The UK Wedding Taskforce: A Statement From What About Weddings

In the three weeks since a UK wedding task force was announced, by Minister Paul Scully, in the parliamentary debate about weddings, we have received hundreds of comments and questions from the wedding sector about the taskforce and our involvement in it, particularly, today – after a number of widely circulated emails inviting the sector to a meeting on Friday to hear more.

This meeting will be hosted by Sarah Haywood of Sarah Haywood Weddings & Events, Richard Eagleton CEO of McQueens and interim task force chair, Mark Godfrey, Managing Director of Deer Park Country House in Devon.

Paul Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam
Live Events and Weddings: Covid-19 Support
Volume 683: debated on Monday 9 November 2020
Read the full Westminster event transcript here or watch the video here (forward to 1 hour 12 minutes in)

 

In the past week, we have met separately with both Richard Eagleton and Mark Godfrey to discuss the scope of the taskforce, and updated them fully on all of the work that we have been doing as an independent campaign and lobbying movement over the last nine months. We have made an open offer of help and assistance both now and particularly once the taskforce is fully formed and active. We have asked directly if WhatAboutWeddings can be involved and have a seat at the table at task force meetings. We await further updates.

In the meantime, we are painfully aware that couples and businesses need very urgent support and clarity, particularly as we head to the Christmas break.

In light of all of this, we wanted to update you on the work we have been doing and are currently undertaking as it’s crucial that the wedding sector doesn’t sit quietly at such a critical time.

1. What About Weddings hosts a fortnightly meeting where industry bodies are invited to a roundtable in order to share knowledge and listen to issues faced by members across each sector. This invitation list includes the Association of British Wedding Businesses, Asian Wedding Association, MUTA, Wedding Venue Support Group, Nationwide Caterers Association, British Florist Association, National Association of Wedding Professionals, British Industry of Professional Photographers, Association of Independent Celebrants, UK Association of Wedding Planners, Royal Photographic Society, UK Hospitality, National Association of DJs, Association of Event Organisers, and other representatives or professional bodies for businesses across the UK.

2. What About Weddings attends a weekly event industry task force board meeting with the One Industry One Voice (OIOV) coalition (an umbrella organisation bringing together the various lobbying movements across the UK Events sector, like #whatboutweddings #wemakeevents #letthemusicplay #savelivecomedy and so on). Support from the wider events sector has been vital and introduced us to rapid testing solutions being trialled throughout the world and intense work being undertaken to explore insurance solutions for the wedding sector (businesses and consumers).  Our member Jessie has attended every single One OIOV meeting so far. Through this group, we will also have access to OIOV’s sector wide survey results, which includes wedding-specific data.

3. What About Weddings has a representative on dedicated committees working with the government directly on insurance solutions and rapid testing developments. These working groups are actively researching and proposing solutions across the wider event industry and specifically for the wedding sector, which we hope will contribute to restarting weddings as soon as possible. We also speak regularly at industry webinars – updating various associations and groups on progress and sharing information and insights.

4. What About Weddings works closely with the  Wedding Venue Support Group (WVSG), Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB), Asian Wedding Association UK (AWAUK) and Hostology to share information and actively engage in lobbying with MPs across the UK. This week we have been contacting MPs with new evidence that highlights that the information that the government has taken from reports to form the basis of keeping the sector shut and working only under extreme restrictions, has been wholly misrepresented.

5. What About Weddings has run a number of successful campaigns to educate and bring our consumer and business issues to the fore. From Twitter “bombs” (that got #whataboutweddings trending), an impactful and meaningful campaign film (see film below), to our ‘Dear Boris’ Christmas card campaign that has seen over 1000 cards sent to the Prime Minister already. We are doing everything we can to make sure 400,000 workers and hundreds of thousands of couples impacted by guidelines and restrictions are both seen and heard.

(Learn more about our campaign film here)

6. What About Weddings are actively engaging with other relevant campaign groups who are also supporting individuals and businesses in the wedding sector. We have multiple creative campaigns and activities planned with We Make Events and Excluded UK which are ongoing. We have attended press briefings with Andy Burnham, Steve Rotherham and Sadiq Khan amongst others regarding those excluded from support.

7. What About Weddings has a representative attending government meetings where multiple industry professionals are already looking at practical solutions to assist with reopening. A number of key meetings have already taken place and continue to be scheduled regularly.

8. What About Weddings has met with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England to discuss the current restrictions and options for reopening as well as providing survey data and key information on the views of businesses and consumers.

9. What About Weddings has developed good working relationships with multiple MPs, from across the house, and have a number of meetings set up for this coming month, having already hosted these previously. We are proactively approached by MPs and groups looking for information and insight.

(Learn more about our Christmas card campaign)

10. What About Weddings is making efforts to engage with and include marginalised communities in all levels of campaign planning and activity, as well as opportunities to represent to MPs and Ministers about the impact of the pandemic on their businesses and communities.

11. What About Weddings is currently running a consumer survey that will feed into all solutions. We have had over 2,000 responses in less than 24 hours already and, with a few days left to run, this will be our biggest consumer survey yet. We have twice already surveyed consumers this year, and once surveyed businesses. We intend on surveying businesses again soon. Other associations  and industry bodies we are working with have conducted surveys, wedding relevant data for which we are collating to present to government.

12. What About Weddings has started the process to align with national charities that we hope will be able to facilitate grants and assistance to those in the wedding community facing immediate financial hardship. We know, all too well, from the emails that we receive daily that people are sincerely struggling and we feel a moral obligation to provide support when it’s so desperately needed.

13. Alongside this, we manage a Facebook community of over 6,000 suppliers and have dedicated Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts that receive hundreds and hundreds of messages from businesses and couples alike every day. We have also had hundreds (maybe thousands!) of conversations with businesses, venues and couples from across the sector. We’ve hosted countless Zoom calls, spoken regularly to the media to stand up for the sector and exerted continual pressure on all those that need to know the peril we face right now.

14. What About Weddings have been establishing relationships with key media contacts across national press, radio and television, insuring a wide selection of business and couples stories are featured, educating the public and raising awareness of our plight. Full press details here.

(Coverage from The Daily Mail featuring London based florist, Catherine Foxwell of Floral Evolution)

15. What About Weddings is committed to supporting the mental health of our community. Last month, Love My Dress hosted a ‘Mental Health in the Wedding Sector’ Zoom, with special guest Dr Rosena Allin Khan, Shadow Minister for Mental Health (see below).  We look to engage with more mental health experts and charities in collaboration with What About Weddings and campaign work moving forward.

(Dr Rosena Allin-Khan speaking at the Love My Dress Zoom session, ‘Mental Health in the Wedding Sector’)

In short, we have spent the last nine months working on this campaign on an almost full time basis, and since September, the pace, volume and scope of the work has skyrocketed. Everyone working on the campaign does so voluntarily and pro bono, whilst running their own businesses, and every single day we raise the question, relentlessly, #whataboutweddings?

We also welcome the involvement of more people – this campaign is run voluntarily by a small team and we are always looking to widen this to include as many voices from across the sector as possible. We are making as big an effort as is possible to engage with and listen to/involve marginalised communities in all that we do.

We will continue to encourage all media platforms representing businesses and couples around weddings, including directories and news sites, in engaging with key campaign work and raising awareness around the political decisions that impact our sector so severely. Please contact us for more information on how you can help represent and continue to create a community in support of the researchers, associations, individual professionals, lobbyists and campaigners all consistently raising awareness and proposing a roadmap moving forward, on behalf of all couples and businesses in the wedding sector.

We all want to get back to work and back to planning weddings safely – we look forward to continuing to work with all those working tirelessly to ensure that 2021 is a brighter, better year for us all, so that hopefully, we can work together closely as we come together in unity.

We hope that this update has been helpful, and we thank the thousands of businesses and couples who have supported What About Weddings so far.

Annabel, Tamryn and Jessie

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Annabel Beeforth is the founder/editor of Love My Dress®, a highly respected UK based wedding media platform with a social media reach of 1 million+. She is a wedding industry influencer, wedding and digital media expert, small business consultant and published author who has worked in the sector for 11 years. (Follow Annabel on Twitter)

Tamryn Settle has over 17 years experience in the wedding sector. She is a multi-award winning wedding expert, author, features writer, and wedding celebrant. (Follow Tamryn on Twitter)

Jessie Westwood has run her own high end national wedding and event design, planning, production and floristry business for over 10 years, employing thousands of freelancers and small businesses every year. Prior to that she worked in the corporate sector in professional publishing and public relations, having graduated in law at City University in London. (Follow Jessie on Twitter)