'We don't want to cut our guestlists again": Couples hope for restrictions to be lifted to celebrate their special days
Engaged couples are praying for good news next Monday, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to address weddings when he announces the latest decision on the final phase of the roadmap out of lockdown
They have faced uncertainty about their weddings since the start of the pandemic, with thousands being forced to reschedule their big day and facing restrictions such as reduced guests numbers and limits on dancing.
Boris Johnson is set to address the latest decision on the final phase of his roadmap out of lockdown next Monday, June 14, with the Times reporting that the Prime Minister is considering lifting all restrictions on weddings, even if they are delayed elsewhere.
Kerry Pinington and Chris Cokell have been forced to reschedule their wedding four times since the start of the pandemic, and are now set to tie the knot at the Mill at Conder Green on July 31.
Having moved together from Preston to Heysham, the couple had first been excited to say 'I do' on May 23 last year, before the national lockdown put a stop to their plans.
Since then, they have spent more than £150 on wasted invitations, moved their special day four times and even had their honeymoon destination shifted from Mexico, to the Dominican Republic and now to Cyprus.
The couple have managed to secure one of the few dates left at their venue after June 21, in hopes that all restrictions would have been lifted as part of the roadmap out of lockdown
Kerry said: "This is the fourth date we have had to book for because of the virus, we have had to just keep postponing it and have now decided that even if there are restrictions, we will just go ahead with it this time because we have had enough of waiting.
"At the beginning of the pandemic we were all naive and thought that if we rescheduled it, it would definitely be going ahead. Then it was pushed back again and again as the lockdowns and restrictions were announced.
"We just wanted everybody there so it made sense to keep rescheduling it because we just didn't feel it would have been the same with just 15 people. When we found out restrictions were going to be lifted we just went for it again and managed to get one of the few dates left.
"It has been a crazy year for us and really stressful. The amount of times we have had to message all our guests telling them it has moved to another date is ridiculous. We really hope these restrictions are lifted on Monday so we can have the wedding we have always wanted, we don't want to have to cut down our guests list again."
And Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that the number of guests permitted at a wedding will be among topics addressed by Boris Johnson on Monday.
He told Sky News: “Weddings can go ahead right now, but with a maximum of 30 guests. I appreciate that that is very tough and I would like to see the number of people attending weddings increase.
“We are giving that careful thought – that will be one of the topics that the Prime Minister will address on June 14. So again, people who are looking forward to those weddings don’t have very long to wait for an answer.”
Catrin Brock and Charlie Parkinson, both 26, live together in Walton Le Dale and have been engaged since 2019. Luckily, they have not had to reschedule their special day as they had originally booked it for August 7 this year.
But they remain prepared with two guest lists, including one capped at 30 people, in case the restrictions remain in place.
Teacher Catrin said: “I can teach up to 150 students a day through different classes but might only be allowed 30 people socially distanced at my wedding, it feels very inconsistent and unfair.
“We have been lucky so far because we haven’t had to reschedule, but it has still been a difficult and anxious time worrying about if it will go ahead or not.
“We haven’t had the same excitement that people should have leading up to our big day, all consultations and bookings have been done over zoom and we haven’t been able to get all my bridesmaids together to try dresses on so it has been ordered online. It just hasn’t been the same and haven’t done fun little things that you look forward to.
“We hope that we can have all our 80 guests there in August because it is crucial for us to make the most of our day.”
Louise Hall, a wedding hair and makeup artist who covers clients across the whole of Lancashire and Greater Manchester, saw her bookings disappear at the start of the pandemic when Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the country into lockdown.
But after almost a year of no work, she said the roadmap announcement caused her phone to start ringing, and it hasn’t stopped since.
The freelance makeup artist, 38, said: “When we went into the lockdown, everything just stopped. All the jobs I had were either being pushed back or cancelled because of all the uncertainty.
“The summer months are usually my busiest for weddings and it is usual that I wouldn’t get a single day off - but I went to not having one job in the diary.
“So many people cancelled because the restrictions would have stopped them having the day they had spent so long planning and saving up for. A wedding means so many things to different people and I got the impression that people would have rather waited to enjoy their day.”
The past year has been financially difficult for Louise, who is used to relying on a surge of summer bookings every year.
And she wasn’t eligible for any Government support loans during the pandemic, so is thrilled to be seeing bookings going ahead again.
She added: “As soon as Boris announced the roadmap out of lockdown, my phone has been ringing constantly to the point where I can’t even answer some of the calls because I am so busy.
“People were desperate to re-book their weddings for this summer thinking that the restrictions would be lifted. I am a positive person and hope that restrictions will be lifted at the end of this month so people can have the weddings they wanted.
“It has been overwhelming after not working for a year but it’s good to see things getting back to normal. It feels like we are coming out of a very turbulent time.”
Ministers are understood to be considering delaying the easing of lockdown rules for two weeks amid the growing concern about the spread of the Indian variant.
According to the UK Weddings Taskforce, 12,500 weddings per week are estimated to be cancelled if restrictions aren't lifted later this month, along with £325m a week from the wedding sector lost and 275 tonnes of pre-ordered food binned.
Edward Walmsley, Wedding Events Manager at the Gibbon Bridge Hotel said people chose to reschedule their weddings after June 21 in hopes that all Covid restrictions would be lifted.
He added it would be ‘disastrous’ for couples and venues if the restrictions were extended for longer in light of the rising cases of the virus, throwing yet more bookings into uncertainty.
Speaking to the Post, he said: “If the change in restrictions doesn’t happen, I think people will just go ahead with the smaller numbers anyway because they are so fed up with having to rebook their special days.
“It has been a really difficult year for venues like ours as we have had to constantly change to meet the restrictions.
“It doesn’t make sense. Every day we can host up to 120 diners in for lunch but can only have 30 people in if it is a wedding booking but yet they are all using the same space and facilities.
“People could’ve been offered a safe space for their ceremony and wedding breakfast because that is no different to sitting indoors and then having their evening celebrations after restrictions are lifted.
“It is essential for couples and wedding venues to keep going to see the restrictions lifted. Since February it has almost felt set in stone that everything will return to normal on June 21 meaning people have deliberately booked their wedding after that day, so it would really cause problems for so many people.
“People have not been able to have the big day they really wanted. There is so much more to think about too, the restrictions have meant guests haven’t been able to come over from abroad, people have wanted their stag and hen do’s which are often trips and weekends overseas so all that was put to a stop too.
“We just want to crack on now and host full capacity weddings because people have had such a difficult year. Our space can hold 190 people and we have been restricted to just 30 which puts us at a massive loss. It has been so frustrating and financially it has been horrendous for so many venues.”
Research by the UK Wedding Taskforce showed that nationally, £16.5bn has been lost by the wedding sector since the first lockdown, with 320,000 weddings having been postponed or cancelled.
Weddings Taskforce Spokesperson Sarah Haywood commented: “A hugely expensive, irrecoverable investment has been made by the decimated weddings sector in the ramp-up to full reopening on the 21st June – the only date we have been given to work to.
"That investment is in infrastructure, consumables - such as food and flowers - and on retraining and hiring new staff. There is no data to support us having been so heavily penalised throughout the recent restrictions and now the very survival of our world-class sector is in doubt.
"If it is lost it will take a decade or more to rebuild, affecting over a quarter of a million couples every single year and with a devastating societal impact.”