Cheshire weddings in 2020 - what happens next?
PUBLISHED: 08:22 24 June 2020
Thousands of weddings have been postponed to 2021 because of coronavirus, so what are Cheshire’s wedding suppliers doing now?
Charlotte Dodd was due to marry Edward Nugent on August 29th, at St. Mary’s Church in the Wirral, before a reception for 120 at Iscoyd Park. The wedding, like thousands of others across the nation, has been postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing social distancing requirements. It was, she says, a little while before the reality of what was happening became clear to her.
“It wasn’t until early May that I realised that postponing my wedding was a good plan. Everybody has been so flexible and kind, really going out of their way to accommodate the postponement. How do I feel about it all? To be honest, while it’s disappointing of course, it’s something that simply cannot be changed – that I have had no control over, so it’s been quite easy to deal with emotionally. Knowing that there are thousands of couples in the same boat helps I think – and also knowing that it will happen, and it will happen the way I want it to happen, but just not yet.”
Charlotte knows what she’s talking about more than most. As the founder of one of Cheshire’s most sought-after wedding planning consultancies, Charlotte Elise Weddings & Events, she works every day with couples planning their perfect day and all the many and varied businesses that exist to deliver it.
“Back in March we really didn’t know how this would affect us, and how long for. A bit naively, I suppose, we thought it might be just for a couple of months and then everything back to normal by the summer. The first turning point came for us when the Church of Wales cancelled all gatherings until July, and the Church of England indefinitely. Then the registrars advised they were closing too, which is when it all really stepped up. Since then we have been very busy moving weddings.”
According to a recent estimate, more than 64,000 weddings were set to take place in the UK over the lockdown period and all have had to be moved, most to 2021. It seems the wedding industry has risen to the occasion and proven their value to the many worried couples affected.
“Because this is completely unprecedented and in no way the fault of the couple booking the wedding, the venues and suppliers have been incredibly versatile,” Charlotte says. “So far, none of the venues I work with have adhered to any contractual arrangements about postponement charges. Most are also keeping the 2020 prices for weddings moved, rather than applying 2021 prices. Of course, the greatest challenge comes in finding new dates. Most venues have bookings already for 2021. Many brides are being asked to consider a weekday wedding, rather than the Saturday they had hoped for. And just like the venues, every couple we are working with has been very accepting and flexible themselves. Midweek weddings will become very much a thing next year, but this will help all the suppliers manage what will be a very busy time – ourselves included.”
Charlotte’s sentiments are echoed by Steve Ogden, general manager at Cottons Hotel in Knutsford.
“We’re not a huge wedding venue, with around 60 per year, so we have been able to move all the dates into 2021 with no clashes, so far. It’s nobody’s fault, all this, so we’re being as flexible as possible for all our couples and holding our 2020 rates for those couples forced to postpone.”
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The Mere, in Knutsford, has had to postpone 70 weddings so far, with all finding new dates in 2021. Events manager Janice Crosby says: “We are advising our brides to postpone, allowing them to be able to enjoy the planning of the wedding, and not having to worry or stress over the what-ifs. Planning a wedding should be one of the most enjoyable things in life; the new chapter a new beginning, and we’re always happy to be a part of that.”
This flexibility is reflected across all industries affected by Covid-19, as Thomas Hope, co-founder of on-demand mobile hair and beauty service Artisté, says:
“Because of the nature of this business, we don’t tend to get booked hugely in advance, so while we had 30 pre-booked for the summer, we would usually have a lot more come in the weeks before the event. All of the brides we have spoken to have been so pragmatic about it all. Once they confirm the new date and any new timings then we send out a new schedule so they can relax and know they don’t need to think about this aspect of their day. It’s all about communication, which we can do via email and video-call, just keeping the bride reassured that we are and will continue to be here for her.”
One industry where the impact could have been devastating is floristry. Helen Hvaal, of Wild Floral Design in Chester, has lost a huge proportion of her usual work during the summer months and had to put her entire team on furlough.
“Within two days of the government announcement on 27th March I had had 40 weddings cancelled. I had a wedding booked every day for the whole of the two weeks around Easter and three or four a day for every weekend over the summer. During this period, however, a lot of the brides have asked me to make-up and send their bouquet on their wedding date anyway. They’re making the best of it, as we all are. All the weddings are moving to next year, so we’re filling up our diary now. It’s not gone completely quiet this year though; people love to send flowers and at the moment, when you can’t make a personal visit, flowers can say a lot. I have been preparing and then delivering up to 30 bouquets a day. Usually, on a Thursday there are five of us here, preparing the flowers for a whole weekend of weddings, and that has all gone. I am so grateful for the help given by the government but can’t wait to be able to bring back my team. It will be so lovely to have the shop open again, meeting customers and planning weddings – that’s the very best part of the job and I can’t wait to have it all come back.”
Mat Hepplestone, of Manchester’s Red Floral Architecture, had to move fast to change his business when lockdown commenced.
“We were very much a pure weddings and events business,” he says, “averaging 25 weddings a month. All our bookings have been postponed and to keep us going we have started doing bouquet delivery, which I always said I would never do. We have also set up a pop-up shop at our studio in Hyde, open over the weekends. This way I can keep the freelancers who create bouquets and floral displays for me in work and maintain my relationships with all my suppliers – and more than anything, it’s allowed me to maintain a presence on social media, so we can keep being creative and showing people what we can do.”
The ripple effect of banning all social gatherings has been extended and far-reaching. Venues, dressmakers, photographers, magicians, cake-makers, florists, entertainers, events staff, toastmasters, calligraphers, car hire companies, hair and make-up – there are thousands across Cheshire alone looking at strangely empty diaries.
Tom Lormor, aka saxophonist Tom Da Lips, founder of Six15 Events, is dealing not only with couples having to postpone their weddings but with DJs and musicians with nothing to do – a state completely alien their normal lives and their characters.
“Our weddings and events entertainment is DJ led, augmented with live musicians, usually sax and percussion. Many of the artists we represent work full-time, self-employed, in this industry, a dream for most, but now more of a nightmare. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough at the moment. Currently, 75 weddings we were booked for have been postponed into 2021. So far we have been able to guarantee the same set-up and artists as were booked for 2020, but if there’s a clash we can find greatly talented artists and still provide the same amazing event. New bookings for 2021 are already happening, so it’s going to be busy next year, we just have to get through this one first.”
With the whole industry poised for recovery in 2021, Artisté’s Thomas Hope sums it up: “2021 is going to be the most romantic year ever – one huge love-in – I can’t wait.”
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