Couples whose planned wedding days were delayed, sometimes multiple times, by COVID-19 have been embracing new scheduling trends in the Garden State since pandemic restrictions eased.

But other events have been slower to return to regularity. Corinne Statia Thomas, meetings and events specialist and founder of Kearny-based Absolute Events by Corinne, said she did two in-person events in the final 10 months of 2020, both memorials, and doesn't expect to reach pre-pandemic volume until maybe next year.

Part of it, Thomas said, is companies and corporations are finding that with virtual and hybrid formats, they do not have to spend as much money flying participants in from other countries and continents for meetings and functions.

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But she feels that's not sustainable in the long term. Eventually, she thinks people need to "crash into each other," which will come to pass as the return to the office continues.

"Companies wanted to do something for their employees, so there were employee appreciation events — let's get together, let's get everybody, we've not been in the offices, let's get people together," Thomas said.

At the same time, private, personal events like birthday and anniversary parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, and right now graduations, are in full swing.

This despite a springtime rise in COVID cases that amounts to something like New Jersey's sixth wave of the coronavirus in a 27-month period.

Regardless, "people are ready to go crazy," according to Thomas, and that includes rectifying a backlog of planned, intended, or canceled gatherings.

"People are busting out. Everybody wants to go somewhere, everybody wants to do something, which is also — we have a recession, but it's also driving the prices up for things, which is a whole other story," Thomas said. "Of course the celebrations that didn't happen because of COVID, that has really ramped up. In my opinion, people are not skittish about hosting an event right now."

While inflation is making New Jerseyans watch how much they're paying for gas and groceries, Thomas said she hasn't seen the same with regard to event planning.

Her business no longer handles weddings, but there is plenty of appetite for other types of celebrations in the Garden State at the moment.

"The end of April, someone turned the faucet on, because when I talk to a lot of my suppliers and vendors, everyone is slammed, because people really are ready to book again," she said.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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