Wedding restrictions in England anger industry as Prime Minister prepares to take June 21 decision

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a decision on Monday on how many people can attend weddings in England.

It has been hinted that Mr Johnson, who married Carrie Symonds at Westminster Cathedral on May 29, will lift the 30-person limit currently in place even if the easing of restrictions on June 21 is delayed.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News he “would like to see the number of people attending weddings increase” and said the government was considering “the decision”.

The wedding industry has been hit hard by the Covid crisis, with large numbers of couples forced to postpone celebrations.

But there is also a lot of frustration on the part of those working in the sector which is predominantly run by women.

Many wedding vendors, who haven’t been able to work in the past 12 months, feel there has been a “lack of support” for the industry compared to other sectors.

Heidi Ellert-McDermott, owner of bespoke wedding speech writing service Speechy, says she is “angry, disappointed and bewildered” that industries such as hospitality and sports can work when weddings don’t.

“People can dance together at a Zumba class but not at a wedding, girls can hug their fathers but they can’t walk down the aisle, now a hundred people can meet in a pub or at a football game. football, but not at a wedding. It’s really weird.

The speechwriter, who previously worked for the BBC, says she appreciates the need for the government to be careful, but believes the current regulations are “unfair”.

Ms Ellert-McDermott would like England to adopt a regulation similar to Wales’ for weddings, which currently allows couples who marry to have up to 4,000 people if they stand outside.

“I want the government to treat the wedding industry the same way it does the hospitality industry – with financial assistance and industry specific initiatives put in place to support us,” she said. declared to BusinessLive.

Heidi Ellert-McDermott is the founder of Speechy

Ms Ellert-McDermott, who has assumed most of the home schooling for her children during the pandemic, believes the lack of support to the sector is “another example” of women unfairly affected by Covid.

“The marriage industry is 80% run by women,” she explained. “Home schooling meant that the opportunity to pivot and increase our business presence was just not possible. With so many women in the industry, not offering sector specific support is truly a feminist issue. “

Kate Ashwell, founder of Ashwell & Co, a vintage lifestyle company in Bristol offering sustainable alternatives for bridal and fashion, as well as vintage afternoon tea experiences, says she is “incredibly frustrated and angry ”at the lack of support from the sector as well.

“The government needs to apply the same measures to the wedding industry that have been applied to other parts of the events and entertainment, sporting events and festivals sectors. We are an exceptionally well organized, well planned professional industry, ”she said.

“Give us the opportunity to put in place measures like lateral flow testing and open up the industry. “

Ms Ashwell said she was able to scale her business in 2020, launching an afternoon tea delivery service using suppliers from the wedding industry as drivers, but said she had to work ” much more for much less money “.

“Losing our entire wedding business, which includes wedding sales and parties with friends, has been exhausting and beyond mental exhaustion. “

Kate Ashwell runs Ashwell & Co (formerly Heartfelt Vintage)
Kate Ashwell runs Ashwell & Co (formerly Heartfelt Vintage)

She also said the uncertainty over industry rules was “extremely damaging”.

“As consumer confidence collapses, so do reservations. Restrictions on numbers mean smaller budgets, fewer expenses, deposit refunds, etc. The thought of having to rearrange our agenda and postpone reservations again makes me want to cry.

“Dealing with repayments, increasingly anxious wives, postponement after postponement and lack of information has taken its toll far beyond any financial impact. “

“The industry feels like it is being ignored”

Wedding photographer Ruby Walker says she could lose thousands of pounds if restrictions are not relaxed on June 21.

“As my new couples are booking until 2023, I am terrified that I will not be able to respond to my couples who may choose to postpone their weddings to July, August and September and have to repay the down payments.

“The industry currently feels like it is being ignored, an afterthought in all decisions regarding the reopening of the country.”

She says she I don’t understand why all wedding venues are limited to the same limited number.

She said: “ Some larger or outdoor sites could easily hold larger numbers safely. None of this really makes sense. ”

Ms Walker has been self-employed for four years and received the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant, but said it was “almost anything” and did not cover her losses.

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“It was hard not to want to give up some days. It is the love that I have for my couples and their love that pushes me to continue.

“I survived, but I should have flourished and it was difficult to deal with. I’m finally back on track, but if the government doesn’t lift the restrictions in June, it will be really hard to bounce back. “

Ruby Walker is a wedding photographer
Ruby Walker is a wedding photographer

Michèle Jetzer, director of Bristol’s new wedding space, The Mount Without, said the pressure and stress were “quite unbearable” for vendors in the wedding industry.

She was fired from a previous job as a wedding coordinator in February 2020 and was “banking” on her own wedding planning business “to make it happen” until the opening of The Mount Without, a church. converted. But she was forced to close her own business too.

“I was still a single mother of two, unemployed, my dad had just died and you just had to aspire and keep hoping things would get better,” she said.

“The financial burden has shut down so many wonderful small independent businesses in this region. It’s truly sad.

Ms Jetzer feels that the Prime Minister has only “wiped the wounds” by marrying himself. “We still have no idea what to expect, what to say to our couples to support them. It’s terrible. “

But she believes better days are ahead. “The Mount Without will open this year and I know I’ll cry when I start working fully again and see the first couple say yes.”

Mrs Ashwell agrees. She believes the industry will recover “very quickly” once the restrictions are lifted.

“Couples desperately want to get married, celebrate with their loved ones and start the rest of their lives together,” she added.

“As soon as there is more clarity the area will start to move and I suspect we will be busier than ever.

“Weddings haven’t gone away, people haven’t stopped wanting to get married, people will always want to get married and our industry is here to support that.”

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