What’s Next For What About Weddings?

There’s no doubt about it – the last few weeks have been pretty tough for everyone in the wedding sector. The roadmap gave us all hope, but it’s certainly not given us clarity and it’s not provided a pathway to trade viably before the end of June at the earliest. The budget was similarly disappointing with the vague mention of a few schemes that some wedding businesses might be able to benefit from, but again we’re left waiting for more information and detail on the accessibility and extent of that reach.

We’ve been asked so many questions over the last few weeks and there’s one that keeps being asked, which we wanted to address today – what’s next for What About Weddings?

Where are we now?

The recent roadmap out of lockdown and this week’s Budget announcement demonstrated the Government’s clear lack of understanding and consideration for the wedding industry and those working within it. It was deeply disappointing to hear Rishi mention ‘decent jobs’ (a painful reminder of Alok Sharma’s ‘better jobs’ comment of last year). Add this to the fact that the term ‘wedding’ not being mentioned once in all 107 pages of the Budget document, and it’s clear that, in so many ways, the fight must continue.

However, there are some important positives we must take a moment to reflect upon. A year ago, no one wanted to hear our industry voices and any media coverage was negative or played to those long established stereotypes around hobby businesses, suppliers who ‘add a zero as soon as weddings are mentioned’ or couples being ridiculous to want their wedding day in a way that suits them.

Now however, the media portrays us in a much more positive light, with respect for our profession and empathy for our plight. We’ve come a long way in shaking off those generalisations or stereotypes, and we’ve proven what we’re worth – to the economy, to society and to different cultures and lives in every corner of the UK. We’ve spoken up, told our stories, and changed the narrative that has historically surrounded our sector. That is something for us all to be proud of.

It’s also something that we must make sure we don’t ever lose. If we can, as a world-leading, creative and brilliant industry, come out of this with our heads held high and with more input into the policies and discussions that impact us directly, we will have a brighter, better future.

(Image from our Zoom meeting with Ed Miliband and Lucy Powell and guests we invited from the wedding industry, 9th December 2020. Our guests were Bhavna Barratt of @bhavnabarratt, Nusrat Khan of @theboltonexcellency + @asianweddingassociationuk, Osman Marfo-Gyasi of Wolf Shoots Weddings and Mark Dawson of @brookfieldbarn + @weddingvenuesupportgroup)

What is What About Weddings?

We are a national grassroots campaign run by volunteers for a community of businesses, employees, consumers, supporters, parliamentary allies and associated campaigns working night and day to amplify voices and educate decision makers, the media and general public about the plight of the wedding industry. We always aim to educate ourselves further and have always committed to championing our amazingly diverse and successful industry, with continued integrity and humility.

Every day is a day to learn more and enable more voices to be heard directly. It is as much about listening, getting feedback, and reassessing our purpose and drive on a daily basis.

What do we do?

We are one of the loudest social media campaigns and community support groups across the entire online space and we know that we have grabbed the attention of the media and politicians alike. Recent media coverage includes ITV, BBC, The Times, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Mirror not to mention Times Radio, LBC, Talk Radio and numerous local BBC and independent stations.

We are incredibly proud to be campaigners, working independently to take the messages of our entire community, couples and businesses alike, to those in power. To back up the ‘noise’ that you hear, we have a range of political activity taking place behind the scenes to further push the message through:

  • Numerous mentions in key debates in Parliament
  • A continuous raft of parliamentary questions tabled by MPs across all political parties
  • A core base of cross party and Conservative MPs regularly fighting for the industry who are sending letters and representations to the Prime Minister and Business Minister as well as tabling questions to a number of departments in support of our industry.
  • Open letters from industry coalition members and thousands of businesses and individuals sent to the PM, Chancellor and Business Minister
  • Regular meetings with the All Party Parliamentary Group for BAME Businesses
  • Support from the Beauty, Health and Well-Being All Party Parliamentary Group
  • Direct Ministerial engagement
  • Meetings and ongoing engagement with opposition parties
  • Social media and campaign activations across Facebook, Twitter & Instagram with a combined, organically grown following of almost 50,000 couples, businesses and employees
  • Weekly roundtables with industry associations and professional bodies
  • Academic research and proposal building on key issues around insurance, rapid testing, CMA guidance and risk assessments for the future
  • Weekly community meetings to get feedback and make note of key issues being faced by our supporters

 

(Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, mentioning What About Weddings in Parliament)

What has happened so far?

Despite incredible support and clear messaging throughout the last year, it is extremely disappointing that the key decision makers are not taking into consideration or acknowledging the severe impacts of decisions taken on those working in the sector, as well as the demographic and circumstantial situation those workers are currently in.

It’s become all too evident that seeking representation through one department or minister can lead to a ‘blockage’ – we need to take our discussions wider and involve as many departments as possible to cement a really strong network of champions to understand and speak up for all areas of weddings, the supply chain and communities that make our industry so special, but so complex.

We have made such huge strides forward that we need to keep up this momentum – there will definitely be many more points in the future when policy decisions will impact on us all so we need all these doors to remain open and for politicians to ask ‘what about weddings’ when discussing areas that will affect us.

We must play a key part in policy making in future, rather than simply picking up the pieces after decisions have been made. All of the work we’ve done in the last year means that we can carry this forward, in a way that would have been impossible before.

What’s next for What About Weddings?

We have two key opportunities in March to ensure that those in the sector who have been the most left behind throughout the pandemic are heard, represented and listened to. We must continue to work with associations and groups in finding solutions as we move through next steps in the roadmap to reopening. We must continue to offer support to our strong and loyal community of businesses, employees and couples as we continue to navigate the impact of the pandemic short and long term. We would like to help with continuing development of businesses and careers, using key ambassadors and thought leaders, providing opportunities to learn, and enabling long term growth of the industry.

In order to achieve this we must urgently raise more funds to ensure our important work continues for the benefit of everyone, and make the best out of all of the connections, meetings, progress and noise created over the last year

 

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A post shared by Siobhan Baillie MP (@siobhan.baillie)

(MP Siobhan Baillie acknowledging What About Weddings)

March 2021 – Campaign Plan

Our key objectives this month are:

  • To ensure the Government is alert to the issues our industry is facing as a result of the pandemic
  • To call on the Government to offer better support and prioritise those within the wedding industry and reconsider its reopening timeline and the financial support available
  • To continue to add pressure for a seat at the table with key Ministers with groups that are fully representative of the wedding industry community and supply chain
  • To challenge the evidence and data Government decisions and restrictions are being based upon
  • To raise awareness of the discrimination, injustices and prejudices placed upon the wedding industry through further press and media opportunities
  • To continue important work and research on solutions presented to government for a faster and safe reopening, where the entire supply chain is considered and supported
  • To increase the number of active volunteers supporting the campaign, increasing our reach, intelligence and ability to move at pace
  • To ensure daily social media interaction and campaign work continues in line with overall objectives

8th March – International Women’s Day

  • We have secured Carolyn Harris MP to speak in the Budget Debate on Monday, for International Women’s Day
  • Seek to secure further debate interventions on women in business and the wedding industry throughout the week
  • Secure a raft of Parliamentary Questions specifically on the topic of women and equality
  • An online campaign across social media encouraging our followers to #ChooseToChallenge as part of #IWD2021

23rd March – One Year On

In the run up to the 23rd March, which will be one year on since the closure of the industry without support we will:

  • Form a coalition of organisations that have equally felt the pain that has been caused by the pandemic and subsequent Government decisions over re-opening and financial support
  • Push for coalition to write to and seek meetings with Parliamentarians and influential women and business leaders
  • Set up coalition letter to the PM calling out his lack of support for women in the pandemic and use this as a springboard for media and social media activity
  • Engage directly with Number 10 and highlight the inequality of treatment for women and BAME communities
  • Draft letters being sent to coalition supporters for them to write to their own MP
  • Continued work with supportive APPGs to form their own parliamentary coalition in making representations to the Government
  • On the 23rd March we would seek to secure as much media as possible and a parliamentary ‘moment’ through a debate, an oral question or an inquiry session
  • Continued work with a network of supportive MPs to highlight this issue on 23rd March and urging them to write directly to the Government on this
  • A campaign film “One Year On” dedicated to the suppliers, venues, artists and businesses who service the industry
  • Contributions to cross industry B2C campaigns to help boost consumer confidence for future bookings

Political & Industry Meetings

  • Bi-weekly wedding industry and association official bodies, associations and other campaign groups
  • Weekly task force, committee, working group and ad hoc meetings with the wider live events industry and associated sectors
  • We will continue to push for more regular meetings with relevant ministers, select committees, and chairs of APPGs
  • Further local MP roundtables with MP’s for key constituencies with open invites to businesses and consumers impacted
  • Informal weekly chat sessions on Clubhouse plus forthcoming open Zoom calls with MPs and supporters

(Image of our Zoom meeting with the Secretariat for the APPG for BAME Businesses, held on Thursday 4th March 2021. Our guests were Zeleka Nadine of @thewedcoordinators, Nusrat Khan of @theboltonexcellency@asianweddingassociationuk, Cherelle Joseph of @perfectlyplanned4you and Nigel Olusegun Ogunniyi of @favourcateringandevents)

We only have three people working full time on the campaign, each averaging 70+ hours a week on top of our own business management and family commitments. As such in January 2021 we made the decision to engage support from professional lobbyists alongside our key campaign work already undertaken. It is a large investment, but one that has propelled the success of the campaign in terms of press coverage and representation within parliament. It has also slightly saved our sanity!

We also personally undertook some unavoidable costs of setting up the campaign – from design work, website hosting and development, film & photography, PR & communications and the cost of having Zoom accounts for endless calls and meetings each day! Whilst we are offered discounts and free services on occasion, it is extremely important to us in the current environment that we compensate those without sustainable and regular income for costs incurred.

So with that in mind we wish to sincerely thank everyone who has believed in us, supported us, kept us going and donated what they could afford to keep up the good work. We simply could not have done any of this without you.

Donate to What About Weddings

If you are able to donate again or you haven’t already, then that would be greatly appreciated. Please do contact us to explore creative fundraising ideas, and we encourage you all to share our details to your own newsletters and followers. Every little helps.

For all donations over £500 please kindly email (whataboutweddingsofficial@gmail.com) your logo to be included as an official sponsor on our website.

Donate Via Just Giving

To donate via Just Giving, please click here.

Buy The Tee

These t-shirts are ethically produced here in the UK from 100% organic cotton, and are available from size XS to 5XL. See the size chart to determine the best size for you.

Buy your tee from Heart Aflutter Bridal boutique.

(Image by Benjamin Wheeler, Styling by Emma Marshall of Miss Bush)

We are in the process of setting up a charitable fund for wedding industry professionals who are facing immediate financial or mental health crises. Once this is live, we feel our work can help reach those most vulnerable. We truly believe it will be a legacy for our industry.

We hope you agree there is one incredible thing to come from this crisis: COMMUNITY.

Friends, colleagues, couples and families – we could not continue this without you.

And for as long as you want or need us to, we will be here to support you.

The What About Weddings Team,
Annabel, Jessie & Tamryn

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q1. Do you work in the industry?

Yes! We have nearly 40 years of direct experience servicing the wedding industry between us. We have a deep understanding of the businesses that make up the fabric of the wedding industry, across the supply chain and at every level. Whilst our personal experience counts for so much, we do continue to reach out, listen, learn and continue to amplify voices of specialists across the sector. What About Weddings was always a movement for the community to own.

Q2. Do you get paid for your campaigning?

No! We have to date only ever worked on What About Weddings, or any associated working groups, committees and task forces on an entirely voluntary basis.

Q3. Are you part of the UK Weddings Taskforce?

What About Weddings formed properly in June 2020, a long 9 months ago after Annabel and Tamryn had been proactively supporting both businesses and couples since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. A collective of independent business owners decided we needed to take more direct action, engage politically and create a real movement. Separately the UK Weddings Taskforce was given approval by the government to be set up in November 2020, and was fully formed by January 2021. We proactively offered our support in this period. Earlier this year we were asked to sit on the Council of Representatives, and Jessie Westwood was asked to be on the Legal & Commercial and Opening Up working groups. We also proactively offered to engage with other working groups where relevant. On Monday 22nd February the Chair of the UK Weddings Taskforce confirmed we would continue our own campaign and lobbying work entirely separately again. We no longer have any involvement with the UK Weddings Taskforce.

Q4. Do you have volunteers helping?

Absolutely. They are truly the backbone of the campaign, the people that lift our spirits, push us forward, help with ideas, support administration, take press calls and generally quietly act like superheroes in the background. If you would like to join our team we would be DELIGHTED. There is no expectation of hours undertaken or level of commitment required. We just show up and support one another when we can.

Q5. Do you help with legal advice on business or consumer disputes?

Never. We are so sorry, but every case and set of T&Cs for different services or products demands a fresh view. We do have an industry support group but would always recommend seeking professional advice.

Q6. Is What About Weddings part of Love My Dress?

No. We first launched the campaign through an article written by multiple contributors on Love My Dress – this was before we had any social media accounts or a website! It really was just an idea and a hashtag to get people talking about our industry struggles. How things have changed! We never dreamed it would become so huge, so important and such a lifeline for so many. The campaign is currently run by three individuals:

  • Tamryn Settle – Wild & Oak (Celebrant)
  • Jessie Westwood – Studio Sorores Ltd (Planning, Design, Production and Floristry) and independent PR & Communications consultancy
  • Annabel Beeforth – Love My Dress (Media Platform) and Moonwind Flowers (Flower Farm)

Alongside key volunteers across the wider industry, many of whom prefer to remain anonymous.

Q7. Is What About Weddings just for businesses?

No not at all! We firmly believe that by supporting wedding businesses we are in turn supporting and protecting couples with existing and future bookings. We seek to bring each side together with common ground, compassion, empathy and understanding. Our conversations at every level always consider the needs of couples alongside the industry that services and creates products for their weddings.

Q8. What are the long term plans for What About Weddings?

We really don’t know. We have taken each day, week and month as it comes. We do feel this community is too brilliant and important to ever abandon though. So aside from immediate and urgent lobbying we are starting to think about how we can support the growth of our industry longer term. We plan to release a survey soon to get your feedback on how best to do this.

(Beautiful performance by Songbird Sessions. as part of our ‘Bring The Party To The Protest’ campaign last month)