– Over 300 cross-industry organisations have signed a letter to the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng calling on him to unlock the future of the wedding industry as well as the many sectors that are reliant upon a thriving wedding industry
– The wedding industry is critical to the UK’s economic recovery and has a key role to play in unlocking growth industries, such as home buying and increased longer term investments in assets, as couples plan for their future together
– At a business summit, Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledged that the wedding sector has been “adversely affected” by the pandemic, and recognised the economic and social contribution of the wedding industry. The Business Secretary also stated that he is hopeful that “all the metrics are pointing towards a full reopening on 21st June” but stated that flexibility was needed to respond to the coronavirus
– However, the current guidance remains ambiguous, with large parts of the wedding industry still unsupported by the Government’s various financial support packages
– The wedding industry is calling for immediate parity with other similar sectors, clarity on guidance, and financial support from the Government
– Public supporters are also mobilising as a bride’s Change.org petition has gathered over 1,000 signatures in just 48 hours, asking the UK government to “Unlock Our Future”
Over 300 cross-industry organisations, including MUTA (UK Marquee Association), We Make Events, the British Beauty Council and the Nationwide Caterers Association are calling on the UK Government to unlock the future and potential of the wedding industry. After being shut for almost a year, many wedding businesses are on their knees and over 500,000 couples have been left in limbo over their wedding day. The wedding industry has a crucial role to play in the UK’s coronavirus recovery, but to do so, the sector is calling for immediate parity with similar sectors, clarity on covid guidelines and financial support.
At a Hostology Summit on “Creating a Business Friendly Framework”, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledged that the wedding sector has been “adversely affected” by the pandemic, and recognised the economic and social contribution of the wedding industry. The Business Secretary also stated that he is hopeful “all the metrics are pointing towards a full reopening on 21st June” but reiterated flexibility was needed to respond to the coronavirus. While many in the industry welcomed the recognition from the Business Secretary, the reality is that large swathes of the sector are unable to plan ahead due to the lack of clarity in the guidance and 50% of wedding businesses remain excluded from the current government support packages.
As the country moves out of lockdown, economic stimulus is needed to boost the economy. The wedding industry contributes £14.7 billion to the UK economy every year, with billions spent on ceremonies, wedding attire and wedding related travel and tourism. In addition, the wedding sector has a key role to play in unlocking growth industries, such as home buying and increased longer term investments in assets, as couples plan for their future together. However, this potential boost to the economy is being hampered as many in the wedding industry are still unable to work due to current restrictions up until June.
In the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, pubs are permitted to have marquees erected in pub gardens and social distancing based on capacity, while live events with 1,000 attendees are permitted indoors and 10,000 attendees outdoors from May. Meanwhile, the wedding sector is unable to host weddings with numbers above 30 in any setting. The wedding sector must be given parity with live events and hospitality as weddings of 6, 15 and 30 attendees are simply not financially viable for wedding businesses and their supply chains.
The contrast in treatment with other sectors is of serious concern, particularly given that 80% of those working in the wedding sector are women, and the recent ONS report revealed that women have been most impacted by the pandemic. The Government should therefore be doing everything it can to unlock the most impacted sectors.
Many in the industry are also frustrated at the ambiguity of the Government’s guidelines. The wedding sector had to wait weeks for the guidance on wedding ceremonies and receptions to be published, but many found that the guidance was riddled with inconsistencies, confusing language and outdated references to previous guidelines.
The lack of clarity is severely damaging to the industry as it undermines consumer confidence. No further detail has been published for weddings from 17th May onwards, which is unacceptable for an industry reliant on longer lead times. Members of the public are also mobilising as this week, a bride’s Change.org petition on behalf of engaged couples which asks the UK government to “Unlock Our Future” has gathered over 1000 signatures in just 48 hours. Supporters of this petition are asking for “fairness, clarity and a commitment to full reopening of normal weddings by 21st June 2021 at the latest.”
Unfortunately, it is largely women suffering from the Government’s oversight. Jessie Westwood, co-founder of What About Weddings and an independent wedding planner at Studio Sorores Ltd, highlights how women in the wedding industry have been constantly overlooked by the Government and why the wedding industry’s potential needs to be unlocked by the Government:
“The wedding industry provides highly skilled, well paid and flexible employment opportunities for many women. However, it is clear that the Government has not given enough thought to the challenges that many women have faced during the pandemic, especially those that are self-employed and have childcare responsibilities.
The Government must now recognise that it needs to work more closely with female-led industries, prioritise them by giving them adequate financial support and allow them to go back to work. Businesses in the sector are ready to bounce back as soon as possible to help recovery of the economy, and thousands of couples are eager to wed so they can move forward with their lives.
However, this can only be done if the Government gives the wedding sector parity and support.”
Letter to The Secretary of State
26th March 2021
Dear Secretary of State,
Unlock the Future of the Wedding Industry
We are writing to you as a group of businesses, organisations and individuals working in and supporting the wedding sector from across the UK. It is now one year on since the closure of the industry and our ask as we enter this sombre milestone is simple – our talented industry wants to unlock our future and get back to doing what we do best.
The industry has a critical role to play in the UK’s coronavirus recovery. It goes beyond the industry’s £14.7 billion contribution to the economy, as marriage and civil partnerships are often the key to unlocking growth industries such as home buying and increased longer term investments in assets. The road to recovery requires an economic stimulus, and the stability of marriage and civil partnerships encourages increased spending. However, this can only happen if the Government proactively prioritises the wedding industry as one of the hardest hit sectors, and provides us with immediate parity, clarity and support.
Parity for wedding businesses and couples
The wedding industry has thus far not been given parity with other similar sectors such as hospitality and live events. The Government must understand that restrictions on weddings allowing for only 6, 15 and 30 attendees means the vast majority of the sector will not be able to operate in a financially viable way. Meanwhile, the roadmap permits pubs to have marquees erected in pub gardens and social distancing based on capacity, other live events with 1,000 attendees are permitted indoors and 10,000 attendees outdoors from May, whilst the wedding sector has not even been considered for being able to host weddings with numbers above 30 in any setting. The contrast in treatment with other sectors is of serious concern, and weddings must be able to host larger numbers.
This concern about the lack of fair treatment increases further when we consider that the wedding sector is proudly female led, with 80% of businesses owned by women. Many in the industry have childcare responsibilities who are able to work flexibly through their own successful businesses, which are located across urban and rural areas in every constituency, employing others and offering excellent opportunities for career progression. The Government should look to invest in those businesses with solutions to issues facing women in work and that are ahead of the game on women in the workplace. Instead, it is evident that male-led sectors have been prioritised, such as sporting events, whilst female led sectors are being pushed to the back of the queue. We also know that women have been far more impacted by the pandemic as the recent ONS report detailed. The Government has an opportunity to put this right by adequately supporting and allowing women-led sectors back to work.
We are extremely concerned around the discrimination that results from imposing seemingly unnecessarily harsh restrictions and no adequate support of the wedding industry. Weddings take place and employ workers across many different religions, cultures and communities. Culturally larger weddings have been unable to take place at all, and have as yet not been specifically considered in any of the Government reopening plans or support measures. The guidance issued has frequently failed to acknowledge or include those who wish to hold non-religious wedding ceremonies, and has not once taken into account the size and capacity of a venue. It also fails to consider professionally managed marquee weddings outdoors, which can be built to any capacity with Covid19-secure measures in place.
Clarity on guidance
The sector desperately requires more clarity and communication from the Government both short and long term, and is in urgent need of this to regain consumer confidence. The sector is told that it is riskier than other sectors, yet evidence on this is entirely absent. Some of the information that has been used to justify the Government’s position for keeping the industry closed is ill-informed and incorrect. This narrative is hugely damaging to the sector putting its survival at risk with little to no confidence that a full reopening, without restrictions as was trialled in the roadmap announcement, in June will be taking place. The continuation of social distancing, mask wearing and other mitigations beyond June will lead to another wave of cancellations and the devastation of an entire industry. Waiting until the week before the June 21st date to announce what will be in place is not acceptable.
Furthermore, the industry had to wait four weeks after the roadmap out of restrictions announcement for clarity around wedding ceremony and reception guidance. On 22nd March the guidance for wedding ceremonies and receptions was published and updated across two documents on the official Government website. However they contained numerous inconsistencies, confusing language, and referenced Tiers rather than the new Steps reopening plan. This continued lack of detail and urgency, alongside further discrepancies and additional restrictions, have resulted in chaos and has been another huge blow to the industry, further damaging consumer confidence for later reopening. The industry still has no detail whatsoever for wedding receptions from 17th May onwards, which is unacceptable for an industry reliant on longer lead times.
Urgent financial support
Our talented sector remains excluded from much of the financial support available and we have fallen through the gaps. Businesses throughout the supply chain, from retailers to florists, have been pushed to the financial brink and many will not return without significant compensation. Therefore, all wedding businesses and suppliers must be able to access restart grants administered by local authorities as a priority when made available for application.
Whilst recent changes to the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) guidance to local authorities is welcomed, the wedding industry continues to be excluded from other support schemes including the Cultural Recovery Fund, reduced VAT rate for hospitality and business rates relief where deemed not eligible again due to discretionary nature of grant payments through local authorities. Businesses are struggling for survival, with already over 50 wedding venues having closed down since the start of the pandemic. It is heart-breaking that we will have to go a second year without income during our peak months as a seasonal industry.
A Government-backed fund for wedding insurance is now critical, in the absence of any adequate cover available in the market. This scheme would help to rebuild consumer confidence, reduce pressure on businesses with continued refunds and cancellations (especially given CMA guidance which has contributed to the financial crisis many businesses have faced), and boost cash flow for new bookings in the future. It is also particularly urgent for consideration if plans to proceed with pilot events and rapid testing are to be progressed.
The industry is worth £14.7 billion to the UK economy and employs around 400,000 people in every constituency, but without the Government offering us a viable path out of this crisis, this will no longer be the case.
One year closed is already far too long, and we are now heading into our second year without any income. This situation is unsustainable and unacceptable. Our request is simple, from all of those working in the industry to those waiting to get married and continue with their lives, give us our future back; provide us with parity, clarity and support.
Jessie Sorores, Annabel Beeforth and Tamryn Settle of What About Weddings
Asian Wedding Association
Association of Independent Celebrants
Association of Photographers
British Beauty Council
Love My Dress
MUTA (UK Marquee Association)
National Hair and Beauty Federation
Nationwide Caterers Association
UK Alliance of Wedding Planners
We Make Events
Wedding Hair and Make Up Artists
Wedding Venue Support Group
In addition to over 300 businesses working in and supported by the wedding industry