Following the Budget announcement on Wednesday 3rd March, and our subsequent follow-up statement, we are writing to the Chancellor to request immediate financial support for the wedding industry.
If you work within the wedding industry, or are planning your own wedding and would like to sign this letter, please use the form at the end of the page. Thank you so very much for your support. We will gather all signatures and append them to the letter before sending tomorrow, 5th March.
Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1 Horse Guards Road
5th March 2021
Immediate financial support for the wedding industry
We are writing to you as a group of businesses and individuals from across the wedding industry, who are at breaking point because we were entirely absent in your Budget announcement. Yet again, we have been completely ignored despite publicly being acknowledged as the last sector to reopen in the roadmap announced on Monday 22nd February, which has been devastating to the 400,000 people who work in the wedding sector.
Whilst we welcome the extension to the furlough and the self-employment income support scheme, it remains limited in scope as many working in the sector are still excluded from accessing these schemes and this support is nowhere near enough to protect businesses and jobs whilst the industry is prevented from reopening in a way that is financially viable. The decisions announced by the government this week means that our industry, which is worth £14.7 billion annually to the UK economy, has been decimated further with 60,000 businesses and their employees, of which 80% are occupied by women, are now at immediate risk and facing a financial and mental health crisis.
We have continuously reiterated that arbitrary numbers of 6 – 30 guests until late June is an unacceptable model for businesses to operate and stay afloat, and we have concerns that businesses will be considered as open and unable to access grants. The wedding industry is not serviced by businesses with fixed costs, and the ability to trade at full capacity with social distancing from April at the latest was critical to us. Furthermore, many businesses within the wedding industry do not have traditional bricks and mortar premises, without which access to available grants is extremely limited due to Local Authority discretion and a lack of government direction. The average sum received under the Additional Restrictions grant is just £1334, which we are sure you will agree is not sufficient to compensate for 16 months of no trade. The entire industry has been excluded from the cultural recovery fund, and the opportunity was missed to offer more parity by including those businesses within the industry and supply chain in the reduced VAT rate. Businesses with large overheads including marquee companies, independent catering companies, wedding venues and hire companies have been at an unfair disadvantage compared to other sectors, and we have already seen over 50 wedding venues across the UK close their doors to date.
It is heart-breaking that we will have to go a second year without income during our peak months as a seasonal industry with most of our trade falling between April – September. Therefore, we are urging the Government to reconsider immediate and substantial financial support, as the livelihoods of those working in the industry continue to be destroyed by the current restrictions placed on weddings.
Our sector immediately requires:
- A package of support up to the value of £2bn, including a dedicated fund for grants to the wedding sector to help see us through to April 2022 when we can resume normal trade in the next full season. This year, we will only see 3 months of operation at normal levels, assuming no delays to reopening and all restrictions being lifted on weddings. The industry therefore needs continued support during the off season period with access to grants and furlough coming to an end simultaneously
- Immediate inclusion of all businesses operating within the wedding sector and supply chain in the reduced VAT rate and business rates relief.
- A Government-backed wedding insurance fund for weddings, to ensure consumers have confidence to proceed with their planned events which require significant investment and risk without certainty of reopening by 21st June at the latest, and which would simultaneously boost cash flow to businesses with new bookings in 2021 and 2022.
- Wedding businesses and suppliers must be able to access restart grants administered by local authorities – the industry is simply not open with guests of 6 – 30. Grants cannot also be available only to those with rateable values/premises as this excludes vast numbers of wedding businesses.
We are a proudly female-led sector whose contribution to the public purse is estimated to be £3.8 billion annually, enabling many to work flexibly in the absence of affordable childcare or access to suitable jobs. It is a creative and successful industry of entrepreneurs, wealth creators and job makers in every constituency across the UK – in both urban and rural areas, boosting employment and ensuring opportunities will remain in the post pandemic recovery. With over 500,000 weddings in the pipeline upon reopening in full, we are a safe and sensible investment.
This 2021 budget disappointingly does nothing to support women or the flexible working environments they rely upon. We simply want to get back to work, fulfil our contractual obligations to clients and support our families, while helping the economy and making significant contributions to society well into the future.
Until the sector is supported by being allowed to open without the current severe restrictions and arbitrary number caps, or is given substantial and adequate financial support to bridge the gap, then the sector effectively remains closed for business.
Annabel Beeforth, Jessie Westwood and Tamryn Settle
Co-founders, What About Weddings
And all those named below (signatures will be added)