Harrogate wedding industry determined to stay positive despite delay to end of lockdown
Brides, grooms and those working in the wedding industry have been breathing a sigh of relief following some - relatively - good news from the Government last week.
Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last Monday that there would be a four week delay to the lifting of all lockdown restrictions, he did lift the cap on the 30-guest limit at weddings - an announcement that was music to the ears of anyone planning to get married in the coming weeks.
The rule came into force this week and saw the guest cap completely abolished for both ceremonies and receptions, meaning weddings with hundreds of people attending will be able to go ahead.
It comes as a welcome boost after months of uncertainty for both couples and businesses.
Co-owner of luxury Pateley Bridge wedding venue Grassfield Hall, Lisa Homer, says the relaxing of current restrictions means she can now focus on making events special for couples and let go of some of the anxiety and stress that has built up over the last year.
She said: “For any small business it has been a hard year, mainly because of the uncertainty and constant changes.
“For hospitality this has been especially difficult - as a small country house specialising in weddings and house rentals, we have had over a year of cancelling or rearranging our bookings - each one a precious holiday, family get together or long-planned wedding.
“Currently we are looking forward to the coming months, delighted to be welcoming guests back for holidays and weekends away and being able to go ahead with our summer weddings.
“My main concern this year has been for the wedding couples I have come to know very well and the effect this pandemic has had on their lives with the stress and anxiety of waiting to see if their plans will come to fruition.
“Managing anxiety and expectations has been challenging at times - not only because couples have had to put their dreams of a perfect wedding on hold, but also their natural ongoing concerns about the amount of money that they have invested in making that day happen - with ourselves, caterers, florists and other essential suppliers.”
Lisa says the latest easing of restrictions around weddings will be the summer boost the industry needs, ensuring bookings are kept in place and the planning wheels can be put into motion.
She added: “Every wedding at Grassfield Hall is unique, and couples have expressed how much they have appreciated the support and reassurance they have received in every step of the process - from the months of planning and adapting to finally enjoying an incredable wedding day.
“In these uncertain times I can see how much our couples appreciate now, probably more than ever before, working with a smaller venue and having a more personal service.”
Some restrictions will remain in place at weddings until July 19, including the ban on most singing and dancing, and guests having to wear masks under certain circumstances.
Guests at an indoor venue will need to be on tables of no more than six people and dance floors will be closed - except for the ‘first dance’.
But the lifting of the guestlist cap will mean the pressure is off for many, who have been waiting on tenterhooks to find out if they would once again have to postpone their big day, a stressful process which has left some couples with more than five or six missed dates throughout the last year and venues missing out on crucial funds.
Wedding planner Sue White, who owns Harrogate-based White Wedding Company, says it would have been ‘non-sensical’ for the Government not to lift the guest cap for weddings.
She said: “After seeing thousands of people in football stadiums over the weekend and all those people at the cricket, it would have made a complete mockery of the industry if they had said you still couldn’t have more people at your wedding - people that you know and love.
“We have lived through a year of financial difficulty, uncertainty for couples, suppliers and venues, constantly changing rules and everyone being left in limbo time and time again.
“Our sector has been given very little support and virtually no guidance throughout all of this.
“However, we can’t dwell on the negatives - we have to move forward and look at things more positively now, especially after this step in the right direction.
“All celebrations mean so much more now after being held off for so long and I am so happy and excited for my couples who can finally get to work finalising their plans after waiting for so long.
“It’s fabulous to get a boost to our economy, get things booked in and see so many people able to share the happiest day of their lives with their nearest and dearest.”
However, there is still some apprehension around the new rules and the restrictions which remain in place could still have an impact on the wedding plans for many couples who moved their big day to order to celebrate however they liked.
Organisers of the ‘#WhatAboutWeddings’ campaign have hit out at the Prime Minister’s latest announcement, as they say restrictions such as mask-wearing and a ban on dancing will still seriously effect the celebrations and continue to be damaging to the industry.
Those behind the movement say they are ‘incredibly frustrated’ that the Government has ‘failed to give couples and businesses what they deserve’.
A statement reads: “The Prime Minister’s statement has not supported weddings. An increase in numbers, coupled with such severe restrictions, is clearly only a token gesture.
“There is a critical and urgent need for Government officials to liaise with the General Registry Office (GRO), to ensure they are behaving in the fair and reasonable way, that will enable as many wedding ceremonies as possible to proceed over the next four weeks. Yet again the Government has failed...”