The failure to fully re-open wedding venues on 21 June would cost the UK economy over £650 million every two weeks, according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) which represents 28,000 farmers, land managers and rural businesses across England Wales.
While other businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sector have been able to adapt and re-open in May, weddings are still limited to 30 people. For most venues, this is not enough to be profitable. Speculation that Steps 4 of the Covid roadmap for England might be pushed back is plunging the industry into yet another vortex of uncertainty. Venues have already taken on significant debt to survive this far and will make further losses if they have to operate the crucial summer season with limited numbers.
In a normal season, the wedding sector generates a staggering £1.2bn per month. But as a celebration that brings people together, weddings have been disproportionately hit during the pandemic.
We’ve had weddings that booked in 2019 for a 2020 wedding who postponed to late June and early July, yet there is still much uncertainty as to whether the guest restriction will be lifted for these events
The financial loss in 2020 alone was a devastating £7bn, according to the UK Weddings Taskforce. That figure continues to climb, with around 320,000 weddings postponed or cancelled since March 2020. This is a huge setback for an industry that generated £14.7bn to the UK economy in 2019 and employs more than 400,000 people.
Early government measures, such as the business rates freeze, proved a vital lifeline for many businesses. But as the restrictions continue, support has been inadequate. The number of guests may be capped, but operational costs remain the same.
Therefore the CLA is calling for:
- The government to lift restrictions on guest numbers, and adopt an approach based on the actions venues can take to keep weddings safe, building on progress with vaccinations and testing;
- business rates reliefs to be extended to the end of the 2021/22 fiscal year for businesses prevented from operating at full capacity by Covid controls;
- Local Authorities to be given another month to use up the current Additional Restrictions Grants pot, and then ensure that wedding businesses are targeted as a priority for the £425m top-up;
- banks to support wedding businesses better in the way they award government-backed loans.
Weddings aren’t organised overnight, and this support would provide confidence to businesses and planners alike.
The CLA has been supporting the development of Covid secure guidance for wedding venues and is part of the UK Weddings Taskforce, which has been campaigning for weddings to be treated like other sectors, such as hospitality.
CLA President Mark Bridgeman said:
“Keeping the current restrictions on weddings past 21 June flies in the face of the progress made with vaccination and testing. Thousands of rural jobs are on the line, most of them in small businesses.
“The government’s next steps need to be based on individual venues’ risk assessment and protocols. It is not right that weddings should be treated differently to sporting events, cinemas, or hospitality venues. If the restrictions were to continue, some short-term measures must be implemented immediately. These include prioritising wedding businesses for local authority grants and freezing business rates until March 2022.”
CLA member Emily McVeigh, an events manager at Kenton Hall Estate, says the pandemic has caused endless amounts of disruption.
“It’s been a torrid time for the wedding sector,” said Emily.
“We’ve had weddings that booked in 2019 for a 2020 wedding who postponed to late June and early July, yet there is still much uncertainty as to whether the guest restriction will be lifted for these events. This has caused endless amounts of stress and disruption to soon-to-be-wedded couples and our business.
“Weddings for just 30 people aren’t financially viable so we are all waiting with a bated breath to find out if the June 21 date will go ahead - we are keeping everything crossed. A further delay would have devastating consequences for our business.”