Wedding planners adapt to COVID-19 era with elopements, smaller ceremonies

Amanda Grau always dreamed of a big wedding with all her family and friends there to celebrate with her.

With the pandemic resurging, she and Jazmin Espada exchanged vows during a more intimate ceremony inside the Tampa home of Grau’s mom.

“I could’ve gotten married at Walmart and it wouldn’t have mattered because I do love Jazmin very much and I wanted to marry her,” Grau said.

COVID-19 has brought a halt or at least a delay to large gatherings, including weddings. But some couples aren’t waiting.

While the pandemic has all but shuttered the wedding industry, it has had the opposite effect for those who specialize in smaller, more private ceremonies and celebrations. Some wedding planners are adapting and even thriving.

With even the Hillsborough County courthouse closed for wedding services, couples have turned to Nan Klater.

She takes them to her studio, the beach and, until the novelty wore off, to Corona Park in South Tampa to tie the knot. Or in the case of Grau and Espada, she set up in the living room.

“This is my busiest year ever,” said Klater, who’s been a certified notary for about 20 years.

In a normal year, she’d facilitate about 80 weddings. But this year, she’s officiated about 170 elopements and small ceremonies.

Whether finding ways to offer services to couples looking to shrink the size of their ceremonies, or rebranding altogether, wedding businesses have changed their focus, offering elopements, “micro-weddings” and even virtual ceremonies. This has allowed planners to stay involved in their clients’ weddings as they postpone bigger events.

Shifting strategies

Rev. Angel Luis Rodriguez, who officiates weddings with Cherished Ceremonies Weddings in Tampa, said in the past, couples would often include a few guests when they eloped.

“Now, they’re cutting that,” he said. Instead, Rodriguez said, more couples are choosing to get married without any guests at all.

Victoria King, who co-owns Royal Events and Services in Tampa with Ashanti Mock, said many of her clients already had their marriage licenses when the pandemic began. Since they expire within 60 days, the couples had to marry or risk forfeiting their licenses. So, King helped facilitate elopements for several couples and estimates she’s helped plan about a dozen elopements since March.

“The pandemic can cancel a lot of things,” she said. “But it cannot cancel love.”

King offers three packages: a simple elopement, with flowers for both spouses, a ceremony that includes an arch and decor and a full ceremony for those who wish to include guests. This year, she’s planned about 10 micro weddings.

Although many of her clients have canceled their large weddings, Rima Shah of Big Guava Events in Tampa has also found ways to help make sure the couples’ special day is stress-free. Many of her clients are South Asian, she said, and normally would have weddings with 200 or more guests. Now, they’re getting married at home with just a priest and immediate family, postponing a bigger reception until next fall

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Stores adapt to Black Friday shopping amid a pandemic

Shoppers who usually get ready to line up for midnight deals on Black Friday will have to wait a few more hours this year.Many local businesses cut down on hours and are preparing with COVID guidelines in mind. Last year, the Mall of New Hampshire opened its doors to shoppers at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening. This year, shopping hours are changing for that location and many others.”In the past we’ve been open for 26 straight hours,” said Eric Proulx, General Manager of the Tanger Outlets in Tilton. For Proulx and the staff there, it’s the first Thanksgiving off in a decade.”The great news in all of this is that now the tenants can focus on the holiday at hand. It’s Black Friday how it used to be. It’s back, better than ever,” he said. It’s back with some modifications.”Obviously keeping the precautions in mind, the social distancing, the mask situation, high touch point sanitation stations,” Proulx said.He said the deals that make the day so popular will be there waiting for shoppers whether you want to shop in person, do curbside pickup, or try a new shopping experience that is a product of the pandemic.”We’re the only developer in the retail industry but you can do virtual shopping with us. You can make an appointment online and one of us at our fine offices across the country will actually do the shopping for you,” Proulx said. In Concord, at Gibson’s Bookstore, it’s all about shopping local.”Some people call it Black Friday, but a lot of independent retailers call it ‘plaid Friday.’ So we’re all going to be wearing plaid and anyone who comes into the store wearing plaid gets a 10 percent discount but then if they forgot to wear plaid they just have to say the word and they still get it,” said store owner Michael Herrmann. They’ll be enforcing COVID guidelines and also asking shoppers to go virtual. “Usually we try to get as many people into the store as possible we have all kinds of promotions and discounts and ways to get people in and this year we’re trying to help people pivot to do some online shopping,” Herrmann said. The Mall of New Hampshire opens its doors Friday at 6 a.m., as does Tanger Outlets. Gibson’s Bookstore opens at 10 a.m.

Shoppers who usually get ready to line up for midnight deals on Black Friday will have to wait a few more hours this year.

Many local businesses cut down on hours and are preparing with COVID guidelines in mind.

Last year, the Mall of New Hampshire opened its doors to shoppers at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening. This year, shopping hours are changing for that location and many others.

“In the past we’ve been open for 26 straight hours,” said Eric Proulx, General Manager of the Tanger Outlets in Tilton.

For Proulx and the staff there, it’s the first Thanksgiving off in a decade.

“The great news in all of this

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Black Friday 2020 shopping in the Triad: Health officials issue coronavirus warnings, stores adapt

Best Buy is discouraging Black Friday shoppers from “camping out” in front of its stores, as many have done in years past to save their spot in line.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The American tradition of “Black Friday” shopping will look different this year in stores like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target due to the coronavirus pandemic, as health officials warn against crowds gathering for the yearly shopping extravaganza. 

Retailers are emphasizing online and curbside delivery, issuing guidance against “camping out” to secure your spot in line, and expanding deals across several weeks to discourage crowds from spreading COVID-19. Stores are almost universally touting they will take the usual precautions, from mask requirements to sanitizing surfaces and limiting the number of shoppers inside stores at one time.

North Carolina state health officials “strongly recommend” that people do not participate in traditional Black Friday shopping, including waiting outside for stores to open and spending time inside crowded stores.

In fact, the NCDHHS has even issued special guidelines for Black Friday, which encourages people to opt for online shopping, curbside pick-up, shopping during less crowded hours, and checking to see if stores have designated hours for high-risk people. They also recommend sanitizing shopping carts, using touchless payment methods, and avoid crowded places with special events like Santa Claus visits.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled shopping in crowded stores, like on Black Friday, as a “higher risk activity” for spreading the coronavirus.

Greensboro’s Friendly Center has made changes, too. Santa will arrive on Black Friday, but this year visits will be contactless with masks and require online reservations.

Consumer Reports recommends that people start planning their holiday shopping earlier this year, due to shipping delays from resource-stretched delivery services. Because so many people are shifting their purchases from in-person to online, this year’s holiday season has been called “shipageddon.”

The electronics mega-store Best Buy will be closed this year on Thanksgiving Day, and is discouraging shoppers from “camping out” on Black Friday in front of stores to secure their spot in line.

“Because of the current pandemic, COVID-19, Best Buy does not recommend that our customers camp out at stores prior to Black Friday. Local health guidelines do prevent gatherings of certain sizes and camping is in conflict with those guidelines,” a Best Buy FAQ advises.

Certain deals are available all month long in November — in stores and online.

Best Buy has transitioned all store pickups to curbside pickup, including availability before and after regular store hours. The retailer is also only selling newly released gaming consoles from Playstation and Xbox online.

Walmart is spreading out its deals across three weekends in November, instead of only the traditional Black Friday event and online matching deals.

On Black Friday 2020, all Walmart stores will open at 5 a.m. 

“Customers will form a single, straight line to enter the store. Associates will hand out sanitized shopping carts to customers to help with social distancing, and Health Ambassadors will be placed

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3 ways fashion retailers can adapt to a COVID-19 holiday season

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the fashion industry particularly hard. Not only has it stopped the steady, if slow, growth the industry has had over the past several years, but it has also put many companies in deep financial distress, according to McKinsey.

Because the holiday shopping season traditionally offers retailers a chance to come out of the red and into the black, many fashion merchants need that extra holiday boost now more than ever. A recent online study of 1,000 U.S. PayPal e-commerce retailers, commissioned by PayPal and conducted by Netfluential, examined how COVID-19 has caused fashion retailers to adapt, including for the holiday season.1 The study found that one-in-five merchants surveyed believed their future depends on holiday sales this year. Yet, 47% of fashion merchants said they don’t feel prepared, and 25% said they had taken no action to adapt to industry changes due to COVID-19.

While this is a challenging time, there are ways that fashion merchants can adapt their business now if they want to thrive beyond this holiday shopping season.

Here are three strategies to consider:

Get innovative

PayPal’s study revealed that 65% of fashion merchants claimed to have introduced no new products in response to the pandemic, and 72% said they were not planning to introduce any new products. Yet, with the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, a retailer’s ability to meet new consumer demands through innovation can set them apart from the competition — and this is critical.

As Greg Lisiewski, vice president of Global Pay Later Products at PayPal, has observed, businesses across the country are pivoting and innovating, whether creating a new line of masks, focusing on “waist-up” fashion, or rethinking their supply chains. 

Stuck on where to begin innovating? Lisiewski offers this advice: “An easy place to start innovating is by diversifying payment options at checkout since consumers want payment choice, including flexible payment options given the uncertainty we are facing.”

PayPal’s research found that among a sample of U.S. fashion merchants that offer financing options, 31% said that offering customers these options will increase sales.

“With options like Pay in 4 — a new pay later product from PayPal — that have no interest and no fees 2 when the consumer pays on time, merchants can easily access all their payment and commerce needs without taking on additional cost or risk within one trusted platform,” Lisiewski said. “This helps drive increased conversion with consumers and provides another level of choice as well.”

Get online

Even before COVID-19, Digital Commerce 360 reported that retailers saw an increase in online shopping. However, that trend has rapidly accelerated, according to new data cited in Digital Commerce 360. And their new habits are here to stay. According to McKinsey, the apparel industry is expected to see an 11% increase in online purchases even after COVID-19.

“We expect the holiday shopping season to follow a similar trend, with consumers increasingly looking to avoid in-person shopping and purchase their gifts online,” Lisiewski said. “We also know

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The ‘big fat Indian wedding’, Ambani style, is out because of Covid-19. The bridal fashion industry has had to adapt



a man and a woman taking a selfie: Big Indian celebrations, like the wedding of Isha Ambani to Anand Piramal in 2018, have been put on hold thanks to the coronavirus – and designers are being forced to adapt. Photo: Twitter/ @WforWoman


Big Indian celebrations, like the wedding of Isha Ambani to Anand Piramal in 2018, have been put on hold thanks to the coronavirus – and designers are being forced to adapt. Photo: Twitter/ @WforWoman

Search the “world’s most expensive weddings”, and you will see several Indian events included in the results.

Around this time two years ago, Indian high society was preparing to attend the wedding of Isha Ambani – the daughter of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani – to Anand Piramal, from one of the country’s most respected industrialist families.

A weekend of lavish engagement celebrations had been held at northern Italy’s Lake Como in the summer, with invitations designed by Dolce & Gabbana. They set the tone for what was to come.

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In December 2018, pre-wedding celebrations were held in Udaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan, followed by the actual wedding in Mumbai. The guest list included US politician Hillary Clinton, Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, and celebrity couple Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. There was even a performance by US singer Beyonce.



a woman standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: US singer Beyonce attended and also performed at Isha Ambani's wedding. Photo: Instagram / @beyonce


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US singer Beyonce attended and also performed at Isha Ambani’s wedding. Photo: Instagram / @beyonce



Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan standing in front of a flower: Actor Abhishek Bachchan, wife Aishwarya Rai and their daughter attended the 2019 wedding of Akash Ambani in Mumbai. Photo: Reuters


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Actor Abhishek Bachchan, wife Aishwarya Rai and their daughter attended the 2019 wedding of Akash Ambani in Mumbai. Photo: Reuters

The wedding is reported to have cost US$100 million (more than three times the cost of Britain’s Kate Middleton and Prince William’s royal wedding). The real stars of this extravaganza were the bride’s outfits, including pieces made by India’s top designers such as Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra and Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, whose label was behind the ivory hand-embroidered, 16-panelled ghagra – a full-length skirt – worn for the ceremony.

For the main reception, Ambani wore a gold and ivory lehenga – an ankle-length skirt – custom made by Valentino. While such excess is an exception to the norm, the idea of a “big fat Indian wedding” is very much part of the fabric of Indian culture. A 2017 report by accounting organisation KPMG estimated that the Indian bridal wear market was worth US$50 billion.

Why fashion-forward brides buy their wedding dresses online

Covid-19, however, has changed everything – and the typical Indian wedding has been forced to slim down.

“For most prominent designers, a majority of their revenue comes from weddings. Maybe accounting about 70 per cent or more, this also includes the functions around the wedding as well as dressing those who attend the weddings,” says Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India.

The fashion industry in India is suffering. “No other country in the world was in complete lockdown for two quarters,” says Sandeep Khosla, of Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla. “No production, no retail, no events, including weddings, were allowed to happen. So, of course, Indian couture was very badly hit.”



Sonam Kapoor wearing a dress: Actress Sonam Kapoor in Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, the label behind one of the outfits worn by Isha Ambani at her wedding.


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