UK wedding industry fears collapse if Covid rules not eased in June

News that Boris Johnson’s wedding will not take place until 2022 has added to uncertainty, say observers

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Last modified on Tue 25 May 2021 12.18 EDT

Wedding businesses are increasingly nervous about the future and bosses have warned the UK industry is on the brink of collapse if restrictions are not eased in June, after it was reported Boris Johnson was waiting until 2022 to get married.

On Sunday, the Sun reported that the prime minister and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, are waiting until July 2022 to get married to be on the safe side, even though current restrictions in England on weddings, which limit attendees to 30 people, are due to be relaxed on 21 June.

“What does this mean for my sector? We’re going to be stuck at 30 people all summer? People have taken it, rightly or wrongly, to mean he’s not confident enough to get married this year,” said wedding planner Sarah Haywood from the UK Weddings Taskforce.

“I hope its just that he’s too busy this year. But you can see how it might look to a couple who have been sitting with this uncertainty for months, some with multiple postponements. Was he supposed to get married this summer and it’s been postponed? We don’t know.”

“I was feeling optimistic about this summer but this has certainly let some of the air out,” said Sally Rawlins, an Essex-based wedding photographer. “It’s great for the people that are getting married next year because you can guarantee Boris Johnson is not going to have a 30-person wedding with no reception.

“But not all of us are going to make it to next summer. I have two years’ worth of weddings squished into this upcoming summer, if people start to postpone and cancel, which they already have with this uncertainty, I can’t just keep taking loans to pay to pay for things.”

Haywood said the industry was frustrated the couple’s wedding has generated so much interest at a strained time for the sector – the prime minister had promised to give 28 days’ notice to changes to wedding rules, but no announcement was made on Monday due to concerns around the India variant.

“His wedding is now attracting more attention than the entire wedding sector has been attracting. It just shows how undervalued we are, how we’re not taken seriously,” she said.

Last week a new weddings all-party parliamentary group (APPG) met for its inaugural meeting, after a year of turmoil for the £14.7bn industry, which has been decimated by the pandemic.

Siobhan Baillie, Conservative MP for Stroud and chair of the APPG, said wedding businesses had been frustrated by “inconsistent and confusing restrictions” throughout the pandemic.

Most recently, stage 3 of the roadmap now allows the number of funeral guests to be determined by the size of the venue, while weddings are still restricted to a maximum of 30 people regardless of venue size.

“I think there’s really a lack of understanding about how professional these businesses are, and the precision and organisation that goes into weddings,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re demonstrating to Public Health England that this is a Covid-secure sector. I just don’t think they could cope with much more delay.”

“I don’t know a single wedding company that isn’t in debt,” said Jessie Westwood from the What About Weddings campaign group. “Most of us are riding on some pretty massive events taking place from 21 June. July and August is absolutely booked out flat for most people. If restrictions aren’t lifted in June, the industry will collapse, as simple as that.”

An estimated 800,000 weddings are due to take place within 24 months of a full resumption of trading for the industry, with 475,000 expected this year.

Westwood says a government-backed insurance scheme for weddings is necessary for the industry if large-scale events are going to be affected in future.

“If we don’t get any insurance and we don’t open up fully, I really think it’s going to be quite severe for the sector,” she said.

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