How will Coronavirus affect my wedding business?
18 Mar 2020
Amid the spread of Coronavirus, couples have been forced to cancel their wedding plans, but where does this leave wedding businesses?
Coronavirus is spreading at a rapid rate, with the UK now in lockdown to delay the spread.
The public has been instructed to stay at home and are only allowed to leave their house for the following reasons:
- Shopping for necessities (food and medicine)
- Medical reasons
- If you care for a vulnerable person
- To exercise ONCE a day only
- To travel to work IF you are a key worker or absolutely necessary
Schools have closed and mass public gatherings and events have been cancelled or postponed, with businesses of all sizes set to take a significant hit.
The weddings industry is one such community under considerable strain. David Robinson, director of The Banqueting Hire Service in Norfolk, has already reported a £20,000 loss as couples cancel their bookings.
As the situation worsens, here is what we know about Coronavirus so far and the answers to the questions you want answered...
What is Coronavirus?
First identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019, COVID-19 is defined by the NHS as a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called Coronavirus.
It is characterised by a high temperature or fever and a new, persistent cough. The exact cause of the spread is unknown, but as most viruses are spread by cough droplets it is thought Coronavirus is spread in the same way.
Personal hygiene is of utmost importance to delay the spread, with the public advised to wash their hands in warm soapy water often for 20 seconds. Read this advice from Public Health England, which details how to protect yourself from Coronavirus, what to do if you suspect you have symptoms and the self-isolation procedure once diagnosed.
A vaccination for Coronavirus is not expected to be available until the end of summer in 2021.
How will Coronavirus affect the UK weddings industry?
On March 23, Boris Johnson announced that all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies but excluding funerals, will be banned. The Government will review these measures in April.
Couples set to hold their weddings in the coming weeks have therefore been forced to cancel their plans. However, with Coronavirus cases in the UK not expected to peak until mid May/early June, couples with weddings in the next few months are unsure how this will impact their celebrations.
With many couples postponing their plans, if weddings are permitted to be held again in the summer months then extra precautions should be taken.
Elderly guests and those with serious chronic medical conditions may still be classed as vulnerable and may not be able to attend. Check governmental advice as a priority. Travel restrictions may also still be in place, so guests planning to travel from abroad may be impacted.
Deborah Page of True to You Celebrancy Yorkshire has announced that she will be offering recording and live streaming of her ceremonies, to be accessed by guests who can't attend the big day, and ethere.com has announced its self-streaming platform for the same purpose.
As a wedding business, you should contact all the couples who have bookings before the summer as a starting point. Skype, FaceTime or a phone call are the best methods to reach them. Discuss their concerns and what their options are moving forward. You should show understanding and support throughout your conversation and discuss how you can work together to reach a mutually beneficial decision.
Caroline Tuck of South West videography business FMP Videos, says: "I am checking in with all my couples booked for May and June to let them know I am aware of the situation, and also to reassure them that currently I am healthy and taking personal steps to remain so in order to be available to film their weddings.
"I am letting them know if they do need to postpone their dates, that I will reschedule their booking as long as I have the new date available (so letting me know quickly is recommended) without any additional charges or fees. I am also networking with other videographers in case I need to find cover, so I'm doing as much as possible to avoid cancelling altogether."
Gary Rycroft, chair of the Law Society’s digital assets working group and a consumer law expert., says: “As the UK has now entered a period of lockdown, all weddings will be cancelled for at least the next three weeks. In this case, couples will be legally entitled to a refund. There might be a small administration fee but given the current situation, many businesses will look to refund their customers fully.
“Things will become much more complicated as and when the ban on weddings is lifted while other COVID-19 restrictions are in place. If couples choose to cancel in these circumstances, they will have to turn to their wedding insurance policy and terms and conditions of contracts to see how much money they can recover.
“For many couples and businesses, postponing the wedding will be the most attractive option. The legal issue here is altering the contract - this is all about bargaining power. Usually businesses have the upper hand but in the current climate, any sensible businesses will be more than happy to postpone without any arguments.”
Does my business insurance cover me?
Speak to your business insurance provider as soon as possible and find out what you are covered for if booking cancellations arise.
We have already heard reports of wedding suppliers who have contacted their insurance provider about losing business over the next few months, only to learn that they aren't covered because Coronavirus is not listed in the policy.
The type of cover you will require is 'Business Interruption Insurance', which ensures businesses don't make a financial loss due to a disaster. COVID-19 has been declared a notifiable disease and you will need to check that your cover includes notifiable diseases. If it doesn't, discuss adding this to your policy with your insurer - although be prepared to accept that they have the right to refuse you.
Couples are also losing out on their wedding insurance for the same reason in that they are not insured for eventualities which arise as a result of Coronavirus not being covered. As such, the best option seems to be to postpone their plans on the agreement of their wedding suppliers. Leading wedding insurance suppliers such as John Lewis and Debenhams have also announced that they are suspending new wedding insurance policies, with any new claims considered on an individual case basis.
Can I travel around and outside the UK?
Boris Johnson has ordered the nation to avoid non-essential travel, with airlines announcing cancelled flights and complete closure of selected flight routes.
Join the COVID-19 and Weddings Facebook group to receive updates on the countries affected.
When weddings resume, social distancing measures should still be upheld until further notice. Remain vigilant and avoid all physical contact including handshakes, hugs and kisses; keep hand sanitiser, tissues and antibacterial wipes for equipment at hand; and remain at least two metres away from guests at all times.
Where does this leave me and my business?
With all companies now instructed to allow employees to work from home, this is not as easy for businesses based out of shops and boutiques and indeed, wedding suppliers who rely on face to face contact. However, the health, safety and wellbeing of you, your employees and your customers is paramount.
If you employ a team, communicate regularly with them and set up a channel of communication whereby you can update staff members on the business and government information as and when you receive it. Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Zoom are three of the most well-used group communication tools available. Employees who feel unwell should self-isolate immediately and where possible, you should allow remote working for employees who are well enough to work.
Online training, administrative support and social media are just some of the tasks you can set your staff working from home, provided suitable technology is supplied and equipment policies put in place. Establish clear working hours and ensure you check in with them regularly so they don't feel detached.
Also update your customer base on social media and by email when necessary, responding to customer queries as soon as possible. This will ensure you remain connected from a distance and your audience will appreciate your transparency and honesty during this period of uncertainty.
If a financial loss is inevitable, the Government has announced a package of financial measures to assist businesses during these challenging times. The £350 billion package consists of loans, a business rates holiday and grants for small businesses to ultimately protect the British economy and safeguard businesses and households under threat. Read more here.
The Government is also helping employees to keep their jobs by offering to pay 80% of their wages should their employer be struggling to stay afloat under the weight of the Coronavirus crisis.
The self-employed will receive the equivalent of statutory sick pay in universal credit and will be given tax deferrals. The self-employed, who make up 5 million of the UK workforce, can also apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits up to a maximum of £2,500 - to be paid as a lump sum. However, a minority are exempt: those who earn more than £50,000 in profit, company owners who pay themselves a dividend and those who haven't filed a tax return in the last year.
With handouts not due to arrive until June at the earliest, there have been calls for the allowances to be made available sooner.
Keep your business mind ticking over and use the time wisely to innovate...
PopUp Business School was set up by CEO Simon Paine and business partner Alan Donegan, who travel the world and teach people how to set up their own business. While PopUp Business School has already lost six figures worth of business due to the pandemic, including a major event with Google, Simon refuses to lose hope and is instead instructing other businesses what to do and how to remain positive during these challenging times.
One of Simon's top tips is to encourage creative thinking and spawn new business ideas. He says: "It’s time to think of ways to adapt, to step out of your comfort zone and into the new world. One thing’s for sure, the world will never be the same again, even when the craziness is over.
"Ideas are currency at the moment. Everybody is crying out for them. Keep an open mind because, even if you hate the idea, buried in there could be a nugget that triggers a thought that changes everything. Write ideas down, share them and test them."
Support and optimism is key as we help each other through this global crisis, so we encourage you to join our community and continue the conversation with wedding businesses and couples on the Enjoy Weddings More Facebook group.