Weddings in 2021
With the coronavirus vaccine and rapid testing making huge strides in the last few weeks, along with the government commitment to a weddings task force, we can finally have confidence in how weddings might look and feel in 2021.
What are we expecting?
No one can be certain and we’ll be following guidance carefully, however the following is based on current discussions and assumptions within the industry.
- December to March – after lockdown we’re due to return to the Tier systems. Restrictions will continue to vary across the UK and are expected to be stricter than pre-lockdown to get us through to the Christmas period. However, in infection rates are under control in January, it would make sense to start to allow for a few larger weddings as pilot events to trial rapid testing and other processes at venues and give early confidence for Spring weddings.
- April to June – if pilot events have happened from January to March we can have more confidence in Spring weddings reflecting the numbers and processes trialled in those events. It will be easier for local authorities to regulate and monitor weddings in Covid-safe venues and we’d like to see those venues opening under restaurant guidelines with numbers dictated by risk assessments and capacity. Solutions are needed to enable Covid-safe weddings to take place in other venues such as marquees at home, as these events haven’t previously been overseen by anyone with Health and Safety training. We have high hopes of secondary legislation allowing outdoor weddings to take place, keeping guests and registrars safer. In terms of what might be permitted other than a seated meal, activities that breach social distancing, such as dance floors, may be dependant on the success of rapid testing. Many other activities such as photobooths, close up magic, fireworks, live entertainment, as well as drinks and canapé receptions, have now been adapted to work within Covid guidelines and may be permitted under Covid-risk assessments.
- July to September – the number of recent bookings for this period, especially September, show that confidence is high. There is real hope that weddings can return to near-normal later in the summer. It is so much easier to enable good ventilation and use of outdoor spaces in the summer months. We are confident that data from Spring weddings will demonstrate that larger weddings with less restrictions can be supported and that any breaches in social distancing haven’t put guests or staff at unnecessary risk.
- October onwards – advances in ventilation for venues, along with a wider rolling out of vaccines, should ensure that it is safer for large numbers to socialise indoors during the winter months. This may be the point that marquee weddings at home become comparatively safe, with processes for covid-safe weddings in venues well documented and easy to replicate.
The COVID Vaccine
- The recent news of the three different vaccines with up to 90% effectiveness is really positive news for weddings.
- Predictions are that a mass vaccination campaign could start early in December with those aged 50+ being vaccinated in Phase 1. This would not only cover the grandparents, but in most cases the couples’ parents, aunts and uncles too.
- If the Oxford vaccine is approved it will allow large numbers to be vaccinated before the start of the traditional wedding season.
- We’re yet to discover if the vaccine will prevent transmission as well as infection.
- As the vaccine is 90% effective and some will chose not to have it, it’s likely to be used alongside at least one other means of infection control; rapid testing or social distancing.
- Rapid testing is already widely available. Tests costing under £20 take less than 20 minutes using a lateral test, similar to a pregnancy test.
- Weddings seem the perfect place to trial rapid testing and contact tracing for the wider events sector. The guest lists are pre-defined, the numbers involved are comparatively low and those involved will be highly motivated to comply.
- Potentially, guests can be tested as they arrive, then can attend the social distanced ceremony. By time the ceremony is over, test results will be back. Those showing signs of infection, as well as their close contacts, would be sent home.
- PCR testing is more expensive (at around £65 per guest) but significantly more accurate and gives peace of mind by delivering the results 48 hours before the wedding so is likely to be the preferred method for the wedding party.
- A combination of PCR and on-the-day rapid testing could remove the need for social distancing for a predefined group, such as wedding guests.
- Wedding venues have been using Trusted Trace all summer to ensure guests are safe to attend and can be contacted quickly if anyone later develops symptoms. Effective contact tracing will be crucial in keeping venue staff and suppliers informed. It is already in place and working well.
From the experts
The combination of an effective vaccine and rapid testing should significantly decrease the the risk of Covid infections at weddings. Keeping in touch with guests for a few days after the wedding would decrease the risks even more by enabling contact tracing and isolation if needed.
Advances in Treatment
- There are regular advancements to treatments for COVID-19, with an inhaled protein treatment being the latest addition.
- Those who are affected by the virus are recovering faster.
- By reducing fear of infection, guests will be more comfortable with social interactions and will be happy to attend weddings again.
Ensuring guests feel safe at weddings
There’s little point in being allowed to have larger weddings if your guests are anxious about attending, so how can you be certain your guests are safe?
The events and hospitality industry is well known for meeting exceptional health and safety standards outside of COVID times. This high standard has meant that those within the industry have already taken the restrictions and safety measures in their stride.
Venues have been expressing frustration at the limits on numbers as they are confident in being able to host larger numbers safely.
Many venues also operate as hotels and restaurants and have been safely hosting much larger numbers all summer under normal hospitality regulations.
Their reputation and the safety of their team are dependant on them taking all the necessary precautions to keep you and your guests safe.
Over the next weeks you’ll see initiatives such as WeddingSafe enabling clear communication between venues, regulators, insurers and couples.
How do I know my deposits are safe?
- The majority of wedding businesses have put themselves into a state of semi-hibernation, reducing all their overheads and waiting until weddings can take place again. The more bookings they have for 2021, the more they will sacrifice to be there next year to deliver the work and be paid in full. It’s not in their interest to close! The single most damaging action a couple can do is to ask for their deposit back with a promise to “book again later”.
- For those who already have insurance, we’re starting to see insurers taking a more responsible attitude towards paying claims in the unlikely event that a business closes without returning deposits and pre-payments.
- For those making new bookings, most businesses now offer some form of Book with Confidence guarantee to give you flexibility to postpone.
- Paying by credit card, if the amount is over £100, can give some protection although the business will always incur costs in offering you this option.
- If you’re at all nervous about booking in the current climate, read our feature to understand why we have so much confidence in the venues and suppliers you need to book, and have our list of tricky questions to reassure yourself handy.
How can I be certain my wedding will go ahead as planned in 2021?
Quite simply, you can’t. However everything is starting to point in that direction and you’ll want to have plans in place to proceed if all is well. We’ve all learnt to deal with uncertainty and lack of control this year and wedding planning is no different. It will only be once we have seen weddings successfully taking place that we can be more confident, so early pilot events will be important.
Here are a few things you can do to help you feel more comfortable:
- Ask your venue about a contingency plan and when you need to make this decision by. Just knowing that you don’t need to worry about it until that date, but that there is a Plan B, can be helpful. Your wedding will happen.
- Discuss your original plans with each other and decide what’s really important. For some it is the numbers or having guests from overseas, for others it’s the dancing. Be as flexible as you can on deciding what you’d be comfortable without, if it means your wedding can take place.
- If you need to change plans, postpone, don’t cancel. You still want to have your big day and your venue and suppliers will work with you to make that happen.
What can couples do to help weddings take place in 2021?
Every wedding business has been touched to see how hard couples are working to enable weddings to take place. Many have written to MPs, signed petitions, shared social posts and written emails of support.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help is to work in partnership with your venue and suppliers to make your day work for you as well as them.
The CMA issued guidance that compromised venues so much that it would be safer for them to close their doors until all risks of Covid were over. They haven’t, and are fighting back to ensure that the balance is right and they can continue to operate.
Until there is clear and sensible guidance, we need couples, venues and suppliers to find the balance to help couples minimise their costs without venues running at a loss.
The costs of PPE, rapid testing, isolating venue staff or operating with team “bubbles” will be significant. Meanwhile couples will understandably want to be charged less if they are being asked to compromise on their day.
Striking the right balance, with all involved committed to just making every wedding happen, will be key.
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