Hawaii’s wedding industry ‘decimated’ by pandemic shut downs


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Social gatherings of up to five people are allowed again. But it’s little consolation for the wedding and events industry, which has been shut down since March.

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The wedding industry brought roughly $16 billion in revenue annually to the state, according to a report by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The islands created the picture-perfect backdrop for couples. One in four marriages were destination weddings.

But seven months after COVID-19 reached Hawaii’s shores, things are much different.

“It’s decimating for lack of a better term,” said Lindsay Louise, the event sales manager of Plan Do See, which offers catering and event planning. “There’s nothing for certain. So I think that’s kind of what’s getting everybody, too, is that we just don’t know.”

Riena Matsuo is the sales and marketing manager of Plan Do See. She said they were supposed to have a very busy summer.

“We had about 45 weddings and events a week, all of which were canceled.”

She said some rescheduled for fall and winter. Now, even that’s up in the air.

“People’s livelihood, how they get paid and what they do has been destroyed. And on a personal level, it’s sad because Hawaii was thriving. It was a place where people came to have these wonderful moments and that can’t happen right now. It’s hard,” said Louise.

Matsuo said the only thing that’s keeping their business afloat is that they also run Deck, a restaurant venue in the Queen Kapiolani Hotel. Deck is scheduled to reopen for dine-in service on Sept. 30.

“We’ve been still brushing up our menus, making new cocktails for people to enjoy. So we’re just trying to make the best out of what we can,” said Matsuo.

With the tiered reopening strategy, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell unveiled Tuesday that it could take time before gatherings of 10 and 25 are allowed. Honolulu is currently in the first tier.

Groups of 10 aren’t allowed to gather until tier three and groups of 25 in the fourth and final tier. Movement from one tier to the next is based on the average rolling day-case count and positivity rate.

Florists, videographers, DJs, photographers and countless others who banked on the wedding industry are all in limbo.

Photographer Dave Miyamoto said roughly 80 percent of his business came from weddings. The other 20 percent came from convention and commercial work, which has also been impacted.

“A lot of a lot of us in weddings are small business, sole proprietors. So this really is a big impact.”

Miyamoto said it’s hard to plan, even for small destination weddings this fall.

“They’re supposed to fly here but they don’t have confidence about it because they don’t know if they can come here and have their wedding and what type of restrictions they’ll have.”

Another blow to the industry, which is one of the largest interactive wedding planning events in the state, is Wedding Week Hawaii 2020. It’s canceled this year. It was scheduled for the first week of November and it would have featured hundreds of wedding vendors.

Wedding Week founder Julie Aragaki said that they held out as long as they could before they canceled.

“Now that we are uncertain about the future of group gatherings–right now it’s five and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be more than 25 for another five or six months– we decided to cancel 2020,” Aragaki said.

She said she hopes they’ll be back even bigger in 2021.

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