Special Report: Wedding Industry worse hit by COVID-19

As we continue to recount the impact of COVID-19 on business and income, many do not pay attention to how the pandemic negatively impacted the wedding industry, with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) MAWA FOUNDATION examined the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry.

The wedding industry is one area that has continued to bear the impact of the COVID-19. As soon as the lockdown began, the Nigerian state put a ban on large gatherings and directed all citizens to observe strict adherence to social distancing. This resulted in many intending couples canceling and postponing their wedding, which led to a major slowdown in the wedding industry and adversely affecting businesses and income generation.

In efforts to find out how the pandemic affected the wedding industry, MAWA FOUNDATION spoke to those working in the industry; some of them are event planners, photographers, DJs, caterers, fabric, and bridal dealers, to gauge how the pandemic has impacted their business and income.

In the affirmative, all of them said they have been adversely affected by the pandemic while they are struggling to keep their businesses going without collapsing.

Wedding guests in a male Ase - Ebi dress
Wedding guests in a male Ase – Ebi dress

Mr. Samclaire, a Photographer at the Kabeyi area of Mararaba in Nasarawa state while granting an interview to MAWA, said he covered about five wedding events every Saturday making over N50k weekly. But, during the lockdown, wedding events were completely canceled and there was no business. He, however, added that after the lockdown, he is still struggling to pick up his business, pointing out that some of the big weddings that were canceled as a result of the pandemic were never rescheduled.

Explaining the situation, Samclaire said he is not the only one thrown into a financial mess by the COVID-19, pointing out that all event and freelance Photographers are facing a dare economic hardship thrown at them by the pandemic.

Mr. Fidelis Iga, who operates “the Natural Photo Studio” at the Keffi area of Nasarawa state, while speaking to MAWA, said those in the wedding industry are the worse hit. Narrating the situation, Iga said Photographers were always happy every Saturday because they will cover wedding events across the cities, but pointed out that since the pandemic began, things have gone bad as many weddings were canceled and never rescheduled.

“Before the COVID-19 outbreak, every week, I made over N70K, but from the time lockdown started to this moment, my colleagues and I have been struggling, many wedding events canceled and those not canceled usually have few guests in attendance,”’ Iga said

Mrs. Catherine Uchenna, a wedding caterer at the Karu area of Abuja, speaking to MAWA at her residence, narrated how the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry made her lose a huge amount of money running into millions of Naira.

Uchenna who said her major business is supplying food to wedding events disclosed that the impact of the pandemic on her cannot be compared to any other person, pointing out that her business was completely rendered impotent.  But, as soon as the lockdown began, weddings no longer hold and business began to go down, I sold two of my Buses and now struggling”, Uchenna said.

Mrs. Ruth James, an event planner, and Caterer who spoke to MAWA in her Gwarimpa Abuja residence said she has been in the wedding industry for over 15 years. She, however, disclosed to have handled over 70 wedding events in a single year, but, pointed out that since the COVID-19 outbreak, she has only managed to handle 11 weddings with very minimal profits.

Ruth narrating the impact of COVID-19 told MAWA team that since the lockdown began many wedding events canceled and some rescheduled.  And that led to the loss of business and income for her and other colleagues who are into the same business.

“There is nobody in the wedding industry that was not hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact is so huge that it will take some of us more than 10 years to recover, I have sold properties and borrowed loans to survive the pandemic impact,” James disclosed.

Mr. Philip, a DJ, while speaking to MAWA, said it is untrue to think that after the lockdown has been lifted, normalcy will return to the wedding industry. He pointed out that the rich who have money to spend on weddings is not ready to break the social distancing rule until a vaccine that guarantees immunity is discovered and citizens widely vaccinated. Philip added that many weeding invents are still restricted to 50 guests and low spending.

Mr. Tanze Lucas, Manager, Crystal Guest House located at the Keffi, GRA area in Nasarawa state, while speaking to MAWA, said wedding events are part of the area that give huge resources to the hotel. He disclosed that their event halls are always booked for weddings, and, besides the event halls, many wedding guests are lodged in their hotel, use their bar and other services. Unfortunately, these business opportunities closed during the lockdown and are still struggling after the lockdown, Luca told the MAWA team.

Another area that recorded a huge loss in the wedding industry is the “Aso-Ebi and bridal, traders in the business are still counting their losses running to billions.

Aso-Ebi “a uniform a group of persons wears during occasion” in Nigeria was worse hit by the COVID-19 and those in the business are yet to recover from a huge loss recorded.

According to Mrs. Janet Chimaobi, who operates a bridal store in the Ikeja area of Lagos, speaking to MAWA via a telephone conversation, said the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry is so huge that the loss runs into billions of Naira when calculated across the country, pointing out that Lagos, Abuja, and Port-Harcourt are the worse hit.

Chimaobi disclosed that before the COVID-19, many brides visited her shop to purchase wedding gowns. But, her business crumbled as soon as lockdown began.

Mr. Peter Omanya, dealer of fabrics, speaking to MAWA in his Abuja residence, said he recorded over N5 million losses in Aso-Ebi clothing alone during the lockdown. According to Omanya, he made an average of N1 million profits monthly from Aso-Ebi clothes alone, but, pointed out that as soon as COVID-19 and lockdown began, weddings canceled, and customers stopped buying Aso-Ebi clothes, a situation he said made him lost huge sums of money.

Mr. Omanya told the MAWA team that he is not an exception while pointing out that many of his colleagues who were making a good profit selling Aso-Ebi were pushed out of business during the lockdown. He, however, added that although the lockdown appears to have been over, business is yet to pick as many people are yet to embrace wedding events for fear of contracting the Coronavirus.

Females in Ase-Ebi dress dancing with the bride
Females in Ase-Ebi dress dancing with the bride

During the interviews, MAWA FOUNDATION found that for many in the wedding industry, Saturdays were hit days while they usually hope and anticipate for the day. Entrepreneurs in the wedding industry employ a huge number of workers through direct and indirect labour. But, with the outbreak of COVID-19, the industry has since been worse hit, and players struggling to find their footing back to business with little or no government support.

Findings from interviews conducted by MAWA among some businessmen and women show the wedding industry is one of the worse hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, as the Nigerian state continues to give out palliatives and support to business owners that were affected by the pandemic, she has to work in identifying those in the wedding industry and finds a way of supporting them to survive the huge impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and income.

And, in doing that, the government must put in place a mechanism that will ensure those that were affected and need assistance are the ones that actually get the support.

This report is supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa OSIWA

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