The impact of COVID-19 on women in the wedding industry
wedding industry is composed of many small businesses owned by women. It is also one of the most lucrative industries in Rwanda. This may be simply because weddings are considered a social institution that permits people to creatively share their union.
Before Covid-19, weddings were attended by families, friends, friends of friends, and everyone else the newlyweds may have come across. Prior to COVID-19, wedding ceremonies were attended an average of 500 people. Wedding businesses largely profited from small investments like booking venues that will seat that significant amount of people for maximum two hours, decorating for traditional, church and reception ceremonies, dressing not just the bride and groom but additionally, a great deal of bridesmaids and groomsmen, hiring traditional dancers or any other form of entertainment, hiring photography services, and a lot more..
Due to the pandemic, various safety measures were put in place to reduce the spread of the virus such as hosting gatherings of more than 30 people, and a curfew implying that all sorts of public activities should be done by 9pm. So, what happens now that weddings cannot exceed 30 people in total? How was such a lucrative industry impacted by the dramatic change? One of the shareholders of Ma marriage, a wedding related business, was interviewed regarding the status-quo. “We started last year, April, but we worked a lot of weddings for an upcoming business. We all know Rwandans and their weddings, especially in the summer. Our prices ranged from 1.5 million to 4 million RWF, depending on the client’s demands. We would provide lighting, sound systems, photography services, entertainment such as band performances, transport services, and decorations,” she said.
“This pandemic was very harsh on our business. We have had clients cancel on us this year because those getting married prefer to wait until next year when they are allowed to host more guests. The decorators we worked with, for instance, went back to Kenya to work from their home country. Additionally, a lot of weddings that are taking place, book hotels that handle everything from the decorations to the food.” This shareholder of Ma Marriage added that they have not been able to work any weddings in this pandemic because they chose to save their resources and cut back on expenses.
A professional wedding decorator that was able to work during COVID-19 said that working in this climate has been very discouraging. “I have found it very hard to work weddings with everything going on. Recently, I worked a wedding that did not have a traditional ceremony, and the church and reception were combined. The newlyweds did not want a traditional wedding since they could not have all the family members attend, as well as a master of ceremonies to host the event. They combined both the church and reception to avoid spending a lot of money on 30 people. The traditional ceremony alone usually earned us a lot of profits because of the decorations, and the traditional wear that was booked. It was also very fruitful to have a church ceremony and reception held in different places because then I was paid for triple the work including the traditional wedding. I personally was accustomed to working weddings for minimum 400 people, and now I am working weddings of dramatically fewer people. And what is even a bigger concern is that this situation may not be resolved next year due to the frequent increase in cases.” adding that she went from working for average 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 to 600,000 during Covid-19.
Although this pandemic negatively impacted this industry, these women in the wedding business, each shared how they are positively gaining from these harsh conditions. One said that they are also working to shape their business around other events and not just weddings. They think this pandemic, in a way, is teaching them to multitask as a business so they earn money in various ways rather than depending on one specific area. While the other shared that as they hope for things to run smoother next year, and for this industry to pick up again, they are also learning ways to effectively cut costs and not spend money unnecessarily. “Both the newlyweds and I that works their weddings, are learning what is really essential in terms of wedding ceremonies. As a decorator, I noticed that I would use an excessive number of flowers, for instance, I am now realizing the beauty in simple things whether there are 400 or 30 people. It is not only cost effective to be objective but also more aesthetically pleasing in a way.”
The impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry may be more negative than positive economically for the owners of such businesses and socially for those getting married, but it is vital to recognize the efforts of wedding business owners in staying afloat regardless of the circumstances. And this change could push Rwanda to have more diverse lucrative businesses.