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Before coronavirus, New Orleans wedding vendors were booked solid. Now, they’re struggling to get by.

Before coronavirus, New Orleans wedding vendors were booked solid. Now, they’re struggling to get by.

To supplement income lost from weddings postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions, photographer Matthew Diaz has been shooting micro weddings in New Orleans. Wedding planner Valerie Gernhauser had everything just so.

The menu for the March 21 wedding at Houmas House and Gardens, timed for the spring equinox, was farm-to-table. The decor was an earthy collection of sage, tropical flowers and terracotta. The spicy margaritas would include fresh peppers, just like those grown by her clients at their Hawaii farm.

With less than two weeks to go, she and two dozen other vendors had it all set for 150 guests. Then New Orleans reported its first coronavirus case. Then came several more.

“Eleven days out, (the couple) said they’ve made the decision to postpone," Gernhauser said. "It was a 10-minute phone call, one that I will never forget."

It was a disappointment for the couple and the first of many big financial hits for Gernhauser, along with florists, photographers, caterers and other vendors left without any parties. Valerie Gernhauser, a wedding planner in New Orleans, was putting together the final touches of a wedding set for March 21 when she received a call days before from the bride and groom asking to postpone the event due to coronavirus. Spring weddings at the onset of the pandemic in Louisiana were unexpectedly pushed to fall as COVID-19 cases and related deaths erupted in New Orleans, leading to the city’s stay-at-home order and ban on large gatherings. Now, even those rescheduled weddings are being postponed, and the dozens of businesses catering to weddings and other parties in New Orleans aren’t sure what comes next.

Health regulations have capped the size of weddings and other indoor gatherings to 25 people in New Orleans and 50 statewide . Live music isn’t permitted, there’s no dancing, second-lines can’t march through the streets, and buffet-style food service is out.

Vendors are trying to make it through with the scaled back celebrations, and some have grown uneasy after the need for income left them taking jobs where capacity limits, mask mandates and social distancing wasn’t adhered to.

“We’re all small business owners,” Gernhauser said. “We all use these events to put food on the table.” No weddings, no money

While spring in New Orleans means the end of Carnival and the start of a string of festivals, it’s also the beginning of wedding season.

Vendors say that when the coronavirus hit, they were booked full with anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of weddings and other events through May, with more set for the fall. Every wedding can mean thousands of dollars for venues, planners and other vendors, and there are economic impacts for the broader economy. According to wedding planning website The Knot, the average New Orleans wedding translates to almost $42,000 in spending in the city.

But now, cash is drying up fast. Matthew Diaz, of Mateo & Co., said his event photography and studio portrait business has lost tens of thousands of dollars just from spring weddings alone.

"There’s no doubt that we took […]

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