'The inquiries are almost nonstop': Quad-City wedding vendors struggle to keep up with demand - Quad City Times 1

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Kelly Miletich helps to model and fit a wedding dress with the help of bridal consultant Jennifer Leathers at  Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding businesses are facing challenges in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
Kelly Miletich helps to model and fit a wedding dress with the help of bridal consultant Jennifer Leathers at the Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
Kelly Miletich helps to model and fit a wedding dress with the help of bridal consultant Jennifer Leathers at the Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
In the past three months, Carrie Meumann’s phone has been ringing off the hook.
As a wedding photographer, her schedule suddenly is busier than ever before.
Since COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted over the past three months, wedding season is in full force, taxing the supply chain for goods associated with weddings, like food, fabric and dresses.
The increase in celebrations may mean more couples are going to have to wait longer and pay more for their preferred wedding services.
“We’re gonna have to cut that off at a certain point; we just can’t book that much,” said Meumann, a photographer with Avenue Studios Photography & Photos who has already booked 35 weddings for 2022. In prior years, Meumann would usually schedule approximately 40 weddings a year.
Although businesses have been forced to shift the way they function in the market, it’s also been tough on the consumer.
Bride Shelby Brenneck, whose wedding was Saturday, had difficulty finding photographers and videographers for her wedding because of the rescheduled celebrations that were canceled during the pandemic. 
“Most of them were like, ‘Well I had booked this couple for 2020 and they had to reschedule and it was for your wedding day,’” Brenneck said.
Brenneck started planning her wedding in 2019, but when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to push the wedding back a year. Six months later, the pandemic hit and made planning nearly impossible.
“We had six different guest lists,” Brenneck said. “Are we planning for a 30-person wedding, or our 180 that we want? Are we going to be able to have our family there, or is it only going to be us, the officiant, our parents and a witness?”
Along with the limited availability of vendors and differing COVID-19 regulations, pricing for services that involve exterior materials is unpredictable. Tariffs and shortages are tied to manufacturing complications during the pandemic, such as factory shutdowns that limited production and regulated quarantine and isolation periods for employees. These extra fees are intended to sustain companies that experienced financial losses during the pandemic.
Mary Jo Houck, event coordinator for Bridges Catering, said some weeks their prices jumped 30%.
“Egg rolls, for example, have been out of stock for two or three weeks,” Houck said. “But then, even if we can get them, because there’s such a demand for them, the prices have just skyrocketed.”
Houck said higher wage costs also were driving up the catering company’s prices. In order to attract workers, wages must be competitive compared to the minimum starting wage offered in Illinois, which is $11 an hour, according to Houck. 
“Our labor costs have had to increase our employees’ wages over minimum wage to get anybody to work,” Houck said. 
While some small businesses attempted to absorb the extra costs rather than pass them on to the consumer, the prolonged supply chain disruptions have made that unsustainable.
Diane Niebuhr, owner of Hope’s Bridal & Prom Shop, absorbed the first round of surcharge tariffs for her customers on custom-order dresses, which consisted of around 5-8% tax. Increasing inflation is going to make that impossible in the future as Niebuhr heads into her “market time,” where she purchases the next season’s prom and bridal dresses.
“Companies can no longer hold the line on getting enough help, paying better help, fabric prices going up,” Niebuhr said. “So we’re going to be seeing increases.”
Outside of pricing, small businesses have had to adjust services to accommodate increasing demand without losing opportunities to financially recover from the lack of revenue during the pandemic. 
Hotel Blackhawk added more Friday and Sunday weddings to expand its services, according to Kimberlin Richardson, social sales manager. 
“People are just excited to be back with people they love,” Richardson said. 
It is more challenging for wedding planners, who coordinate multiple services for weddings, to take on more clients like an event venue can. For some individual planners, their capacity for planning weddings is the same as before the pandemic. 
This has caused Linda Clark, wedding planner and owner of 4 Ever & A Day, to do something uncommon: say no to potential clients.
“You can only do so much,” Clark said, “because, me as a designer, I am a perfectionist.”
Wedding businesses also adapted to smaller wedding receptions and ceremonies that grew in popularity throughout the pandemic to abide by COVID-19 guidelines.
Even though restrictions were lifted, some couples are still opting for smaller celebrations.   
“People learned that they could have a small intimate wedding with 10 guests, 20 guests, 30 guests,” Niebuhr said. “It was much more rewarding than they ever expected.”
Even though Brenneck is having a wedding with 180 guests, she opted to maintain some COVID-19 guidelines. Tables will be 5 1/2 feet apart, and masks and hand sanitizer will be available for guests. 
“I’ve got some family members that are probably going to show up wearing masks, which is fine and great,” Brenneck said. “I’ve got some family members that are fully vaccinated.”
However, despite the uncertainty and changing guidelines, Brenneck was excited for her big day.
“The vendors that we’re using have just been amazing,” Brenneck said. “They are working with couples, they are giving them grace and helping them with prices where they can.”

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Kelly Miletich helps to model and fit a wedding dress with the help of bridal consultant Jennifer Leathers at  Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding businesses are facing challenges in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
A collection of various wedding dresses at Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
Kelly Miletich helps to model and fit a wedding dress with the help of bridal consultant Jennifer Leathers at the Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
Kelly Miletich helps to model and fit a wedding dress with the help of bridal consultant Jennifer Leathers at the Hope’s Bridal and Prom in Davenport. Wedding dress sales challenges that small wedding businesses are facing in trying to keep up with the influx of weddings after pandemic restrictions were lifted. Hope’s is participating in more one-on-one consultations.
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