Sonoma County wedding industry comes to life as couples scramble to plan

Gergana Karabelov has faced unprecedented challenges in running her Patisserie Angelica bakery in Sevastopol during the last year of the coronavirus pandemic. But as vaccinations increase and COVID-19 cases decline, she has noticed that a particular clientele is returning in droves: brides-to-be.

On May 22, Karabelov met five different couples for a sample wedding cake, and four of them booked. “It’s been crazy,” she said, with a few days of journaling until 2pm of work. On June 26, she will deliver cakes to seven different weddings – a feat that will surpass her record of five weddings in a single day.

“They have suffered so much,” Karabelov said of the couples. “I had a couple who had to book a date three times… It was really hard to keep up with the postponements.”

Karabelov’s story is similar to others in the local wedding industry who had little work last year, but are now increasingly reserved as couples try to line up for wedding dates. With nearly all of the restrictions on gatherings ending June 15, the wedding rush includes both couples who postponed their nuptials during the pandemic as well as those who recently got engaged. They are even joined by some who ran away or married quietly during the pandemic and are having runaway festivities after the wedding, sellers say.

“It’s the equivalent of being stuck in a traffic jam for a long time, then it finally breaks, and you’re going at 35 or 45 mph,” said Marshall Bauer, president of the Milestone Events Group of Santa Rosa. , who before the pandemic planned about 200 weddings per year. Her company plans to coordinate 90 weddings this year until the end of the season in early November.

“We’re moving, but we’re not going to be 65,” Bauer added.

This rampant activity is good news for the local sector which, according to Bauer, injects up to $ 200 million annually into the local economy. As a perspective, the overall impact of tourism in Sonoma County was $ 2.2 billion in 2019, according to economic consulting firm Dean Runyan Associates.

The wedding industry brings income to a wide range of businesses, from entertainment venues and restaurants and chefs, to event planners and furniture rental companies. The sector provides jobs for part-time servers who during the summer months can earn extra money to live in our area at high cost. It also includes florists, photographers, musicians and DJs, among others, who have made careers for themselves.

This includes people like Joe Hernandez of AMS Entertainment in Sevastopol, which provides DJ and musician services as well as photo booths for wedding ceremonies. “We went from basically doing nothing and now we’re back to work events now. Basically we’ve been put in the game now after being on the bench for 13 months, ”Hernandez said. Before the pandemic, AMS organized 400 events per year.

Like other event companies, Hernandez received help from the federal government’s paycheck protection program with nearly $ 84,000 in repayable loans to AMS to cover salaries and some rents and utilities, according to a database. data from ProPublica, the nonprofit news organization that tracks program funding. His company has lost only one worker – who left the state – since the start of the pandemic. Nine people returned.

Small micro-marriages

AMS has so far hosted smaller micro-weddings with limited guests and more social distancing protocols. But with the arrival of June 15, that is about to change. “A lot of them have a very small gathering. There is just a ceremony and a lunch or dinner. The dancing is very limited. But we’re really excited that we can potentially expand it, ”Hernandez said.

Bigger bridal celebrations are already taking place, such as Sydnie Vanevenhoven’s wedding to Anthony Szol as the two tied the knot at the Charles Krug winery in St Helena on May 1. As COVID-19 protocols changed in the spring, the couple decided to move their reception from the cellar as it was limited in what it could offer them. Instead, they headed to the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa to better accommodate their wedding festivities. They moved the event two weeks before the wedding, which had 138 guests, many from across the country.

“I really don’t think this can happen without all of the amazing vendors. Everyone was eager to get back to work and make it great, ”said Vanevenhoven, who lives in San Bernardino County. They booked their wedding a year in advance and pledged to stick to the May 1 date.

Like other brides, she had wanted a wedding in the wine country of Sonoma and Napa because “it is so romantic” regardless of the obstacles. She was also happy to do it this spring rather than a traditional summer wedding given the supplier crisis that is currently going on. “I’m delighted because we pretty much had our first picks of everything,” said Vanevenhoven.

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