This past October was probably the biggest month for weddings in this country since the 1980’s when baby boomers were getting married in droves. After more than a year of relative isolation, in-person events have exploded with venues, hotels, resorts, and restaurants seeing a major resurgence.
We wanted to take a moment to reflect on why it’s been such a crazy and busy year. As far as we can tell, these are the big reasons behind the explosion in big events in 2021.
The Ever-Increasing Stress
Everyone agrees that 2020 was a really tough year. Unfortunately, for many of us, 2021 hasn’t been much easier! According to one study, while stress levels peaked for most mid to late 2020, about 75% as many people who experienced symptoms of elevated stress at the peak are experiencing those same symptoms now. With such a large portion of the population reporting anxiety symptoms, it’s not a secret that Americans are still very stressed out and have been so for a long time.
One driving force behind many events is the opportunity for celebration, unwinding, and a change of pace. If there’s ever been a time when we needed a change of pace as an entire nation, it’s now. That same study showed a major reduction in reported anxiety as in-person events ticked back up in early spring. This also coincides with vaccinations that made attending in-person events safer and more accessible.
With such a need to combat ever-increasing stress levels, it’s no surprise that more in-person events have been pushed through, even when covid-19 spikes and new virus variants have arisen. It’s easier to normalize a new risk than it is to normalize not having a chance to celebrate and see our loved ones under happy circumstances.
Many events became virtual in 2020 across the country, but especially in areas with tighter restrictions on gatherings during covid-19. For many, it was pretty literally the only option available to socially interact outside of their immediate family for most of 2020. And though the technology was often clunky, and it lacked the personal touch of an in-person gathering, Zoom, Microsoft teams, and other software solutions for long-distance televideo calls became more popular than ever. With 30 times more users in April 2020 than in December 2019, it’s safe to say that many of us have had to learn how to use one or another video call platform last year.
Unfortunately, a video call cannot replace person-to-person interaction. For all that it’s much safer to communicate online, more and more groups, companies, and individuals are choosing to meet in person. It’s pretty obvious why. The collective fatigue people have expressed has led to a striking aversion to virtual gatherings.
Even corporate events, like tradeshows, which had relatively good success with digitization, have started moving back towards physical attendance after a dramatic drop in 2020. The fatigue people have expressed around digital gatherings has demonstrated both how important it is for us to actually have human-to-human contact and that digital alternatives simply lack the same degree of impact.
There Is a TON of Pent Up Demand and Too Few Workers
The delays brought by covid-19 in 2020 required weddings and all other typical in-person events to be postponed or canceled for almost all of 2020 and the first half to 2021. While some weddings and other major events did take place, they had restrictions on attendance, masking, and vaccination requirements, travel was difficult, and older people, in particular, were shut out of almost all major events by necessary caution.
This trend can be seen most dramatically in the wedding industry, where 96% of couples postponed their weddings planned for 2020. As event caterers, we saw firsthand how this affected timelines, and capacity for service at venues across Maine. This was perhaps magnified for us because we cater mostly outdoor events, where concerns about covid-19 were minimal, meaning that even very cautious and concerned individuals felt relatively safe organizing their outdoor celebrations. We knew it would be a busy year, but the reality blew us away! This was perhaps magnified because most receptions took place at private homes in 2020, but the many couples who wanted a venue to host their receptions chose to push their receptions to 2021.
As soon as restrictions on in-person events began lifting in early to late spring of 2021, and major events became tenable, the floodgates were opened. Venues got booked quickly. Caterers like ourselves were quickly booked solid with events for the entire 2021 season. The effects of this saturation of capacity were felt much deeper thanks to a labor market that hasn’t permitted the many businesses that supply services to make these events happen to expand their labor force. So even as demand has increased, supply has either remained the same or been reduced compared to prior years.
This dilemma has led to a wide range of different solutions, service shortfalls, and further delayed major events. As a result, you can expect next year to also be a year of packed event schedules and difficulty booking the many services we were able to take for granted in years past.