Venues across the Ozarks busy booking dates amid 2022 wedding boom

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – There has been quite a wedding boom so far this year, and it could keep growing.

Industry experts predict 2022 could have the most weddings nationwide since 1984. Local venues across the Ozarks say they too are feeling the heat from the surge, but that surge follows a few years of minimal activity.

“Ha, I mean for the lack of a better word, it was pretty devastating,” said Savoy Ballroom owner Andy Walls on trends over the last few years.

Walls and his wife had hosted countless wedding over the years at Savoy Ballroom prior to the pandemic, though things came to a bit of a standstill nearly two years ago.

”Fortunately, we did get some assistance, but it was a very significant hit to the business that we’re still working to recover from,” he said.

Wall and his wife operate two businesses. Not only do they operate as a venue for weddings and other events, but they also run a dance business.

“So we actually operate a dance school where we teach adult social ballroom dancing,” Walls said. “We’d been doing that for about 15 years until the pandemic hit, and so we’re still waiting for our dance business to recover.”

These days, the wedding business is picking back up, perhaps a even a bit faster than expected.

“Over the last year, we’re really just kind of playing catch up,” Walls described. “We did keep pushing forward, we postponed as many as we could. We were fortunate, and many of our customers were understanding. And we had very few [couples] that demanded refund. Most of them postponed and still went forward with their event, just at a later date, which led to some busy months.”

While many events and weddings got pushed back, Walls said his venue is also experiencing an influx of new customer requests.

”It’s been a busier than normal year on people calling and asking for dates,” he said. “I know that if we had more Saturday’s available in September or October, we would fill them. So I imagine any event venue is experiencing that right now with just running out of physical Saturdays and physical weekends that just aren’t available.”

It is a bit of a saving grace for Andy and other venue owners, but just another obstacle for those looking to get married, like Melissa Bertrand and Patrick Zimmer. The couple moved to Wyoming from Fort Leonard Wood.

”We were originally going to get married in September,” said Zimmer. “But the new unit that I am part of here in Wyoming said that there’s a possibility I might deploy in July.”

Luckily the couple secured a spot in June, but the pair said they are aware of the high demand these days.

“That’s why we jumped on this opening when we could,” they said. “Because even one of the other places that we might have considered in Montana, even pre-COVID, it was an 18 [months] to two years out window.”

Walls said timing is often very key to booking weddings. He said there are certain things you do not want to put off because many businesses are experiencing the exact same thing.

“If a chapel or church is important to you or the physical venue for the reception, that’s one of the first things you should look at securing, especially if a date’s important,” Walls said. “Once you start getting within a year of those dates, you’re just kind of playing the odds at that point. Sometimes you’re available. Sometimes things cancel, but the earlier you can start that, the quicker you can commit to that, the better off you’re going to be.”

Melissa Bertrand said she recommends the same thing.

“Book early, definitely,” she said. “Plan way beforehand, because I pretty much have everything done, we have everything done, and our wedding is still three months away.”

Once the venue is secured, many couples look forward to a “normal” wedding, hoping COVID-19 can take the back seat.

”That’s what I’m excited about,” Bertrand said. “Just having to enjoy ourselves and not have to stress about that stuff.”

Wedding venues say there have been a few other challenges lately as well.

“The cost,” Walls said. “Operating costs are higher, cost of employees, I mean, everything has gone up.”

He said he suggests couples hire a wedding planner to help with the process.

“We always recommend getting a planner or having somebody to help guide you through that process,” Walls said. “And that’s just to help you make sure you’re not putting off decisions until they’re there, your ultimate timeline or what you hope to have for your event, as well as costs. Sometimes if you just wait too long, you just have to take what’s available and that can also mess with your wedding budget as well.”

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