Due to the pandemic and the emergency measures, many couples in Kosovo have postponed the wedding or given up on the traditional grand celebrations, with a significant financial impact on the wedding industry and related businesses
Are people getting married? Are they buying wedding merchandise, and could you please tell me how the pandemic affected your business?
These are my first three questions to the owners and employees sitting on the benches outside their bridal gown and jewellery store, located in the older part of Prishtina.
"It is like day and night", says the owner, pointing at the empty store.
As summer goes by and the number of coronavirus cases and the death toll are rising dramatically, one more thing that has changed in the country is how people get married.
Rona Jerliu, the owner of another store, tells me that revenues have shrunk drastically as people are not getting married because of the pandemic. “Those who are getting married are buying very few, conventional things”.
For as long as I talk to them, no one crosses the street to enter these stores, while in the past they were usually full of people.
In Kosovo, traditional wedding ceremonies play an essential role in people's lives. A wedding unites two people, but it also creates an almost permanent relationship between two families. Kosovars spend a lot of money on the wedding ceremony, which is separate from the day the spouses sign the paperwork and marry legally at the municipality.
For instance, the cost of a wedding party may vary from 3,000 to 20,000 Euros or more, including an exclusive restaurant, well-known singers to entertain the guests for up to seven hours, photographers and cameras, the wedding planner, and so on. Almost none of this is happening right now, as the Kosovo government's recent decision was to ban gatherings. In contrast, the previous measures allowed up to 50 people to gather.
Kosovo introduced the first full lockdown in mid-March, when the very first coronavirus cases were registered. The government started to ease the restrictions in May, but everything turned upside down in June and July, when the number of coronavirus cases and the death toll increased. Kosovo is currently registering over 200 new coronavirus cases every day, and 10-15 deaths daily.
Some couples have cancelled marriage plans entirely and postponed the ceremonies to 2021. Others cut down on the party. Majlinda Doda, a recently married bride from Prishtina, wore the white gown solely in front of her parents and close relatives, while her best friends congratulated her through a video message created with iMovie.
"We had planned to get married in 2020 in normal circumstances, where our wedding would look magnificent with our honorable guests, friends, and family. The year remained the same, but the circumstances changed, we got married in May only in the presence of our close family", Majlinda told Obct.
Shemsije Dermaku, owner of wedding planning company GRAND DÉCOR, told Obct how the pandemic impacted her business and the way people get married.
"Everything was unexpected for our clients who planned their wedding in 2020, and for us. Many of our clients have postponed the wedding to 2021, because this situation doesn't allow many guests and diaspora people couldn't travel back these days".
Furthermore, Dermaku says that the pandemic has harmed her business too.
"Usually, in July I hire 40 seasonal workers, while I have 12 regular workers. This year I didn't need the 40 seasonal workers, and I am left only with eight regular workers".
However, some people are not respecting the government's decision to ban public gatherings. On the day the number of dead people per day reached 16, one singer posted a video on Facebook from a wedding party taking place outdoors. Unfortunately, the Kosovo government is not taking any further step to stop these events, which are potential clusters of coronavirus.
On the other hand, the lack of wedding ceremonies also affects wedding planners, make-up artists, fashion designers, restaurants, and singers. The latter are protesting against the government's decision to ban public gatherings, especially weddings.
The Kosovo Agency of Statistics does not provide any data on the wedding industry, perhaps because not everybody pays taxes. However, it is well known that a large amount of money circulates and helps the Kosovo economy flow during the summer, the season of wedding parties.
Arian Zeka, executive director of the American Chamber of Kosovo, told Obct that the outbreak of COVID19 has had a huge negative impact on all industries. Furthermore, the pandemic has significantly reduced the possibility of the diaspora travelling to Kosovo this year and thus contributing to country's economy, which according to Zeka remains heavily dependent on the remittances. "Over the years, the experts have recommended the state institutions to encourage direct investments from Kosovo's diaspora by improving the investment climate," Zeka told Obct.
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