As we continue to recount the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and incomes, many do not pay attention to how the pandemic negatively impacted the wedding industry in Nigeria.
With support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), MAWA FOUNDATION examined the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry.
The wedding industry is one sector that has continued to bear the impact of the COVID-19. As soon as the lockdown began, the Nigerian government placed a ban on large gatherings and directed its citizens to observe strict adherence to social distancing.
This, in turn, resulted in many intending couples canceling and postponing their wedding. This led to a major lull in the wedding industry that adversely affected businesses and income generation.
In a bid to find out how the pandemic has affected the wedding industry thus far, MAWA FOUNDATION spoke to major stakeholders in the sector.
They include event planners, photographers, DJs, caterers, fabric, and bridal dealers. These persons gave an insight into how the pandemic has impacted their businesses and incomes.
In the affirmative, they all said they have been adversely affected by the pandemic and are still struggling to keep their businesses afloat.
Mr Samclaire, a photographer at the Kabeyi area of Mararaba, Nasarawa state, told MAWA that in the past he covered about five wedding events every Saturday and realised over N50,000 weekly.
But, during the lockdown, weddings were completely canceled and there was no business. He, however, added that even though the lockdown has ended, he is still struggling to pick up his business, pointing out that some of the big weddings that were canceled as a result of the pandemic were never rescheduled.
Explaining the situation, Samclaire said he was not the only one thrown into a financial mess by the COVID-19 and added that almost every Nigerian event and freelance photographers are facing a dare economic hardship thrown at them by the pandemic.
Fidelis Iga, who operates “the Natural Photo Studio” at Keffi, Nasarawa State, also corroborated Samclaire’s statements.
Narrating the situation, Mr Iga said photographers were always happy every Saturday because they will cover wedding events across the cities. He also said since the outbreak of the pandemic, it hasn’t been business as usual.
“Before the COVID-19 outbreak, every week, I made over N70K, but from the time lockdown started to this moment, my colleagues and I have been struggling, many wedding events canceled and those not canceled usually have few guests in attendance,” Mr Iga said
The situation isn’t any different for Catherine Uchenna, a wedding caterer who resides at Karu, Abuja.
Mrs Uchenna, who said her major business is supplying food to wedding events, said the impact of the pandemic on her business cannot be quantified.
She said, ‘‘As soon as the lockdown began, weddings no longer held and business began to go down, I sold two of my buses and I am now struggling”.
During the interviews, MAWA FOUNDATION realised that for many stakeholders in the Nigerian wedding industry, Saturdays were one day they all looked forward to for obvious reasons.
Another respondent was Ruth James, an Abuja-based event planner, and caterer who has been in the wedding industry for over 15 years.
Mrs James, who handled over 70 weddings in a year, said since the COVID-19 outbreak, she has only managed to handle 11 weddings with minimal profits.
She said, “There is nobody in the wedding industry that was not hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact is so huge that it will take some of us more than 10 years to recover, I have sold properties and borrowed loans to survive the pandemic impact,”.
Philip, a DJ, while speaking to MAWA, said it is untrue to think that after the lockdown has been lifted, normalcy will return to the wedding industry.
He pointed out that the rich who have money to spend on weddings are not ready to break the social distancing rule until a vaccine that guarantees immunity is discovered and citizens widely vaccinated.
He added that many weeding invents are still restricted to 50 guests and low spending.
Tanze Lucas, manager, Crystal Guest House located at the Keffi, GRA area in Nasarawa State, while speaking to MAWA, said wedding events are a major source of revenue for his hotel.
He disclosed that their event halls are always booked for weddings, and, besides the event halls, many wedding guests also lodge in their hotel, patronise their bar and other services.
Mr Lucas told the MAWA team that things have really changed since the lockdown began in 2020.
Asoebi and bridal traders said they are still counting their losses too.
People who sell Asoebi, a uniform dress that is traditionally worn in Nigeria as an indicator of cooperation and solidarity during ceremonies and festive periods, have also not been spared.
A cross section of Asoebi vendors interviewed said they are yet to recover from the huge losses recorded in their business.
Janet Chimaobi, who operates a bridal store in Ikeja, Lagos, spoke to MAWA via a telephone conversation and said the impact of COVID-19 on the wedding industry is so huge.
She revealed that the losses run into billions of Naira while Lagos, Abuja, and Port-Harcourt are the worst hit states.
Mrs Chimaobi disclosed that before the COVID-19, many brides visited her shop to purchase wedding gowns. But, her business crumbled as soon as the lockdown began.
A fabric merchant, Peter Omanya, also told MAWA in his Abuja residence, that he recorded over N5 million in losses in Aso-Ebi clothing alone during the lockdown.
According to Mr Omanya, he made an average of N1 million monthly profit from Asoebi alone, but pointed out that as soon as COVID-19 and lockdown began, weddings were canceled, and customers stopped buying Asoebi.
Mr Omanya told the MAWA team that he is not an exception while pointing out that many of his colleagues who were making a good profit selling Aso-Ebi were pushed out of business during the lockdown.
He, however, added that although the lockdown appears to have been over, business is yet to pick as many people are yet to embrace wedding events for fear of contracting the Coronavirus.
Entrepreneurs in the wedding industry employ a large number of workers through direct and indirect labour. But, with the outbreak of COVID-19, the industry has since been worse hit, and players are struggling to find their feet back with little or no government support.
Findings from interviews conducted by MAWA among some businessmen and women show the wedding industry is one of the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, as the Nigerian government continues to give out palliatives and support to business owners that were affected by the pandemic, she has to pay attention to stakeholders in the wedding industry.
She also needs to find a way of supporting them to survive the huge impact of COVID-19 has had on their businesses and income.
And, in doing that, the government must put in place a mechanism that will ensure those that were affected and need assistance are the ones that actually get the support.
This report is supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa OSIWA