farrington, who owns the Aqua Azul yacht with her husband. “It was so, so difficult,” she said.
The couple, who started their business 17 years ago, rely mainly on companies and institutions like the United Nations. Ms Farrington said they had had their best year two years ago, with around 50 events being held aboard their boat. So far, no events have been scheduled this year and the couple are relying on their savings and a federal loan from an emergency program to help businesses affected by the pandemic.
“Even though people are back in the office a bit, executives are not prepared to take the risk of bringing people together,” Ms. Farrington said. “It’s a risk factor so they still don’t organize events, neither for their employees nor for their customers. Manhattan has not returned. So for me that’s a big deal.
Florie Huppert, an event planner in Manhattan who hosts lavish bar mitzvahs involving game kiosks and custom Nike sneakers, said he believes the key to feeling more secure when hosting big gatherings were higher vaccination rates among adolescents.
“Once the kids are vaccinated I’m really back in business,” he said.
At the Ganesh Temple in Flushing, Queens, officially known as Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanam, the director, Ravi Vaidyanaat, complained that no couple had booked a wedding in May, even on days considered auspicious in the Hindu calendar. And he still has a lot of slots the rest of the year.
The surge in Covid cases in India has prompted some couples to cancel marriages, he said, particularly because many involved relatives traveling from India. “This year people are just not planning anything,” Vaidyanaat said. “They are afraid of new variants. “
Still, for those who decided to go ahead with a party this year, it was certainly different from most past celebrations. Mr. Ortiz, the DJ, remembers hosting a quinceañera in April that was postponed for a year.
“The family I played for lost relatives,” he said. “I joined them in their celebration but I also joined them in their pain because not everyone was there. So it was emotional, more emotional than it otherwise would have been.