Love blossoms despite Covid-19, but fewer people are going forward to tie the knot with wedding service companies.

Sarah Kalnay-Watson is all too familiar with that reality as the owner of Let Me Knot.

The “massive reduction” in weddings in Yellowknife due to limitations on gatherings has cut her wedding and event planning income by 90 per cent.

“People would normally spend $2,000 to $5,000 on their wedding. Now they spend about $140 on their marriage license and commissioner fee. Some people will throw in a bouquet too. The wedding is reduced to the couple and their witnesses. There’s no big party or ceremony.”

On top of that, when Covid-19 hit she had to move out of her commercial space to lower her outgoing costs, and scale back her flower sales. She has been working out of her home since then.

Flower sales, such as at Christmas and for Valentine’s Day, and the small number of weddings she organized have kept her afloat.

Newlyweds Jescinda Cullihall, left, and Josh Powell after their marriage on the ice road to Dettah, on Saturday. photo courtesy of Vincent Ret

Two gigs

Her side job as constituency assistant to Yellowknife South MLA Caroline Wawzonek has also helped cushion the fall from that rough landing.

“If I didn’t have my part-time job I would probably be singing a different tune,” Kalnay-Watson said with a laugh.

But she still organized some wedding-related events, mainly small ceremonies, elopements and paperwork signings for marriage licenses.

Other clients chose to postpone their weddings into 2021 and even 2022 in hopes that restrictions will eventually allow large events.

Her business downturn aside, circumstances resulted in ceremonies playing out in unique settings, and mostly held outdoors.

Just on Saturday, she held a ceremony on the ice road on Yellowknife Bay, when the temperature fell to -52 with wind chill.

“My binder that I use for ceremonies, I’ve been using it for years. I dropped it by accident and it shattered it was so cold!”

Parking lot vows

In October, she met a couple with their two witnesses in a parking lot, with guests attending as they stood outside their vehicles.

And many weddings were shown remotely to friends and family around the world by Facebook live or Zoom.

“I had them broadcast to people in Chile, Spain, across Canada and a whole bunch of other countries,” Kalnay-Watson said.

Like many businesses, the pandemic has pushed her to streamline her services to the benefit of both herself and her clients.

Before Covid-19, she did all the paperwork for the marriage license in-person with the people getting married. To increase physical distancing, she moved all the paperwork to an electronic format so that clients can fill it out on their computers and email it back to her.

She now meets people outdoors, such as at park benches and it only takes a few minutes for them to sign the paperwork and be on their way.

“It cuts time and the risks of Covid,” she said. “It also reduces the time people are out of their offices.”

No regrets

Kalnay-Watson has no regrets about the difficult route her business has taken over the last 11 months.

Her decision to reduce Let Me Knot’s scope was based more on her family’s health than on business concerns.

“I did have some people ask for me to do their weddings for larger groups of people. (But) I’m married to an individual at high risk of Covid-19 infection. Being aware of what was going on elsewhere, with wedding’s dubbed ‘superspreader’ events, I couldn’t have that on my conscience in case Covid spreads,” she said.

Even though vaccinations are rolling out faster in the NWT than in other parts of Canada, she won’t let her guard down until most of the population gets their shots.

“Our Moderna shipments are delayed. I wont put all of my eggs in that basket yet. Once the jab is in my arm and my husband’s arm I’ll feel more confident doing larger weddings. Once children are vaccinated I’ll be much happier.”

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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