When the government announced their schedule for easing England, Sophie Ovens and Arthur Mitchell realized that the proposed wedding could not take place.
It was booked for 60 guests at the Rosevine Hotel in Cornwall on May 15th, two days before the government-approved attendance doubled to 30. For many couples, this has proven to be a turning point in continuing their celebrations as the rules in force do not allow unrestricted numbers until June 21st.
Ovens and Mitchell asked the hotel to postpone the booking two days and cut their guest list in half.
“It was terrible that day [of the announcement]”Said Backöfen.” I didn’t think we’d be that close to the threshold, whether it went on or not.
“It would have been impossible to postpone the wedding we wanted,” added Mitchell.
For couples, the uncertainty and administrative effort involved in rearranging dates, invitations and suppliers was emotional. The crisis has been devastating for the wedding industry, which is estimated to be typically £ 14.7 billion a year and employ 400,000 people.
According to the UK Weddings Taskforce, which was set up to represent the industry during the crisis, around 220,000 weddings, or 80 percent of the 2019 total, were postponed last year. Some celebrations have been postponed two or three times as lockdown restrictions were lifted and then reintroduced.
Sarah Haywood, a wedding planner who represents the task force, said around five wedding companies, from bridal shops to photographers and barns that host events, shut down every week during the last lockdown alone.
In January, 74 percent of the 3,000 companies surveyed by the task force reported losses of at least 76 percent of their usual sales in 2020.
Vacation was the only major government support available to most in the industry. Few wedding companies are classified as hotel businesses or have street fronts that allow them access to industry-specific grants. Most had to keep hiring staff to handle shifts even when no income came in.
Wedding planner Sarah Haywood, who represents the UK Weddings Task Force. ‘[Ministers] do not seem to trust that the wedding sector could or would adhere to the measures taken ‘© Amy Cassidy Photography
Some companies have been able to take out government-sponsored loans, but Christopher Mills, a bespoke event planner, said this was a poisoned chalice: “We all face the reality of repaying loan programs with no income generated. . . Perhaps this is the financial equivalent of ‘Long Covid’. “
The task force is working with the government to ensure that more than 30 guests attend weddings from May 17th. Given that indoor events will be allowed 50 percent for up to 1,000 people from the same date, wedding organizers argue that the limit on weddings is unfair, despite officials’ apparent concern about people hugging and hugging each other a lot get drunk at receptions.
“It makes no sense. [Ministers] don’t seem to trust that the wedding sector could or would comply with the measures taken, ”said Haywood.
She also noted that it took ministers at least six months to recognize the largely women-led wedding sector as a significant contributor to the economy. The industry generates nearly three times the annual arts and culture spending, Haywood said, but it’s often viewed as frivolous.
“[It’s] hard work, it’s every weekend, it’s unsocial hours, ”she said.
Kate Bendall, sales director at Bubble Food, which typically hosts more than 400 events a year, said the company held a “micro-wedding” for 10 people last year. She said that venues and caterers must have strict health and safety protocols in order to operate independently of Covid-19 and that breaking even on a “tiny” wedding is difficult.
In some cultures, especially in Asian and Jewish communities, the presence of a large group of relatives or friends is an integral part of the ceremony.
LaToya Patel, a planner who specializes in Asian marriages, said cutting numbers was “a massive compromise”. “It’s not a nice situation. This is how they celebrate their wedding, ”she said. “There were people who bought houses together, picked up elements of their lives, and those houses were empty because they couldn’t live there without being married.”
Some Orthodox Jewish communities require the presence of a “minyan” of 10 religious men, which meant that essential family members were effectively disfellowshipped when the government mandated ceremonies to be limited to 15 people during the strictest lockdowns.
Future bride Sharni wears a face mask as she tries on wedding dresses at Blush bridal boutique Leigh-on-Sea. © John Keeble / Getty Images
Almost 500,000 weddings are waiting for restrictions to be lifted, the task force said, and around 350,000 are expected in 2022. As a result, wedding venues are struggling to reassure couples who have had to reschedule their dates and fear burnout among staff who have been unemployed for more than a year.
“Looking at the diary is a bit scary right now, especially when [staff] I was on vacation with my feet up high, ”said Hannah Petrouis, whose family business runs the Hawkstone Hall wedding venue in Shropshire. “Many people who got married on a Saturday in August are now getting married on a Tuesday in November.”
She also said that after having talked heavily with couples, office staff had come to her tearful several times: “It became a bit of a dog-eating dog, and couples said they dropped this person off that date, but we can’t.”
Several planners said many weddings this year, especially after all restrictions are due to lift on June 21, will be more extravagant celebrations than originally planned.
“[Clients] make up for the celebrations they lost in the past 12 months, ”said Mills, adding that the proportion of multi-day parties tripled to 60 percent.
One wedding he organizes involves a replica of the Ballet Swan Lake on a Scottish marshland with tables that look like swans and a replica of the Royal Opera House stage. Although Mills’ events are in the upper end of the range with prices for his services starting at £ 70,000, he said that “everyone seems to have that energy to celebrate.”
But, he added, people need to understand that “we make a hell of a lot of money. . . We are so much more than just putting cucumbers on a plate. “