Here come the brides: Weddings are back

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Here come the brides: Weddings are back

 
Lotte Hotel Seoul's wedding venue Athene Garden. [LOTTE HOTELS & RESORTS]

Lotte Hotel Seoul's wedding venue Athene Garden. [LOTTE HOTELS & RESORTS]

 
After surviving a near-death experience, the until-death-do-us-part industry is starting to roar back to life.
 
For over a year, couples desiring to tie the knot had to decide whether to accept limits on the number of guests they could invite — which yo-yoed from 49 and 99 in the greater Seoul area — or put off their weddings indefinitely. 
 
But Covid-19 social distancing restrictions will be lifted in three stages starting Nov. 1, and the first stage will allow weddings with 49 unvaccinated and 200 fully vaccinated guests. If everyone is either fully vaccinated or can show a recent negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result, 499 guests are allowed.
 
In the second stage, which is planned to be introduced mid-December, there will be no restrictions on the number of guests once everyone is fully vaccinated or can submit PCR results. Restrictions on unvaccinated guests will remain the same.
 
All restrictions will be removed in the third stage.
 
“Bookings by couples who didn’t have weddings because they weren’t sure how many guests they could invite are piling in,” said a spokesperson for a local hotel.
 
Ms. Kim, a 32-year-old living in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, contacted the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas hotel on Monday to book her wedding reception next April. Although she thought calling six months ahead was early, the hotel told her that the Grand Ballroom — a venue that accommodates over 900 guests — was fully booked for Saturdays for the first half of next year.  
 
“I'm startled by the situation because I was originally going to have my wedding last September, but postponed it to next Spring.”
 
The Lotte Hotel Seoul's wedding halls are fully booked for weekends through the end of the year. The Plaza’s wedding hall, which accommodates 200 guests, is 80 percent booked for weekends until next October. 
 
“Regulations will be eased, but people are still a bit uncomfortable about large-scale weddings due to safety concerns,” said a spokesperson for The Plaza. “People still prefer to have weddings with some 200 attendees.”
 
The opening up of some honeymoon destinations is another factor in couples deciding to tie the knot. Korea signed its first travel bubble agreement with Saipan in June, and now there are bubbles with other ideal honeymoon destinations such as Guam, Hawaii and the Maldives. People can visit Switzerland, France and Greece without having to quarantine for two weeks if they are fully vaccinated and submit a negative PCR test result.  
 
Things are looking a lot better for bridal stylists as well.
 
Ms. Han, a 38-year-old, visited a hair salon in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, on Oct. 23 and the four-story establishment was jammed with brides-to-be and their families getting their hair done for weddings or pre-wedding photo shoots.
 
“[The salon] told me that 70 percent of its customers are brides-to-be,” said Han. “I’ve been going to that salon for about six years and I’ve never seen them this busy.”
 
Sales of honsu items — home appliances couples buy before getting married and luxury gifts for their parents — are rising. Lotte Department Store said that sales of furniture products between Oct. 1 to 24 rose 36 percent on year. Sales of foreign brand high-end watches rose 37 percent on year and jewelry products rose 58 percent on year.  
 
“It’s expected that the wedding industry will recover in a short period of time as life starts to return to normal,” said Hyun Jong-hyuk, head of the customer experience team at the Lotte Department Store.  
 

BY CHOI HYUN-JU, LEE TAE-HEE [lee.taehee2@joongang.co.kr]
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