UK wedding industry faces a death spiral unless government lifts restrictions later this month
A scroll through Instagram will see couples’ hopes and dreams crushed in a barrage of conflicting advice, inconsistent communications, radio silence and changes to restrictions.
They say that moving house and having a child are two of life’s most stressful events. The pandemic has added in a close third – getting married.
Presently 30 people can attend a wedding in England. After 21st June it is supposed to be limitless, but confusion reigns for couples and the industry is desperate to get back to work.
It's been 15 months and counting of a rollercoaster ride for brides and grooms and nerves are well and truly frayed as this important life event is pushed and pulled by bureaucracy and sometimes by what seems like whim.
Just a scroll through Instagram will see couples’ hopes and dreams crushed in a barrage of conflicting advice, inconsistent communications, radio silence and changes to restrictions. Some have now cancelled three times.
The cost has been high financially and emotionally for anyone brave enough not to want to go to the registry office but persevere to celebrate their union with those they love.
There are also more casualties than just dreams. Livelihoods are at stake. Wedding businesses have suffered between 90% and 100% of losses since the first lockdown and a vast number are clear they will not survive if the much-anticipated reopening of the country on 21st June does not happen.
I take particular umbridge against the criticism that a small do should suffice
They are waiting for a green light from Downing Street. Months of work has been put in to show this can be Covid safe.
I take particular umbridge against the criticism that 'a small do' should suffice. But why should it ‘do’ if that is not what your family, friend group or life-long dreams can stand? And a big Jewish or Asian wedding? Forget it.
Meanwhile audiences have been to the World Snooker Championship, the Brits, and fans will be at the Euro 2021. I do not want sporting events to stop. But give me strength or scientific evidence to be able to justify this discrepancy of treatment to the couples who contact me. Funerals (rightly in my view) received new guidance they could be restriction free on numbers.
The Prime Minister himself acknowledged in the House of Commons last month that the wedding industry needed that month but no announcement came on 24th May. Brides and grooms cling to every word but were met with ‘save the date’ announcements for the Prime Minister and Carrie’s big day instead. That was clearly not intentional. But what a balls up.
I anticipate weddings will now be part of the wider statement on 14th June. If that is the case, I am calling for specific detailed guidance for the weddings sector immediately after the main announcements.
If reopening is delayed, I also urge the government to ensure that there is a carve out for people who have already booked their weddings. Guests can be tested and, believe me, every wedding has the most efficient track and trace model in the world given that guest lists are heavily debated, fought about and decided months in advance.
Ultimately brides and grooms will often be able to rebook and swallow the inconvenience but the 400,000 strong, predominantly female led industry that creates the most perfect big days is in a death spiral unless things change.
They understand how to operate safely and Covid holds no fear for those who create perfect days.
For June and July weddings, the flowers are already booked. The food and drink paid for. The dress is stitched to fit perfectly. Let’s give these couples confidence and happiness and allow them to look forward to their happy day and lives together as they should be.
Siobhan Baillie is the Conservative MP for Stroud and chair of the Weddings APPG.