Alaska wedding industry hit hard by COVID-19

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 5:51 PM AKDT
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One of the things Alaska is most known for is its beautiful scenery. Hundreds of people take advantage of that beauty and use it as a backdrop for weddings. However, it seems as though COVID-19 has brought that to a halt-- for now.

The wedding industry as a whole has been hit pretty hard by COVID-19, especially since it's largely centered around travel and large gatherings.

Rebecca Kopperud is a wedding planner who owns La Boum Events. She says 95% of her summer clients have cancelled or postponed, with very few clients moving forward with large scale weddings. She says now more people are doing adventure elopements, having simple ceremonies or pushing back to next year.

"It actually is going to have a minimum of a two year impact on us because it takes our business away for this year, and everybody who had booked us for 2020 is now taking up our dates for 2021, so that actually really complicates things for the wedding industry and for a lot of small business owners because of that," said Kopperud. "That automatically eats up like two years of our time with no income coming in."

Kopperud says, on the bright side, Alaska is back open for business. She got together with other small businesses that rely on the wedding industry for a styled shoot to show you can still have a safe wedding in a COVID-19 world.

"There are a lot of creatives and professionals who can help you to come up with a plan so that you can include elderly and those with compromised immune systems so they can participate," said Kopperud. "We have hand washing stations, hand sanitizers that are locally made. We have a lot of locally sourced things. You can shop local here in Alaska, and be able to know where your stuff is coming from, whose hands are touching it, and be able to have a beautiful product."

Steve Solari is the General Manager of Meier Lake Resort. He says last year the venue did over 20 weddings. So far this year? Zero. Solari says instead of focusing on large gatherings, the resort is focusing on smaller ceremonies, and Alaskans wanting 'staycations'. They've also taken this time to do construction and adapt to this new reality, even creating a space that hosts smaller groups in hopes it would bring people in.

"We used to have a beautiful breakfast buffet. Now we deliver breakfast to your door. It comes with your night stay. It's really beautiful. For weddings, we have created a little space in the forest that's a little bit more intimate. We can accommodate weddings up to 125 guests. This is for more of a 20 or 30 person."

In addition to small businesses in the industry getting hit hard, of course couples who planned to have their weddings this summer were faced with a tough decision. Christina Lein, and her fiance Amy Bragg hoped to have their wedding on June 26, 2020.

"Are we just going to see who can make it and hopefully things clear up, or do we want to make sure that everybody can make it, and choose to have my grandma who's in her 90s now?" said Lein. "She's definitely an at-risk person for COVID so it was-- all those people that we wanted there to share in this memory weren't going to be able to be there because they were more at risk, so it was an easy decision for that reason."

Lein and Bragg eventually made the decision to postpone the wedding to June 26, 2021. However, Lien says it's not all bad, she's happy to have more time to plan and save, because after all, COVID-19 may have postponed the celebration but the love isn't going anywhere.

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