Alianne Valladares-Prieto made her dream of owning a wedding planning business a reality in August 2020… at the height of the pandemic.
The lockdown offered a window of opportunity to focus on establishing her business — which she calls “ad astra,” Latin for “to the stars” — with less competition from other event planners.
“Everyone around me told me I was crazy and told me that no one was going to hire me to plan an event during these times,” she said. “But I told them that I’d be losing a whole year that I could otherwise be making connections and putting my name out there. I wasn’t going to let the pandemic stop me.”
Valladares isn’t the only one. There were others who took the same leap.
The event-planning industry crashed in 2020 because people feared contracting COVID-19. Many postponed events and didn’t plan new ones.
When testing and vaccinations for the virus became available, the industry began to rise again. However, it was — and is — entirely reshaped because there are now guest and venue restrictions. Prices also increased because supply-chain disruptions made items like flowers harder to find on the market.
People are now doing smaller events and not providing much lead time because they fear another lockdown.
Some new event planners have tailored their businesses to fit COVID restrictions.
Sofia Benitez, owner of Micro Miami Weddings, says she went through agony while hospitalized with COVID-19 in May. This made her value every single moment in her life. After she saw that people wanted to get back to celebrating, she opened her business in August.
She only plans smaller weddings because she has met more people who want to focus on having more intimate moments. In the past months, she’s made $16,900 from weddings with only 15-60 guests.
“I realized that all those memories that carried me out of the hospital were the memories from my wedding that had brought a lot of joy to me,” she says. “And knowing that like me, there were many people who needed this, and needed someone like myself to help them, pushed me even harder to open.”
Benitez and other new event planners took a chance on the industry. They had to push past negativity from those who didn’t believe their businesses could survive the pandemic.
Rachel Avara, owner of Roam Home + Events, opened in May. Her event-planner boss discouraged her, but she didn’t stray from her vision. She says existing planners were busy taking care of postponed events, so she considered it an opportune moment to take on people who wanted to set up new ones, including the ones that have as low as 20 guests.
“It is a magical moment to see a person truly happy with how their event turned out, and I want to be the reason behind the smile on their faces,” she says. “The world is going to continue moving forward, and we either have to continue to live our lives and chase our dreams or we can stay scared and not accomplish anything. I refuse to let a virus stop my ambitions.”
Others opened event-planning companies as investments.
Amber Brown, owner of Magically Managed Events, opened in June after she planned her best friend’s wedding, and they gave her the money to start up her dream business.
She says that after being furloughed from her job as a catering director during the pandemic, she realized she needed a stable income for her family and starting her business might do that.
After she completes her scheduled events this year, she will have made $10,000 so far.
“Even if we weren’t in a pandemic, there’s always a risk any time you want to open your own business,” she says. “I just did it because I had this great chance to.”
Regardless of the pandemic lockdowns and the fear, some clients planned their events because they wanted to celebrate as soon as it was safe.
Ad astra co. owner Valladares says she didn’t do any events during 2020 but she still booked and planned four weddings for 2021 with up to 180 guests. She says people hurried to secure their event dates before others did, which grew her business within a few months; she’s already made $15,000.
“I definitely did not time it on purpose, I’ll say that the universe had these plans for me,” she says. “I had already sacrificed a lot to save money for my business so if I didn’t start working on my future company at that time, I was never going to do it.”