The Wedding Industry is staring into an abyss….that never ending black hole where the hopes and dreams of couples across the land, and a once vibrant sector plummet into emptiness.
Anxiety and uncertainty are the watchwords of many, alongside feelings of being being failed, stigmatised and misunderstood.
For some couples there will have been the childhood imagining of the perfect day, perfect dress, flowers and all the razzmatazz, for some it was there chance to have all those most important to them celebrating their special day, and for some a day to express their personalities and just have lots of fun.
At the start of the Pandemic everyone understood that every restriction was there to protect lives but since then, and in disparity to many sectors those special days have been stripped back and chipped away to a husk of what those imaginings once were.
What was meant to be an exciting time, and a wonderful life experience has been obliterated.
In February I wrote a Letter to Government about how the Wedding Industry was tired, the industry was sad, the industry was angry, deflated and despondent and many suppliers were completely emotionally broken.
I spoke about the impact of the Pandemic and restrictions, I spoke about the clarity and parity required, and about the support so desperately needed.
The understanding of the situation by both society and Government is painfully skewed.. and NOTHING has changed!
What is blatantly unfair however is what Government allowed to open, and continues to allow to open in less Covid safe environments.
Life events despite being very well managed and tracked and traced are still wrongly being seen as a greater risk.
Personally as a consumer shopping for groceries or essentials feels like a way less safe environment.
There is crowding in cramped aisles, there is little ventilation, some people just don’t obey the rules, and restrictions on numbers allowed per square footage just don’t feel enforced.
To give a heightened example of discrimination of Weddings consider yourself as a shopper in a Mall where you could go to every shop, touch every product, use all toilets and facilities BUT there would be no trace you were ever there unless you went to get a coffee.
Consider then a person who does not know they have Covid doing all those activities, but the potential cause of any spread would be undetected due to no track and trace.
For other examples you can get on plane with 300 random people from innumerable households to multiple destinations.
You can go to a Business Event, a gala or award ceremony or sports event indoors for 1000 people or 50% of capacity or greater numbers than life events in devolved administration but only 30 to a Wedding in England (50-100 Scotland)
All of this can be in the same venue, with same risk assessment and facilities so WHAT is the difference?
You can go to a football match both at home or abroad with little distancing, yelling, screaming and singing, close physical contact of both players, their wider team, and all those in attendance.
Supporters don’t politely clap and say good job old chap, they jump on each other, and they make lots of noise.
It has always been suggested by Government that Life Events could potentially be higher transmitters based on the assumptions of contact ie. hugging.
This is now a mute point as restrictions on hugging are gone but still arbitrary numbers are maintained at Weddings when the activity they banned the industry on is replicated in every beer garden and football stadium across the country.
Its also been promoted that it would be Data, not dates HOWEVER In a Sage report from early May on Hospitality covid transmission in that setting there were around 200 cases last year as opposed to other sectors with much greater numbers.
There was no incidence of any UK Wedding cases at all.
The non UK based evidence which was used initially to shut the industry down was murky at best with strategy based on 1 non Covid secure wedding in Asia & a Korean nightclub.
Still, as hospitality, pubs, shopping, football, culture, theme parks, zoos and international travel are open in large numbers with much greater allowance the disparity for Weddings remains with no scientific justification.
The fact that Government ministers say they are being cautious about re – opening but make choices that don’t reflect that while leaving Weddings out in the cold is ludicrous.
They also made the decision that events with large numbers such as football matches, a nightclub, an awards show and a Business Event were safe for trials whilst not trialling weddings (safer, more controlled and smaller events) yet Guidance and reopening of our sector based on the results of these which makes no sense.
Then there are the trolls.. with many an unsolicited opinion.
Unless it is an issue that directly affects them they think they have the right to spout their vile abuse.
But ask them how they would survive with what the wedding sector has dealt with, and how they would feel if they never knew when that was going to end!
1. No income for more than a year
2. No Government support for 14 months
3. A hostile Government and society that doesn’t give two hoots about their industry, and think its “just a party.”
Trolls also confront couples to say that you shouldn’t have decided to get married in a Pandemic.
This is really unfair as some couples had been planning for years when the Pandemic hit with some just days away from their event.
Postponing whether its for the first or fifth time is completely emotionally draining and upsetting and shouldn’t be treated so flippantly by others.
There is no thought for the financial loss, lost loved ones, breakdown of relationships with family/friends who just don’t understand and just profound disappointment.
The insurance industry has also abandoned couples despite some having insurance, with some insurers chasing suppliers for the monies so that they don’t have to pay out themselves despite that being their purpose.
Similarly when your career is in Sector basically put on hold for more than a year its not as simple as you’re entitled to grants – many are not eligible.
A Government Business minister said that those in the Wedding Industry were unskilled should go and get “better” or “viable jobs”, and this sentiment is echoed by many a keyboard warrior.
However our industry is 80% women and most have childcare responsibilities so juggling and stress while home schooling that we had to do last year, and earlier this year and needing flexible work made this impossible as even before the pandemic employers would more readily take on someone with no dependants.
These women in normal times work flexibly, create more jobs, and are highly skilled creative entrepreneurs and it is outrageous that they are not valued other than when its time to pay taxes.
3 million people are in this situation with 400,000 of those in the wedding industry alone (320,00 women)
If you are not struggling for money, have been able to work or been supported throughout the pandemic, and aren’t on the verge of losing everything maybe spare a thought or rethink your comments to those whose feelings you think are unwarranted.and unnecessary.
To make a bad situation even worse if that is even possible one of the biggest trolls is the Government and Boris Johnson.
On International Womens Day in both the PM and Governments ministers social media accounts women were used as a soundbite all day without action that could help an 80% female Wedding Industry that had been begging for help for a year.
On Mothers Day a Video was issued by the PM to suggest that a football match with 10,000 was safer wedding of 30 than a Wedding which is ludicrous.
On the 12th of May an MP asked the PM about Guidance for Weddings in Parliament to which the retort was that it would be issued by month end, with further reports within the day it would be May 24th.
On the day that this Guidance was supposed to be announced for Industry Boris announced plans for his own Wedding in July next year.
On 29th May on what should have been a prime bank holiday wedding weekend, where there would usually be over 6,000 weddings in England and Wales alone, and in the week of Dominic Cummings revelations there was the ultimate spin, the PM got secretly married.
For Government to gaslight a whole industry of 400,000 people is pretty low.
There are questions that need to be asked.
Who will champion us?
How as an Industry do we build back better from this Pandemic when we aren’t getting a seat at the table, when we aren’t being listened to, and when we are being blatantly discriminated against.
It feels like a solitary place with no way out when you aren’t being supported either by the press, wider society and especially by Government who in times of crisis are supposed to have your back.
What we need is for it to be known is the gritty realism that couples getting wed don’t know when, how, or if they can.
What we don’t need is constant speculation, or light hearted fluff pieces that show things as sweetness and light when the reality is not that at all right now.
Government ministers must work harder & with greatest urgency to clarify language and allowances.
Couples throughout the UK, in England and the other devolved administrations are going through undue suffering and stress due to the ambiguity of wording that is being convoluted at local levels with Dads not allowed to walk a Bride down aisle, no readings, and lower numbers than restrictions state.
Guidance is also coming out woefully late, giving couples little or no chance to plan and at further risk of losing monies after a year of loss already.
Wedding Suppliers and couples now need realistic, clear information for making plans going forward or proper tangible reasons why it cannot in parity with other sectors..
The Government has maintained a staunch silence, and a downright unwillingness to engage and work with the sector to find safe solutions.
There has been campaigns such as What About Weddings, Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance, a weddings taskforce, and a Weddings APPG that make small steps forward and then are repeatedly knocked back by Government, and that really doesn’t work for those impacted for over 14 months left with little or nothing.
Its been a never ending assault on the mental health of 100s of 1000s of those involved with or planning a Wedding and all that is asked for is parity, support and the respect and understanding that is extended to so many others.
With the rumour mill on overdrive that further restriction loosening may not come on the 21st of June there MUST be help coming for Weddings that has been, and remain one of the most restricted sectors.
We cannot go many more months without viable trade and no targeted support, its been far too long already.
Similarly its devastating for couples to think after all this time, and within weeks of the so called “Freedom Day” the days they have been promised for more than a year are under threat again.
This is all the more infuriating when those who have abided by the rules, postponed multiple times, and made many compromises see thousands of people at football matches, out drinking, and jetting off on sunny holidays when currently people are restricted to 30/50 at weddings wearing masks and sitting down.
To face this disparity now is hard. To face it after June 21st is too much to bear.
To close what I really want to reiterate these facts…
Love and connection matters, celebrating lifes journey matters, each wedding business matters, each engaged couple matters, family togetherness matters.
When Government treat us like all of that doesn’t matter, and that everything else is so much more important and worthy of their support then we take that very personally, and are justifiably angry.
Its been 434 days since the Wedding Industry was locked down, 434 days of little or no work, 434 days with zero targeted support & discriminatory Wedding Guidance that provides no parity.
That also 434 days abandoned by a Government supposed to be pro Business who said they would leave NO-ONE behind!
We may be battered, bruised and exhausted from fighting these past 14 months but never underestimate the relentless power of people coming together, and the fight we will continue to make.
We will NOT fade into the shadows, however hard it gets.
Our voices may feel small, but together we as a collective we are going to make a roar so loud that Government has no other option than to listen, and to HELP us!
Image Credits ~ Couple – Junior REIS / Church – Karsten Winegeart / Wedding Bouquet – Katelyn MacMillan / Cake – Photos by Lanty / Venue – Shelly Pence / Tablescape – Annie Gray / Couple – Jonathan Borba