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Weddings have always added a festive vibe to summer. As soon as temperatures start rising and days become longer, wedding-related events start popping up in our calendars. After all, we don’t refer to summer as “wedding season” for nothing. This year, though, things look much different. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an overwhelming majority of brides and grooms-to-be have been forced to postpone their big day until the current health crisis improves.
According to a report by The Knot, which surveyed more than 14,000 couples across the globe, "92 percent of them (that number was 93 percent for the US) decided to either reschedule their weddings for either later this year or 2021, or not make any changes at this time." And while the pandemic may have disrupted many couples’ original plans, it seems like it hasn’t affected how they want to commemorate their nuptials.
“With a strong desire to celebrate their weddings as they had originally planned, 94 percent of couples in the US and 87 percent globally do not plan to reduce their overall guest count, and 95 percent in the US and 90 percent globally do not anticipate lowering their budget,” reads the report. And with their weddings still on, a lot of brides-to-be are only now getting to shop for the perfect wedding dress. Needless to say, with safety measures such as social distancing in full effect, their bridal salon appointments are going to look somewhat different than they would have a year ago (or even a few months ago for that matter). Since the demand for virtual consultations has also increased drastically, a lot of brands and retailers have now moved some of their services that would normally take place in a brick-and-mortar store (such as taking the bride’s measurements) online.
In the United States, most bridal salons have already been allowed to re-open after implementing a series of CDC-recommended precautions.
“We are greeting our guests into the boutique as we take their temperatures, we offer an automatic hand sanitizer after they change into sanitized slippers, and require they wear masks at all times,” says Giselle Dubois, the owner of New York-based bridal boutique Spina Bride. Dubois explains that the boutique’s no-shoe policy is nothing new. What is new, though, is the number of guests the bride-to-be can bring with her—just one. Most bridal salons have adopted a similar policy—with some allowing up to two guests— in order to keep the number of people in the store to a minimum.
“We're only allowing one guest which is hard because obviously everyone wants to bring all their bridesmaids or their mother and mother-in-law but unfortunately that's kind of just life at the moment,” said Lauren Crispin, owner of The Mews Bridal, that specializes in handmade wedding dresses from some of the top French designers. Crispin also explained that pre-COVID-19 brides would be allowed to browse the selection of dresses in the showroom and pick the ones they’d like to try on themselves but this is no longer the case. Now, brides are asked to select five dresses from the company’s website before their appointment. Those gowns will be ready for them to try on when they get to the salon. In case they’d like to try on more styles during their appointment, a stylist would pick them out for them.
After each hour-long appointment, all dresses are sprayed with anti-bacterial spray, steamed, and quarantined for 24 hours.
At Spina Bride, there is a 30-minute break between sessions during which all surfaces, doorknobs, dressing rooms, and gowns are sanitized. Stylists also wear disposable gloves during each session.
And while some brands have put on hold serving champagne to brides and their guests during appointments, others will continue to treat their clients to some bubbly except it may not come in a crystal flute.
“We're just using paper cups at the moment rather than glassware but it [the champagne] tastes just as good,” Crispin added.
For brides, who don’t yet feel comfortable going into a physical store, companies are introducing virtual appointments.
Australian-based brand Grace Loves Lace that has multiple US locations in cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, has seen an increase in demand for virtual consultations by over a thousand percent this year. The company’s live online chats with stylists that are available 24/7 have also more than doubled in popularity compared to 2019.
“We started a virtual showing service where our stylists were facilitating virtual appointments via Zoom or FaceTime or Skype, whatever was preferred for our brides to be able to still see the gowns, have the stylists guide them through taking their measurements, as well as processing their purchase and arranging swatches if they would like to see the fabric in person,” explained Georgia Wheeler, Grace Loves Lace’s regional showroom sales manager.
Some brands are going even further in making sure virtual appointments feel just as special as physical ones.
Israeli luxury brand Galia Lahav House of Couture that has over 60 stores worldwide and often dresses celebrities for red carpet events, started offering virtual consultations after an “overwhelming response” from brides who wished to proceed in their search for their perfect wedding gown while the company’s stores were closed.
During the online meeting with the head designers from the atelier, the team at Galia Lahav opens a bottle of champagne “to make brides feel special and keep the experience exciting.”
“We also have a model who tries on the gowns for them while the designers sketch their visionary dress, offering to work on a unique custom gown,” Galia Lahav, the president of the company, said.
The brand also just launched a new ready-to-wear line consisting of 10 pieces available for purchase online that can be delivered anywhere in the world within two weeks.
And while pre-COVID-19, brands would usually charge special fees for cancellations or expedited orders, in most cases these are now waived.
“We understand it's such a difficult time for brides, they are postponing their wedding and uncertain about that and we want to help them as much as we can,” Lahav added.
A new style trend also seems to be emerging from lockdown. Because so many couples have opted to postpone their big celebrations for a later date but they still getting married now in city hall or in other venues only in the presence of their closest family members, brides-to-be are staying away from ball gown dresses and instead going for more relaxed and simple designs that are more appropriate for a smaller type of celebration.
“People are looking for something a little bit more understated. They don’t want anything too over the top but they still want to look like a bride,” explained Crispin.