Pent-Up Demand Leads to Boom in Wedding-Related Retail in Canada [Feature Story/Interviews]

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This summer is the first wedding season in the past two years without restrictions due to the pandemic, with exclusive interviews with wedding dress stores, venues, and a recently married couple, we will investigate how busy this summer has been as there has been one common theme – three wedding seasons scrambled into one. 

What does this mean for booking weddings? Well, couples might have to be prepared to get married midweek or on a Sunday. 

The Liberty Entertainment Group in Toronto have said their two venues in Toronto, Casa Loma and Liberty Grand, are 99.9 percent booked out – leaving couples to book their wedding midweek.  

“We are extremely busy, we have had two years’ worth of weddings plus the inquiries coming in for this year, so essentially it is three years’ worth of clientele we are looking to serve and host,” says Sue Vivanco the Director of Sales and Catering for the Liberty Entertainment Group. “At Casa Loma, I would say we are 99.9 percent sold out for the season. If we do have a date available, it would land midweek and Liberty Grand is also extremely busy. We are seeing a lot of brides and grooms getting married on Mondays or Tuesdays, so there is no stopping our clients from getting married.”

Liberty Grand (Image: Liberty Entertainment Group)

Casa Loma and Liberty Grand are known to be very elegant and beautiful spaces for weddings, making them a popular wedding location. The venues offer full services to their bride and grooms such as full food and beverage catering. Vivanco said the total count of events for the season will be over 500. 

One obstacle Liberty Entertainment Group is having is not being able to accommodate everyone. 

Sue Vivanco

“We are not able to host everyone as we do not have enough availability. It is hard not to be able to service them all, but everyone in the industry is excited and happy to be able to host again. We have been waiting for so long, and now that we are able to open our doors again and host our clients, it is great.” Says Vivanco. 

Other venues are extremely busy as well as one Ontarian couple who recently got married on June 12th only had the options of two Sundays, even though they booked their wedding 13 months ago. They originally had their wedding booked for July 11th, 2020 which was their 10th anniversary; however, when the pandemic started they decided to cancel and wait. 

“We decided to delay it a lot longer than we originally anticipated. Our biggest challenge was finding the day,” says Daniela. “The only two days the venue had for us was two Sundays in 2022, so we just picked the Sunday we felt suited us most. The only Saturday the venue had available was not until December. We also booked a restaurant instead of a banquet hall, so I think people who booked with a banquet hall struggled a bit more. We were not forced into a weekday, but we were forced into a Sunday.” 

Smaller Close-Knit Weddings 

Instead of big weddings, Vivanco said for this wedding season they are seeing a new trend of smaller, more personalized weddings. 

“I think people are extremely excited to see family again, so when it comes to the weddings we are hosting now, it is more immediate family. People are looking at the guests they are inviting, who is going to be coming, and who in their family they have not seen in a long time. I think the difference would be the capacity, everyone looking forward to seeing each other, and I would say it is a bit more personal,” says Vivanco. 

Venues for this wedding season were already prebooked before restrictions being lifted, once guests had the green light to invite more people, they changed the number of guests which has made it difficult. Vivanco said they started getting requests for bigger weddings such as from 50 people to a 100 or more. 

Image: Daniela and Joseph

For Daniela and Joseph, they were one of the couples who opted for a small wedding. 

“We come from an Italian background, so it is traditional for us to have a massive wedding, but we went with a small one, even with my own family we are seeing the trend more and more now where people are going to a more smaller size wedding and more intimate, and more family related opposed to massive extensions of people. And I think that is a direct result of Covid to keep everything close knit as possible and so just you have people you want there,” said Joseph. 

One other issue Liberty Entertainment Group is having, is guests counts changing last minute because of people not being able to come because of Covid. Brides and Grooms still must pay for their full number count, despite if their guests show up or not, but it does change the venues plan in terms of table settings, seating arrangements, and dinner. 

Saying Yes to The Dress 

Saying yes to the dress has been a bit more complicated compared to previous wedding seasons as the bridal boutique Sash and Bustle and a wedding gown designer Fernando Canton from Lea-Ann Belter Bridal have noticed a higher demand for the season. 

Sash and Bustle, a bridal store in Toronto that is owned by sisters, have been open for eight years now. Before restrictions, Sash and Bustle signed a new lease as it needed a bigger space to expand in, even with the struggle of the pandemic, the boutique decided to continue with its expansion plans. The bridal boutique is now located at 111 Berkeley Street in Toronto. 

At its new location, to continue business during Covid, Sash and Bustle needed to get creative to still bring the wedding dress experience to their brides. And they succeeded – instead of having in store appointments, the store went to the brides.  

“Going through the pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, we did know in our hearts we needed a new space for Sash and Bustle, it was feeling too busy and too tiny in our previous location so we kind of went ahead with our expansion. It was with a lot of challenges, but we went ahead, we kept our team and staff to work with our brides virtually so we pivoted in every way we possibly could have imagined,” says Andrea Dineen the co-owner of Sash and Bustle. 

Sash and Bustle provided a unique way for their brides to still try on dresses – virtual and home-based appointments. The virtual appointments were to show the brides a variety of dresses, then Dineen said they would bring about five dresses to the bride’s home where she could try them on. And recently this year Sash and Bustle has implemented a luxury appointment where its brides can have an appointment that is double the length, includes wine, and more service. But their busy season for dresses was about six months ago. 

Andrea Dineen

“Our busy season is usually six months before the summer, so we were extremely busy and experienced rushes for around that time but now, it has just been steady and manageable,” says Dineen. “We don’t offer in-house alterations at Sash and Bustle, but I know that those businesses are very busy this year. They have all this year’s weddings, and all the other wedding dresses over the last couple of years – so they are feeling it.” 

Fernando Canton who is a wedding dress designer and the production manager at Lea-Ann Belter Bridal says he starts designing wedding dresses a year before the wedding date, but he is extremely busy with tailoring and brides picking up their dresses. 

“The thing we must consider here is that when you get engaged, I think one of the first things that brides would start even the week after of getting the ring would be buying the dress. So, we are busy with a lot of pick up. I think last month and now was our busiest for that and we have the backlash of the people who did postpone their weddings, so it has been a little crazy for us,” says Canton. Also, brides must consider the mens wedding bands when planning the big day.

Image: Fernando G. Canton Barros

Canton said brides who postponed their weddings needed more dress altering as the dress did not fit the same as when they tried it on a year or two ago.  

“It is crazy in the way; people are picking up dresses they bought two years ago, and the fitting is different. Brides come in to pick up their dress and suddenly, we have to take the dress in or replace the whole body – it is overwhelming,” says Canton. 

There is daily pick up at Lea-Ann Belter Bridal and the store produces about 30 dresses a week and orders come from all over the world. During the pandemic it was a different kind busy for Canton as he needed to design dresses for brides who did not cancel their wedding – an unexpected rush.

“We were getting a lot of brides who didn’t cancel their weddings or didn’t postpone, and they just wanted to go ahead and still get married. But, instead of having a party of 500, they would reduce to around 30 or less ceremony and would obviously have more of a budget for their gown. So, it was kind of different for us, something we did not expect that it would backfire that way, but we were happy to have bigger budgets for our brides and they were happy to have better dresses,” says Canton. 

Image: Lea-Ann Belter Bridal

Canton and Dineen also noticed brides are expanding the traditional wedding dress and are bringing in more of a variety and creativity. 

“I have been surprised. It has been across the board with lots of different styles. We used to only sell very simple dresses, I felt like everybody was buying the exact same thing, but this year it has been a lot of variety which is exciting,” says Dineen. “Sleek and simple is great and always makes our brides shine, but also we have been doing really fun looks as well and people are going over the top, accessorizing a lot and I think that after the pandemic, being in our sweatpants for two years people are ready to like get dolled up and feel really special.” 

As a designer, Canton is always excited to talk to the bride about what their dream look is for their wedding day, and Canton says most girls have an answer for that. 

“I love talking to the bride and asking what their dream is, as designers you must see the image of what your customers wants. That is really when the magic happens, and I am super excited that weddings are back because that means we are going to be busier so get out there and get your dress,” says Canton. 

Casa Loma (Image: Liberty Entertainment Group)

With the rush of three wedding seasons into one, everyone in the wedding business is busy – but is excited to have some sort of normalcy back and to be able to meet wedding day expectations. 

“I am extremely excited. Everyone in the wedding industry is extremely happy to be able to host again. We have been waiting for so long, and now we are able to open our doors again and host, it is great,” says Vivanco. We are looking forward to continuing to stay in business and to continue to work with our couples, I think it is just extremely exciting to be back operating again.”  

For Sash and Bustle, Dineen said they are also excited to be able to make memories again with their brides and get back to a normal wedding flow. 

“We are all about making memories at Sash and Bustle, I think weddings are a lot about making beautiful memories and for many finding the dress is a special moment and it is for everybody. So, we always loved hearing the bride’s plans and all the unique ideas they have for celebrating. It’s feeling like we are in our groove now and we are kind of getting back to the new normal that we were used to,” says Dineen. 

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Article Author

Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala, based in Toronto, is a new Journalist to Retail Insider. She has experience writing for local newspapers and also internationally for Helsinki Times while she lived in Finland. Shelby holds a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree from the University of King’s College and a Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

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