Lancashire County Council has made the decision to close its Register Offices for ceremonies and stop registrars officiating in private venues until the last quarter of the year - expected to be around September or October.
A notice on the council’s website says the ceremonies will not take place unless there is an urgent medical need, and that all monies paid to Lancashire Registration Service will be carried over to the new booking. New bookings are not currently being taken.
Although brides and grooms and venue bosses say they can understand the decision in light of the coronavirus outbreak, they have slammed the lack of communication from the authority, and say it will cause a knock-on backlog next year.
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One couple from Much Hoole, who were due to marry at Preston’s Registry Office on August 1, said they only found out it wouldn’t be going ahead by chance.
The bride, who asked not to be named, said: “One of my fiance’s friends had seen it online. That’s when we looked online. I didn’t actually think we would be affected for that long. It’s made me quite anxious as to how long were going to be in isolation for.”
She added: “We’re heartbroken. But in the current situation we do understand why its having to be done.
“We’re hoping the companies we’ve got in and paid deposits for will be able to change dates. As of yet we haven’t had an email from the registry office.”
Lancashire County Council said that it was at first trying to continue with weddings if the couples and the venues were happy to hold the legal ceremony with only the couple, their witnesses, and a photographer in the room with a remote link to the audience, but that this had proved unpopular and was deemed unsustainable.
Steve Lloyd, LCC registration services manager, said: “We have been very busy over the last couple of weeks, with couples and venues contacting us wanting to postpone ceremonies, and we have advised that people consider postponing until at least September as, while the near future is very uncertain, we hope that would offer enough time for our service, and the situation in the country, to get back to normal without the need to postpone again.
“At the same time, we will work with couples to try to arrange their ceremony if there is an urgent medical need.
“However we will keep this under constant review, and if the situation improves by mid-summer we may be able to bring things forward.
“We’re grateful for the cooperation and understanding which couples and venues have shown, and are looking forward to the time when we’ll be able to get back to delivering our usual service and helping couples make the most of their big day.
“If people need to register a death in the coming weeks we would ask them to check the information on our website to begin with, as there could be further changes to the process for operational reasons.”
One Lancashire hotel is busy trying to reschedule 60 weddings, offering couples a new date next year.
But Edward Walmsley, general manager of the Gibbon Bridge at Chipping, said a lack of information from the county council’s registration service was “not helping in the least.”
“They say they can’t provide registrars until the final quarter of the year, which to me is October onwards,” he said. “If that is the case then we are all going to have major problems next year.
“But when you try and contact them to check what’s happening no-one is answering the phone. And the website is confusing too.
“I have already had to cancel April, May and June, for obvious reasons. But if we have to cancel July, August and September - our three main months - we will be short of dates for next year, because we have a lot of weddings already booked in for 2021.
“I have been trying to contact all our brides and grooms to try and move them. Postponing weddings at the moment we can all understand. But August and September?
“Norfolk is the only other county besides Lancashire where the registration service has said it can’t supply registrars for weddings until the autumn.
“We have contacted venues in West Yorkshire, Cheshire and Greater Manchester and they say they have been advised they can prepare for weddings from the beginning of July onwards.
Why is Lancashire any different?”
At the Barton Grange Hotel near Preston, Sarah Miller, the conference and events sales manager, said the coronavirus crisis was having “a massive effect” on the wedding business.
“For the spring and summer months most of our brides and grooms are rescheduling for later in the year, or for spring or summer next year. But they are understandably devastated to have to put their big day off.
“It’s such a shame for them, but I think in the circumstances it’s fair to say a lot were expecting it. Many have already come to terms with it and are looking forward to getting married when things are much better.”
And at another wedding venue near Hoghton, a spokesman said: “Basically we are losing three-quarters of our business for the year. Insurance companies won’t cover it.
“Most of our couples have accepted the situation, even though they are disappointed. But unfortunately there are some who don’t see it that way.”
Catholic Church says:
Weddings in Catholic Churches are suspended until the Government’s health advice changes to allow gatherings of people in buildings. The church is unaware of any current time-line posited for that.
The only exception to that is for exceptional circumstances i.e. a situation of grave illness for a couple and this would usually take place wherever the couple are situated.
The Church of England says:
“Essentially our line is that weddings will not be able to take place in our churches until further notice and until further guidance to the contrary is issued by the Church of England acting on advice from the Government.”
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