A positive indication that weddings are a priority
By making weddings one of the only exceptions on the limit of 6 people for social gatherings, the government has confirmed their stance that marriages and civil partnerships are a vital part of our society. Weddings have also remained largely unaffected, so far, in regional lockdowns.
We remain hopeful that the government will continue to look at the wedding industry as an important sector when further restrictions inevitably come into force over the next weeks. Couples have renewed confidence that their current plans for a small wedding will go ahead.
What are the new opportunities?
Couples who hadn’t started planning, especially those considering a 2nd wedding, are seeing this as a great opportunity to get married at a venue that would otherwise have been out of their reach. Couples who have held off having their small wedding “until the right time” are seeing this as an opportunity to finally tie the knot in order to make the most of the exemption on the “rule of 6”. We’re preparing for a rush of these weddings around Christmas time in particular!
Large venues are allowing much smaller wedding parties to book, so couples can have an intimate wedding at a spectacular venue. Smaller venues are offering great rates to attract couples who didn’t feel they could justify the cost of a wedding.
We would appeal to venues not to be trying to tempt couples away from other wedding venues. We need to be aware that pubs and restaurants that don’t usually hold weddings are actively targeting those couples. We’re reminding those couples that a wedding is an event that needs an experienced team.
We are encouraging couples who’d planned weddings at home to speak to local venues about relocating. The laws don’t allow them to have their reception in a marquee in their own garden, but they could use the same marquee and catering company within the grounds of your venue. Whilst this may not be as lucrative as your normal wedding package, it also helps support the marquee and catering companies who have been hit hard too.
When are the current regulations going to be changed?
By law, the government has to review at least every 28 days. We know that the government wants to protect the right for couples to be able to legally marry. However, anything more than that is more controversial and the current concession, allowing a small social gathering of 30, is probably all we can hope for.
There was an opportunity for the government to allow for venues to open up in accordance with capacity rather than to the number of 30 before the 2nd wave, and they didn’t take it. We feel that they are unlikely to change that now, especially with further restrictions coming in for other sectors.
Our own opinion is that we’re unlikely to see any increase in numbers at weddings this year. We remain optimistic that the government may recognise that 3rd party suppliers should be excluded from that number if they are not in close contact with guests during the course of their work.
At this stage, local lockdowns in the North East are making weddings an exemption in most places albeit that they may be reduced to 20. This shows that weddings are still on the list of priorities for the government and they recognise the importance of them going ahead. We remain hopeful they will be considered when more regional lockdowns are introduced and if potential “circuit breaks” are introduced.
What should you do if you have larger weddings booked for later this year?
Be mindful of the CMA’s guidance on frustrated contracts. If you feel an event may become frustrated it is better to postpone rather than put yourself in the position where it becomes frustrated.
If the couple insists on cancelling and not postponing, the CMA has issued guidance on the amount of time before the wedding they’d consider this to be reasonable. We’ll be sending this guidance out as a password-protected article to our advertisers today.
Can your venue host celebrant-led or symbolic ceremonies?
The laws haven’t changed on the type of ceremonies that can go ahead. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include ceremonies led by Independent Celebrants which are not legally binding.
Although couples are encouraged to keep the ceremony to the minimum that allows for the legal elements to take place, some registrars are encouraging couples who are unable to allow couples to walk down the aisle together to hold a brief symbolic ceremony after their legal ceremony.
Confused by the rules?
As a venue owner, it is helpful to understand the main principles as that helps answer most questions.
Discourage households from mixing (e.g. seat separately, don’t allow gatherings at the bar)
Enable social distancing of 1-2m between households (e.g. space between tables, one way systems)
Follow COVID-safe guidance to reduce transmission (e.g. wear masks where appropriate, wipe surfaces, avoid voice-projection, contact tracing)
Before and after the wedding, the rule of 6 applies (e.g. for hair and makeup, staying onsite, breakfast the next day)
Do you need to seat guests on tables of 6?
The government’s guidance on seating arrangements says that “Wedding receptions and celebrations are one of the few exceptions where groups can be larger than 6 people, but they should not exceed 30.”
They encourage venues to seat households together but there is no reason not to use large tables as long as there is social distancing between households.
From Friday 18th September it will be a legal requirement in England for venues within a number of industries to collect the contact details of the people gathering in their venues or at their events. The hospitality industry on this list and implementing a “track and trace” system will be a legal requirement at venues and events such as weddings. We’ve recently developed Trusted Trace, contact tracing software designed with weddings and hospitality services in mind. Find out more about Trusted Trace.
About the author
Written by: Alison Hargreaves
Alison founded Guides for Brides in 1995 and has been advising brides and businesses ever since. She has an unrivalled knowledge of the wedding industry and is part of an international network of wedding professionals and entrepreneurs. Alison frequently appears on podcasts and expert panels as well as judging various wedding awards.