Wedding woes

Kim John reports back from the Reset, Reopen, Recover Summit for wedding and events businesses, and finds out how the CLA is helping members in this sector

The CLA, together with Hostology and Historic Houses, recently hosted the Reset, Reopen, Recover Summit for wedding and events businesses. The summit offered wedding venues a series of informative and engaging sessions focused on resetting, reopening and recovering from what has been a very challenging year for the industry.

Greater understanding

Across all four days, an overarching theme was the government’s lack of understanding of the wedding and events sector, and the impact Covid-19 restrictions have had on venues, staff, suppliers and clients.

The fragmented nature of the weddings sector is a challenge for officials and politicians – and for the sector itself in terms of impactful representation – but the government needs to get better at listening and drawing industry expertise into its thinking on policy and guidance. There was a significant appetite within the industry for a hospitality and events minister.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, joined the final day of the summit, where he said he was keen for communication and open discussion to continue, recognising the strength of the industry both from a social and economic perspective.

Speakers during the event said that the Competition and Markets Authority guidance has had a deleterious effect on many businesses and needed to be more balanced, in line with the fact that many costs are incurred by businesses in the supply chain ahead of the wedding day. We also learnt that there is a clear lack of trust in the insurance industry, which needs to be rectified. An innovative insurance package for wedding couples, backed by a government reinsurance fund, is being developed.

A spirit of innovation

Covid-19 has prompted innovation and diversification – from outdoor gyms to socially distanced festivals, demonstration kitchens and glamping. Many activities will keep generating revenue even as weddings come back, and will become a core aspect within the business’s offering for couples.

The importance of ‘keeping your house in order’ in terms of business plans, risk assessments and digital processes was clear. As far as demonstrating compliance goes: “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.”

Good communication on risk assessments requires a three-way approach: with staff (whose training needs to be properly recorded), with clients and with the local authority. Efficient processes and documentation play a key part in managing business risks and costs. Digital tools can be used throughout the sales and planning process to streamline approaches. Speakers also emphasised the importance of teams: communication with staff and team empowerment as businesses go “from furlough to 60mph” is key to tap into staff’s motivation

How the CLA is helping members in the wedding industry

Interview with Judicaelle Hammond, CLA Director of Policy

What has the CLA been doing to help members recover following the pandemic?

The CLA has, since January, been a member of the UK Weddings Taskforce Council of representative organisations. We meet with Taskforce members and other associations every two weeks in order to exchange information and ideas. We’ve been active in the media and with MPs; most recently we supported the letter-writing campaign organised by Neil Parish MP.

Right at the start of the pandemic, we helped get the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme loan rules clarified so our members who also farm could apply. The clarification meant banks stopped requiring personal guarantees above the government’s limit. We have since heard of some difficulties with local authority grant payments – if you are waiting a long time for payment or your application for the Additional Restrictions Grant is being rejected, please inform your CLA regional office.

What are the CLA’s key asks of government to rebuild and support the industry?

We’ve got three priorities:

  1. Re-opening the market for business interruption insurance. We are suggesting that the government establishes a re-insurance mechanism, and are exploring options to make it happen.
  2. Making sure that support for businesses that cannot operate at full capacity continues.
  3. Having mechanisms in place to avoid capacity restrictions if the disease were to flare up again (e.g. through testing, a vaccination passport scheme, or other options).

What has been our key learning from the pandemic and its impact on our members’ wedding businesses?

More of our members host weddings – either occasionally or as a core business – than we knew. Most of the support measures the CLA has been arguing for apply to wedding venues, but there are gaps that we have been trying to plug.

If you have a wedding venue or you have business activities within the wedding industry, please update the interests section of your MyCLA profile on our website. Alternatively, please contact your regional office, who will be able to update your interests.

Having this information not only helps up target our communications, but it goes a long way in supporting our lobbying. As we’ve learnt, statistics help inform the government.

What advice does the CLA offer members with wedding businesses?

We offer advice on change of use of buildings and other planning issues, taxation, a range of legal issues linked with land ownership, employment, contracts and lettings, as well as forestry and environmental schemes.

What is the Hostology Collective?

Hostology was born from the shared experience of venue owners. The Collective is a members’ forum that extends this experience to the wider community, connecting venues with each other in ways that encourage peer to peer advice. The recordings of the summit are available on the Collective’s website, but you need to join in order to access them: