Please find below a coalition letter that we will be sending to the Prime Minister and Business Minister, to mark the one year anniversary of lockdown. Providing you are happy to support this letter, please could you kindly add your details in the form at the end of the page. Thank you so much.
Unlock the Future of the Wedding Industry
We are writing to you as a group of businesses 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. We can only do that if the Government proactively prioritises us as one of the hardest hit sectors, and provides us with immediate parity, clarity and support.
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.
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.
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.
Annabel Beeforth, Jessie Westwood and Tamryn Settle
Co-founders, What About Weddings
And all those named below