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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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What a difference a year makes for the marriage business in Dallas-Fort Worth

Even a pandemic can’t stop love.

Look no farther than 23-year-old Berkan Dincer and his wife, Allyson. Dincer proposed the day after learning he was being furloughed from his job as a duty manager at Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium. That was in March 2020, when COVID-19 shuttered businesses and led to shelter-in-place orders.

“It was definitely a weird feeling proposing without a job,” he said.

The months that came after — as the couple planned for one of the biggest moments of their lives — brought a lot of anxiety with the pandemic surging on. For Allyson, 26, who saw many of her friends get the weddings of their dreams over the past several years, it was hard to accept the idea of a scaled-back event.

Her father falls into the high-risk population susceptible to the virus. Berkan’s family lives in Turkey, and international travel had come to a virtual standstill.

Fearful but undeterred, they set June 5 of this year as their wedding date.

Their timing threaded the needle — just in time for the vaccine rollout and loosened restrictions and before the delta variant began to cause new worries.

“All of the heartache and tragedy during planning, I was actually able to have the wedding I always dreamed of,” said Allyson, who works as a senior clinic admissions associate at Action Behavior Centers in Keller, a clinic that provides applied behavior analysis therapy for children with autism.

The Dincers are among thousands of newlyweds in North Texas who had to wait out the pandemic to exchange vows. That set off a scramble this year to find wedding dresses and tuxedos, secure ceremony times and reception venues, and hire caterers, florists, photographers and musicians to make their day complete.

Chelsea and Richard Gee were also married in June, six months after their original date. The 29-year-old Southern Methodist University graduates added COVID-19 protocols to their 225-person reception at Union Station in Dallas. They had wristbands for guests wanting to maintain social distance and live-streamed the event for Richard’s family in Mexico.

Most important, though, most of their guests had gotten vaccinated by wedding day.

“If there wasn’t a vaccine, we wouldn’t have had our wedding,” Chelsea said.

Researchers at IBISWorld say the wedding industry experienced a 34% drop in revenue last year. But it expects the business of marriage to be on an upward trajectory over the next five years.

Despite all of 2020′s obstacles, there were still 107,508 weddings across Texas last year, according to the Wedding Report. In 2021, the researchers project over 154,000 weddings in the state and more than 200,000 in 2022.

The average cost per wedding in 2020? $19,324. The Wedding Report’s researchers are already noticing an average cost of over $21,000 per wedding in 2021, still down from a reported $24,675 in 2019.

For Chelsey Morin, wedding planner and coordinator of Double Blessing Events in Dallas, her company turned in one of its most notable years since it was founded in 2013. Morin has run the company with her identical twin sister since it began. She worked with the Dincers to plan their wedding.

Morin’s company generated over $50,000 in revenue in 2020 and booked 25 weddings during the year. In 2021, she has already filled her weeks with 21 weddings and is booking into 2022 and 2023.

Her secret? When others paused their marketing, she took to Facebook to promote her services and offer advice to couples unsure of what the future might bring.

“These couples needed my help [then] more than ever,” Morin said.

At least three of her couples had to postpone weddings planned between March and June 2020. She stayed flexible to help couples navigate the uncertainty. Couples still wanted to be married, just in smaller ceremonies that spawned last year’s micro-weddings phenomenon. Morin said she had only one cancellation in 2020.

“It was hard emotionally on the brides,” Morin said. “It was a blessing just to be there for them and help them through it.”

If you’re looking for a venue in Dallas this year, most are booked on prime Saturdays.

Chancee Proctor and Christen Janik are co-owners of The Schoolhouse on Chalk Hill Road. The two bought the venue in January 2020 and have been booking into 2022. In 2020, the company generated $65,000 in revenue after being shut down and only operating for about half the year.

The Schoolhouse generated 75% of 2021 sales in January through April as couples rushed to get married. From September through the end of 2021, The Schoolhouse will host seven to 10 weddings each month, with more dates available.

“We’re very optimistic about 2022 and 2023,” Janik said. “I think we finally figured out how to optimize the business.”

The Schoolhouse has already surpassed revenue from 2020, projecting over $250,000 for 2021.

Billy Langhenry, who owns Mister Tuxedo in Dallas, said his company’s revenue fell 40% from March through May last year compared with the same period in 2019. After reopening in May 2020, Mister Tuxedo has been renting out tuxedos for nearly three weddings each weekend.

“We have never seen anything like it before,” said Langhenry, who bought the family-owned company over three years ago. Mister Tuxedo has been around since 1955.

Profits in July and August 2020 surpassed what the company did in 2019, he said. And that’s when Texas’ typical summer heat causes rentals to dry up. But this year, the company is on track for one of its busiest years.

Bridal dress retailer Terry Costa saw its revenue fall 32% last year, said Kristyn Huckeba, the Dallas company’s employee engagement and bridal department director.

“There was just a fear of the industry going under in general,” Huckeba said.

Brides who pressed ahead last year opted for more informal and “smaller vibe” dresses, Huckeba said. To adjust to that change, Huckeba said, Terry Costa replaced most of its store merchandise and wrote to vendors seeking different looks.

“The brides still wanted the gowns in some way,” Huckeba said. “Ninety-five percent of them just needed more time.” Many couples decided to hold off until restrictions were loosened and there was more certainty of what the big day would look like.

The store maintained its longstanding no returns, no exchanges policy. Without it, Huckeba said, the company wouldn’t have made it through. However, it still tried to work with brides on payments or on a case-by-case basis.

This spring, the glamorous gown made a comeback, she said. Dresses take about four to five months to come in, and many brides planned for summer or fall weddings to get their dream dresses.

A short bridal gown can run around $500, with any extra fabrics or embellishments racking up a higher price. The Knot estimated the average cost of a wedding gown in 2019 was $1,600.

Even with the pent-up demand from last year, not everyone thinks the wedding business is back to pre-pandemic levels.

Jeff Hickock, known as “The Dallas Wedding DJ,” said he typically spins music at 40 weddings a year. Last year, he did 11. This year, he’s booked 16 weddings.

“I think there is some hesitancy with some people still,” he said.

Allyson and Berkan Dincer on their wedding day.

The Dincers consider themselves among the lucky ones, celebrating their wedding as planned. But they’re also eyeing another reception in September.

“Since we got married, I looked over to her and was like, ‘This is the first time we don’t really have anything we need to stress about,’” Berkan said.

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