Weddings and Covid-19 – a year on
23 Mar 2021
A year ago, the UK went into a national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic with weddings cancelled. As restrictions begin to lift, with weddings hoped to return to normal at the end of June 2021, we take a look at some of the changes and challenges the industry and couples have faced
Photography: Shane Webber Photography
It’s safe to say the last 12 months have been an emotional rollercoaster when it comes to weddings, for both couples who have had to postpone their special day (some multiple times) and for the wedding industry professionals who due to changing restrictions and limited numbers have also, largely been unable to work during this time.
According to figures from the Offices of National Statistics for England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (ONS) 278,599 weddings occur every year in the UK. In 2020, more than 260,000 weddings were postponed due to the pandemic. Added to the weddings planned for 2021 this means around 475,000 weddings are due to take place this year – with weekday dates now as in demand as the typically more popular weekend.
As we moved through 2020 the hashtag #loveisntcancelled became more and more popular with many couples choosing to forge ahead with their 2020 wedding date, despite the restrictions, deciding the important thing for them was to be married.
From a complete ban (apart from in exceptional circumstances) from March 2020, restrictions for weddings eased gradually (some might say far too gradually considering the opening of other businesses), with wedding ceremonies for up to 30 (including the couple, registrar or vicar and external staff) allowed to resume from July 4. In mid-August, wedding receptions for 30 guests were allowed alongside ceremonies, only for both to be taken down to 15 guests in September (but this time excluding external businesses working at the event) before the third national lockdown in January 2021 taking us full circle to a full ban once again.
What we have seen during this time is both couples and wedding suppliers becoming even more creative. Virtual video tours of venues, online wedding fairs and virtual consultations in everything from make-up and hair consultations to getting to know your photographer. Wedding suppliers have also diversified to help their businesses – catering companies providing home-delivered fare, from afternoon teas to wood-fired pizzas, cake companies providing samples for cake-tastings at home and bridal businesses entering the personalised face mask arena as wedding accessories – wedding businesses have had to adapt.
When it comes to the weddings that have taken place, couples have also become more creative to keep their loved ones safe. Take for example this wedding in Suffolk, where the couple went so far as to have a cleaning rota to keep guests as safe as possible. Others have looked at ways to lighten the mood including nods to coronavirus in their speeches (for ideas on how to do this see) or other parts of their décor like the wedding sign from this couple in Kent.
For others, restricted numbers has seen them have the chance to add more personal touches, from making their own favours or confetti, to hosting receptions in loved-ones gardens, or simply giving every member of their bridal party they were allowed a role to play in the celebrations. All touches they may not have been able to do with larger parties.
There has of course been a rise in open-air weddings as people have felt safer in the fresh air and we’ve even seen a couple of drive-in weddings like this one in Norfolk which saw guests/bubbles socially distanced in/at their own vehicles, watching the nuptials and even being called up for the wedding meal - individual packages for each bubble/car from the caterers, including wedding cake and favours – in groups of five at a time.
Some couples have even chosen to hold celebrations over a number of days so they could celebrate with all their guests, like this wedding in Yorkshire.
Restrictions are of course set to start easing – with wedding ceremonies and receptions for up to 15 once again on the cards from April 12, 2021 with numbers increasing to 30 from May 17 and then back to normal by June 21. However, it is still a nervous time for coupes as last week the UK Weddings Taskforce clarified that the 15 people limit in April only applies to weddings in places of worship, public buildings and outdoor settings already permitted to open – which does not include the majority of the UK’s licensed wedding venues where around 71% of weddings usually take place. This the taskforce estimates places around 7,000 more weddings likely to be postponed.
Whether you postpone your special day or go ahead under restrictions is a personal choice; you and your partner should make the choice that is right for you, no what other people think you should do.