The wedding landscape looks quite different than in years past. In this annual feature, we explore the many ways industry vendors are handling fallout from the pandemic, as well as the decade’s newest trends, the 4-1-1 on engagement rings, venues for different vibes and hidden fees to look out for as you plan your big day.

The State of Weddings

The COVID-19 pandemic affected nearly every industry in Oklahoma, and those in the wedding business weren’t spared. Vendors across the board suffered from mandatory shutdowns, leaving a fallout of stressed couples, an influx of rescheduling and unprecedented financial deficits. 

“As an event venue and caterer, we have had to reschedule several events, and we’ve had several that were canceled indefinitely,” says Jared Jordan, general manager of Tulsa’s Summit Club. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding what the rest of 2020 looks like.”

While trying to regain some normalcy to their routines, those in the business still have anxious clients awaiting answers.

“This is a very emotional time, so the most important thing to us has been making this transition … as seamless and positive as possible,” says Ashley Farthing, owner of Farthing Events, a full-service event design and production company based in Tulsa.

“We are accommodating our couples … by rescheduling some [weddings] later this year; some have opted for the same day – or as close to the same day – next year,” seconds Vera Timoshenko, events manager at Broken Arrow’s Chapel on the Hill. “Our couples have been so gracious and understanding, but of course they’re frustrated. These are their lives we are postponing … their happily ever after has been put on hold.”

Julia Kwok of Tulsa’s White House Mansion has gone an extra step to ensure her clients get what they need. 

“We have been helping our customers talk to other vendors to reschedule the date of their events,” she says. “Thanks to our network of vendors we built over the years, the process has been smooth.”

While the shutdown did cause Claremore’s Pecandarosa Ranch to close to the public, it also gave the staff some time to better the venue for the future, says owner Janet Young.

“It was definitely a curve-ball,” she says. “The imposed delay allowed time for a couple of exciting additions around the ranch. We are planning open house events the first week in June.”

Looking to the future, wedding vendors – and small businesses in general – need Oklahomans’ support. Johnna Hayes of Tulsa-based 3 Sirens Restaurant Group, which offers wedding catering services, stresses patience as business models shift to accommodate the new normal. 

“We will be given a new set of standards, rules and restrictions that will affect the guest,” she says. “We are going to have to take on the cost of masks, thermometers … the cost of printing menus for every guest as opposed to reusing them, possible take-home cups for everyone. It is going to be a huge challenge.”

Timoshenko emphasizes the importance of the internet, and how a like, share or follow could help a small business more than one may realize.

Social media and technology have been everyone’s lifelines during this time of isolation and social distancing,” she says. “As we move forward, it would be great if everyone could share our videos from Facebook and Instagram. Word of mouth is the best advertising, so paying it forward would be a big help.” 

Kwok encourages those in Oklahoma to “use local businesses instead of corporate chains” during and after the pandemic. And for those who still want to get married this year but have relatives not fit to travel during this uncertain time, she offers an excellent alternative.

“We work with cinematographers and videographers who can broadcast events live to their families and friends who may not be able to attend,” she says.

Despite the uncertainty and fear, those in the industry agree that the pandemic has brought out the best in many Oklahomans.

“Even with all that is taking place in the world, clients are still booking dates and showing interest,” says Sarah Lee Baker of Tulsa’s Luxury Photo photobooth. “Which is greatly appreciated.”

“We were able to raise $40,000 for industry kids,” says Hayes. “And that doesn’t speak to us, that speaks to our regulars and guest who donated; they have completely pulled through for these kids.”

Trend Alert

Ushering in a new decade means the cyclical waxing and waning of wedding fads. 

Ashley Farthing of Tulsa’s Farthing Events sees a variety of trends growing in popularity this year. These include dried florals, unique escort card displays, personalized, creative details and unique textiles, like “custom linen or a beautiful throw pillow to accent a vignette.”

A few things she sees waning in popularity include flower walls, dessert displays/dessert walls, and pastels color schemes.

Michelle Holdgrafer with Bruce G. Weber Diamond Cellar notes that couples today want to combine classic and unique elements for stunning, one-of-a-kind wedding rings. Photo courtesy Diamond Cellar Holdings

The Right Rock

When it comes to acing the all-important engagement ring, Michelle Holdgrafer with Bruce G. Weber Diamond Cellar has the answers.

Looking to surprise your partner with a proposal? Holdgrafer can help get that elusive ring size without arousing suspicion. 

“If they are certain of a ring their partner wears currently on the left-hand ring finger, they can take that ring and try it on a finger, pushing it down as far as it will go, and marking it with a line,” she says. “Preferably a pinky finger if that works. We can then use a sizer to get an idea based on where the line ends at the finger for an approximate ring size. This will get us close.”

She stresses, however, that finger sizes fluctuate, and getting a partner in the store for a measurement is your best bet.

While stone cuts run the gamut, the most popular are oval, pear, emerald, cushion and radiant.

“The tried and true has always been the round brilliant,” says Holdgrafer. “It is still the most popular and an all-time classic.”

As for the metal bands, “any of the white based metals are preferred the most – platinum, white gold, palladium,” she says. “They do allow the diamonds to really stand out. Today though, because of couples wanting to look unique or just a little different, rose gold and yellow gold have really had a resurgence.”

Holdgrafer sees a step away from the traditional with newer generations.

“Everyone used to buy the exact matching band to their engagement ring, but now, couples tend to buy different bands in different metals and even colored stones as a wedding band,” she says. “The look today is to be different, yet in some ways still very classic.”

Beware the Hidden Fees

Unanticipated costs can throw a wedding budget for a loop. Here are a few surprise fees to consider:

Postage – All those customized stamps and envelopes add up.

Alterations – Unless you’re lucky, your dress or tuxedo will likely need to be altered before the big day.

Overtime fees – Make sure to read the fine print of contracts to see how much your vendors charge per hour if your event runs long. 

Rental transport – Check with your rental companies; many have extra fees to transport the items to you. 

Trials – While many vendors will do a primary trial for free (flowers, makeup and hair), secondary trials may cost you. 

Taxes and gratuities – While this isn’t exactly unexpected, brace yourself and plan for these extra expenses.