It's wedding season – which would typically be the busiest time of year for local companies that depend on them. But as further reopening of the region remains in limbo, companies like Thunderstorm Productions continue to face a loss of over 90 per cent of their typical seasonal business.
Eric Hoshooley is the president of Thunderstorm, a disc jockey, audio and lighting production service with over 28 years of serving the region under their belt. He told KitchenerToday, the past 15 months have been "really tough," due in part to "people postponing [weddings] from 2020 to 2021," and then postponing again to 2022 – or worse, "cancelling altogether."
Hoshooley, who started his DJ business back in high school, admits it has become stressful to check his email. With 40 weddings currently on the books (for 2021), he said he remains hopeful that no one else will choose to postpone – although typically, he'd be "up around 100 [ceremonies]," at this time of year.
As smaller, private services (without receptions) have become an alternative to postponing weddings, Hoshooley said they quickly figured out how to offer online weddings (and funerals). As the summer progresses, he remains hopeful that "restrictions will be over soon." That said, "people are still moving dates every day."
A virtual wedding service typically includes a sound system for the officiant, music for the ceremony and a slide show for home viewers. With the current restrictions, "a reception or dancing" aren't permitted.
A keepsake copy is also offered. And while the cost of a wedding is exponentially lower these days, so is the profit companies like Thunderstorm rely on. "It's cut lots of money for not only us as DJs, but photographers, caterers, venues, decorators, bakers, and transportation - literally every single person in our industry has taken a hit," he said.
"We have been working with all of our local vendors, trying to support each other and pass work back-and-forth as we can," Hoshooley said, adding they have accommodated "quite a few more backyard ceremonies than ever before."
Due to capacity restrictions, those planning weddings often have to choose between music, flowers, décor and photography – "all those people count toward the capacity, so it's usually us, some friends and family, the couple, and some witnesses. The bridal party and every in-person guest wear a mask; sometimes, depending on the comfort level of the officiant, they allow the bride and groom to remove theirs for the ceremony portion."
Hoshooley hopes for "some normalcy soon."
"Everyone is hurting, mentally and physically, from being stuck at home."
Since March 2020, Thunderstorm has been streaming online parties every Friday and Saturday night – partly to help keep his DJ service top of mind when events do return but also to allow his DJs to continue doing what they love.
Hoshooley said he remains hopeful that celebrations such as weddings, graduations and proms will return soon because "everyone deserves to have those moments in their lives." The hardest part is watching friends lose their life's work. "It's been really tough watching friends . . . being put in dire positions." And after almost three decades in the region, there "aren't many people in the industry" he hasn't met or created some type of relationship with.
"To see someone's dreams just disappear is heartbreaking. I want this to be over so no one else will be hurt."
When asked how long he thinks it will take for the events industry to recover, Hoshooley said it's going to "years and years." He thinks the industry itself will evolve, and the way people host weddings will change as a result. "The focus put on certain things has all shifted; it will never get back to where it was; it will be different."
As for the next year's wedding season, he's optimistic; "2022 is coming along, and we are starting to get booked up, but people are still scared." Without the ability to see what the future holds, he said people are choosing to wait.
He suggested that those who wish to help local businesses can do so by leaving positive reviews online. "We get so much energy from that," he said.
"We are resilient, and we are not going to let this be the end of ThunderStorm Productions; we will take whatever the world throws at us and find a way to make a positive out of it."