Dresses remained hung, suits went un-buttoned and aisles clear of flower petals.
“Something blue” took on a new meaning when COVID-19 swept Manitoba.
As couples across the province cancelled or rescheduled their weddings — sometimes several times — due to the pandemic, the people behind the scenes also went without an income.
Small businesses across the province saw a glimmer of hope when the Manitoba Bridge Grant was announced by the province Nov. 16 — $5,000 promised before the end of the year, and perhaps again in the new year.
Read more: Manitoba business grant program open for applications: Pallister
Lauren Wiebe, owner of Stone House Creative, said she was thrilled by the news of some financial relief.
“This year what I took home was $15,000, which is horrendous, especially because I work full time and have been working with my clients for two years already,” said Wiebe.
Once in the application process, Wiebe realized it was a different story.
“It was hung up on this, ‘you must have a physical retail space that was closed to customers,'” she said.
A confused Wiebe said she and many others in the industry are speaking up in a Manitoba wedding vendor Facebook group, realizing all the eligibility criteria they do meet isn’t enough.
Wiebe said she sells a product and a service, collects and pays PST and GST, yet still doesn’t qualify because of some brick and mortar.
When answering the eligibility questions on the governments website, this is one of the questions requiring a yes or no answer:
“Do you operate a business that sells goods or services that is located within a recreational facility, gym, fitness centre, museum, library, movie theatre, concert hall, bingo hall, VLT gaming room, or casino that was directed to be closed by a public health order?”
Underneath the question, a note appears stating, “to apply under this category, you must have an established and regular financial expense, such as rent, fee or commission, for the use of the premises or be the full or co-owner of the premises that were ordered closed to the public.”
This is the reason Wiebe and other local vendors are speaking up, sharing the hashtag #MYBUSINESSISNOTAHOBBY.
Wiebe says the vast majority of her 2020 bookings have been postponed to 2021, which accounts for roughly 80 per cent of her revenue.
She said it’s not just a financial loss for this year, but also the next.
“What I can offer clients is a date, and just one date,” said Wiebe. “If I’m booked by a couple for a wedding date, I can’t take on another wedding.”
When looking at her spreadsheets, Wiebe said she postponed roughly $115,000 in 2020 to the 2021 calendar year — or 20 weddings.
“That number will only stay the same if gathering sizes are magically