Wedding Bell Blues

By Charlotte Coulson

COVID-19’s impact on businesses has been stark, with clear winners and losers from the lockdown measures that have been imposed across the country. But despite a raft of historical support measures from the Chancellor, there are many, small businesses that have found themselves left behind.

One such sector where this is especially apparent is that of the wedding industry. With around 1.27 million weddings per year, the industry is worth an estimated £14.7bn to the UK economy. Approximately 250,000 people work in areas directly related to delivering a wedding celebration on the day itself, with an additional 150,000 working in supporting areas (wedding retail, accommodation, pre-wedding events etc.).

But the absence of a clear roadmap back to normality for the sector has hit consumer confidence hard, with many now unable to afford monthly operating costs, salaries and customer refunds. In many instances, couples are simply cancelling altogether.

Even as permitted wedding numbers begin to expand, suppliers are included within those totals. If a couple is only allowed 30 people to their nuptials, do they really still want to hire that five-piece band and limit their numbers even further?

A disproportionately high number of companies operating in this space are also small businesses, making the loss even more devastating. While larger companies can access some of the government support available and to an extent ride out the storm, individual players and freelance specialists that help make the industry tick are acutely at risk.

Many also argue that it is in fact easier weddings and other events to be operated safely and with social distancing in mind, as pilot events last year demonstrated, particularly in comparison to other areas of the economy that are due to be returning to ‘normal’ sooner. Ultimately though, vendors are calling for guidance and clarity, and a clear demonstration from the government that the wedding industry is one that is valued.

It was never going to be easy for the sector, with many effectively losing a whole year’s income with couples delaying their weddings by a year, but without proper support many are now having to assess whether they can even survive the next few months. For an industry that has contributed so positively to the UK coffers in the past, to now feel left behind leaves a particularly sour taste in the mouth.