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'Don't keep us hanging': Wedding suppliers seek clarity ahead of June 21

After nearly 18 months of almost zero activity due to Covid restrictions, the wedding industry in Peterborough is looking forward to resuming work. 
Wedding businesses want certainty on end to lockdown as they prepare to host big events from June 21

As per the Covid roadmap, the final stage of the Covid restrictions could potentially unlock from June 21, allowing for large-scale events and weddings to go ahead without restrictions. Currently, up to 30 people are able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. 

However, the wedding industry is asking for more assurance after some government officials say delay in unlocking these rules is "still a possibility" amidst rising concerns of various Covid variants that have made their way in the UK. 

Businesses are urging the government not to delay this further, and if so give the industry enough time to reschedule plans. 

UK wedding campaign group 'What About Weddings' is also asking the government to urgently consider the implications of continuing any restrictions for the wedding industry, employing over 400,000 workers a year across both rural and urban areas in every constituency of the country, adding that the small weddings with limited capacity is 'simply not viable'.

Despite the tough year, Sissons Barn is dusting its furniture, sorting staff rotas and getting ready to host weddings, with the first one on June 26, as restrictions could end soon.

The weekend-only venue based in Peakirk, a village outside Peterborough, has done only three micro-weddings in the last 18 months. 

After a challenging period brought upon by Covid restrictions, Laura Harris and her team are now looking ahead to a fully-booked diary until mid-December. 

But she wants certainty from the government that restrictions will end as per the plan, otherwise she fears it could be "a lot of awkward phone calls" for the business. 

Laura said: "We are going to cram 18 months of weddings in six months, so you can imagine how busy we are. We are fully booked for this year now. Starting from June 26, every weekend is booked until mid-December, so we're looking at 45 events. 

"In the last 18 months, we have had three micro weddings, two in Autumn and one two weeks ago. It says a lot about how the industry has done all this while - and it’s not just us.

"This has a massive knock-on effect on so many other businesses from makeup artists, to florists to photographers and caterers - so many more. They have all struggled because we couldn’t operate on a normal basis. 

"I think our industry was left behind when planning the restrictions and support."

Laura explained how much time, effort, emotion and money goes into wedding planning, she added: "If decisions are made last minute, it’s like pulling a rug from underneath our feet. 

"It’s not fair to keep us hanging. If the government is making a decision, yes or no, just tell us now, rather than leaving it last minute. 

"We have to answer to anxious couples who want to know what's happening: Can they go ahead with their big wedding or not? The truth is we know as much as they do, which is not ideal. 

"We understand restrictions are needed and we have been fully on-board with it to ensure everyone is safe. But the lack of timescale is frustrating. We feel like we have not been given the same support as other industries.  

"Even in spring when the roadmap was announced, we weren’t given guidelines on what is permitted and what isn't until the date had arrived. We were calling up the council to get more information so that we can plan accordingly and I think it’s ridiculous. 

"We just want to be kept in the loop and not informed last minute of any decision- either way. If the restrictions don’t end, then we will be making a lot of awkward phone calls and that is going to be very disappointing."

Laura also said some of restrictions brought in are confusing. She said: "I feel the rules are confusing and unfair. We could have operated this venue as a restaurant and had 80 covers, but for a wedding we can only have 30. 

"I want the government to look at bringing restrictions based on venue size rather a blanket size restriction. Also, you can socialise in someone’s garden, dance, play music with up to 30 people, but for a wedding with the same capacity, you have to be seated at all times - it's ridiculous.

"We are still looking forward to returning and getting back to normal, fingers crossed."

Donna Wllingham at the Country Garden Florist ‘is optimistic’ of resuming trade post-Covid lockdown- she is already booked up for this year and has also been taking orders for next year.

"We're ready for it", she says, adding: "We have got to fit two years of weddings in one, so it’s going to be crazy. 

"I can count on one hand how many weddings I had catered to in the lockdown, and even those were just a bouquet, no table flowers or decorations. 

"During the challenging time, we have had to increase our product services - dried flowers, nation-wide deliveries, and other offerings, which really picked up. 

"We have been doing funeral flowers and unfortunately that has been busy, whereas weddings were virtually nil, so we had to be creative with our products. 

"I do have a wedding on June 26, and we would need to know now if she (bride) is going ahead with the big wedding or scaling back. We need to be prepared. But for that guidelines need to be announced soon from the government.

"We are optimistic, fingers crossed, this is going to happen.  

"We really think if everybody does the right thing, we can still head for June 21 for end restrictions. But if not, then we need to be made aware with plenty of time if there are any changes coming in. 

"The booking I have for this year are pretty much the re-scheduled ones from last year. Some are new brides and grooms but majority are from the previous year.  

"We have got quite a few bookings for next year as well. Some couples who wanted be a bit more cautious have planned to tie the knot next year instead. 

"So, I am looking forward and staying optimistic at this stage."

According to the Government Road map out of lockdown, Step four – due to take place on June 21 – would see all legal limits on social contact removed. 

It is hoped that the last handful of indoor venues that remain closed, including nightclubs, would reopen and restrictions on large events and performances would cease to apply. Currently, up to 30 people are able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the emergence of the Indian variant – also known as the Delta variant and found to be 40% more transmissible than the Kent strain – has made the “calculation” on whether to proceed with unlocking “more difficult”. 

Scientists have also suggested that steadily rising numbers of people in hospitals should also delay the final stage of restriction easing. 

Downing Street has said the data emerging over the coming week will be “crucial” in deciding whether the remaining restrictions can end.

It’s believed this decision is expected soon from Prime Minster Boris Johnson, who is considering delaying Freedom Day by at least two weeks in order to allow more people to be fully vaccinated against the Delta variant.