What a completely bizarre year. I’m not even sure how else to describe it.
I can tell you that we started the year off with really high hopes for 2020. We had some really incredible events booked for the year and we invested in a bunch of new inventory. We even moved into a larger space in anticipation for what was clearly winding up to be our biggest year to date!
We were also making plans to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. We’d started to plan a huge, beautiful, super-fun open house so we could celebrate with all of the people who have been there for Sage along the way; friends, family, staff (past and present), vendors, and clients. We were so excited for everything 2020 promised to be for us.
And then March hit. Things started off normal enough, even with the rumours of a new virus making its way around China. I remember laughing at memes about China building 10 hospitals in a matter of days (construction workers everywhere did a little, “yeeesh”).
On March 11 we had a lovely, intimate corporate event at a downtown Ottawa restaurant where the planner and I were discussing this strange little virus, she asked, “Are you worried?” and I told her, “No, not really. From everything I’ve heard so far it’s not really much more than a typical flu. But ask me again in a few weeks and I may be singing a different tune.”
Well, I didn’t have to wait a few weeks. News of the extended March break came the next day and more restrictions followed over the weekend. By Monday, March 16 everything had been shut down and everything from there was a bit of a blur. We worked from home for a couple of months, answering an endless string of emails from clients who were worried and unsure about how this was going to impact their wedding or event. In the first couple of weeks I tracked and absorbed every little detail about this new virus. I followed statistics about the timelines followed by other countries. I watched as China began re-opening things and projected that we’d start seeing some level of normalcy by May. I was wrong. We didn’t have a single event until June. We saw 26 of our events from mid-March through June either cancelled or postponed.
The wedding industry felt completely lost and left out in the cold with all of these restrictions. Early on I leaned on my team and my industry friends for guidance and support. My friend Stephan, from Dynamix Productions, and I decided we needed to bring the industry together at a time like this. We needed a place to discuss ideas, to vent our frustrations, to cry on each other’s shoulders (virtually of course)… so we did. We started hosting weekly Zoom calls where any member of our industry could jump on and discuss their worries, frustrations, and even some good things that came about as a result of this chaos (there are always silver linings, right?!). It proved to be an important resource for all of us. We did vent. We did cry. We did have little breakdowns. We also lifted each other up, pushed each other to keep going, and celebrated whatever little wins we could.
Still, some of our clients decided to forge ahead with their wedding plans. Our very first event was a tiny micro wedding for M+O which took place in a soccer field in Orleans. We had our friends from Anne Photo and Grey Loft Studios come out to take pictures and video from the installation. We had no idea how many events we’d actually get to do this year and we wanted to document whatever we did get to do.
We didn’t have another wedding until late June when we made our way out to Brockville for L+P’s big day. Again, we invited some friends to make the trip to capture some images and video footage for us. By this point most of our July and August clients had also moved their dates and some clients were changing dates for a second time. Still, we were excited to be working at all and our friends from Photography by Emma and Bryan Jones Videography made the trek out to Brockville to join us in celebrating and capturing the day.
It was a really beautiful wedding celebration with just 7 guests!
July picked up a bit and we had 4 weddings move ahead, following the strict guidelines that were still in place at the time.
At this point, we also coined the term “Gap Wedding” to describe something we saw happening quite frequently this year. A number of our clients opted to proceed with a small ceremony and celebration this year but still planned to host a larger celebration with family and friends in the future. A+K were one of our first clients to decide to go this route and we love the way their intimate backyard wedding turned out. Their wedding and more details about Gap Weddings was later featured in Ottawa Wedding Magazine.
August and September were surprisingly busy! We were still going ahead with a number of micro-weddings but with restrictions lifting enough to allow slightly larger gatherings we saw quite a few events with 50+ guests (mostly outdoors). We even participated in one corporate event which I definitely wasn’t expecting to do until mid-2021!
While all of our events were of a smaller scale than usual we were excited to be busy and experiencing some sense of normal. We got to produce some really gorgeous events through those two months!
October saw things wind down again as restrictions tightened once more. By then, though, it seemed like any clients who had decided to proceed with a wedding this year were basically ready to roll with anything. Our October clients adapted to every twist and turn with tremendous grace. It was incredibly inspiring.
November saw us setting up a couple of weddings and a few fun holiday installations.
Now it’s December and we have one wedding moving forward – but we’re all ready to pivot at a moment’s notice… we’ve all become really good at that this year, haven’t we?
In the meantime, we’ve been booking new clients for 2021 and even into 2022! We’re all still hopeful that 2021 will look a little more like a normal wedding season but we’re ready to make adjustments, if necessary. What I do know right now is that 80% of our 2020 clients moved their events to 2021 which meant that we started booking new 2021 clients with a nearly-full calendar! It’s been challenging because we’ve had to turn away so many lovely couples because their date was already fully booked.
We’ve learned a lot this year.
We learned that our Sage family contributes to our feelings of sanity… those two months without being able to see and hug one another was really hard.
We learned that our clients are even more incredible than we ever gave them credit for (and we always knew we had amazing clients).
We learned that we are strong, resourceful, and resilient… ready to push through, to pivot, to roll with the punches, stand up, and keep moving forward.
AND, we learned that the wedding industry in Ottawa is filled to the brim with smart, compassionate, beautiful humans who truly love their work and their clients. Getting to know these people better over the past 8 months has reinforced how grateful I am to be able to work in this incredible industry.
When you look back at 2020, what stands out to you? What will you remember most when you look back 5 or 10 years from now?