How the Coronavirus Pandemic has Affected UK Wedding Venues
As 2020 neared its end it became clear this was a year no one would forget. For the wedding industry it’s been a year that has caused many couples to put their dream wedding day on hold, for businesses and professionals it has caused financial uncertainty and difficulties, and to our dismay 2021 has begun in a similar manner.
Covid-19’s Impact on Wedding Venues
During the last month’s of 2020 we conducted a survey to wedding venues both in the UK and abroad to understand the full impact the pandemic caused across the industry. The results of the survey were collated from a diverse selection of places to get married with an average wedding guest capacity of 190 and some of the stats will surprise you…
Weddings in 2020
There are 78,599* weddings per year in the UK with a total estimated direct spend of £14.7bn* on weddings every year (*data taken from whataboutweddings.co.uk). It comes as no surprise that these numbers would certainly not have been achieved in 2020.
As you can see above the amount of weddings actually held in 2020 was significantly less than were booked to take place across the 2020 calendar year. On average our venues had 36 weddings booked to proceed during 2020 at the beginning of the year and on average only 3 of these actually went ahead. Concluding that only 8% of weddings took place across the year, just 8%!
2020 – A year of uncertainty
There’s no getting away from it, 2020 was hard, personally, financially and mentally. Everyone had their own story, circumstances and feelings on how the pandemic altered paths and the wedding industry was certainly well and truly shaken.
Venue owners and managers opened up to us about the hardest area to navigate last year and what came out on top across the board was the uncertainty and ever changing guidelines. It’s true the world changed as we knew it during 2020 but for the wedding industry there was never a roadmap to show how businesses could operate, change and adapt.
Rapid decisions on restrictions and lockdowns made it impossible to plan, run or even open venues, last minute wedding cancellations were utterly heartbreaking and the complete lack of guidance across the industry hugely impacted many businesses.
Venue Adaptation for Covid secure Weddings
2020 forced many changes within the hospitality industry, from ensuring social distancing, to track and trace. Adaptations were a necessity to open at a reduced capacity. Minor changes and reorganisation was undertaken by 60% of venues to safely host guests where possible whilst 16% actually made significant changes by adding outside wedding spaces or marquees to accommodate restrictions.
It’s clear social distancing and the more complex way in which venue spaces are used will roll out into 2021 and adaptations may still need to be continued into the future.
Last year, from March 23rd until July weddings were not permitted in the UK, when lockdown restrictions were finally lifted weddings could only go ahead with up to 15 people. But Micro Weddings were certainly not the light at the end of the tunnel for many venues;
When asked only 40% of venues agreed Micro Weddings of up to 20 people were viable for their business, with many preferring to have the wedding postponed and alarmingly 32% state weddings of up to 20 people are just not viable for their venue.
So, if a Micro Wedding is not viable but restrictions refrain your business operating as usual, you need to rethink your strategy and many venues did just that by offering a brand new wedding package, a relevant solution to many couples, the ‘Marry Now Party Later’ package.
It’s as simple as its sounds, 40% of venues began introducing a package whereby couples could tie the knot and legally get married during 2020 with restrictions then enjoy their big celebration at a later date. The initial ceremony may not have been viable for the business but the security of the bigger celebration in the future will be.
Many couples want the big day but don’t want to put their life on hold and just want to get married.
The Cost of Worry
Cash flow concerns were apparent for many venues during 2020 but the sad reality is that 84% of venues are financially worried about 2021. The uncertainty, the unpredictability and the lack of confidence all account to increased worry amongst venue owners. The lack of support from the government for businesses and the industry as a whole has been extremely frustrating seeing as this sector is worth £14.7bn*.
Here’s just a small snapshot of comments we received from venue owners and managers on their worries going forward this year;
“With regards to the positive news of the vaccine there is still the worry that the rollout of the vaccine is slow and we loose another year and confidence in the vaccine, creating panic amongst couples.”
“We are very concerned that there will be many restrictions from the Government again (in 2021) due to another wave of Covid and that because of this we cannot work normally or will not be able to work in any of the senses.”
“We are worried that there are so many weddings booked (in 2021), that the exacting standards we usually deliver will be hit as all the staff will be burnt-out.”
“We foresee prices going up for suppliers and therefore couples budget for venues being reduced.”
Diversifying to survive
Last year saw the transformation of many venues and a huge 66% diversified their income due to being unable to host weddings. Many switched to restaurants, offering take out food or began marketing their accommodation as holiday lets.
For others creative thinking allowed them to monetise outdoor events such as wellbeing and corporate days or by allowing their venue to be utilised for film and photography.
All excellent options but wedding venues need weddings and 2021 needs to deliver.
There is huge frustration within the wedding industry, there’s no support for businesses in the wedding sector, no plan or roadmap to give hope and very little confidence being given to couples. The rules and restrictions regarding weddings seem unfair, making no sense, venues are investing time and money in adapting their spaces, being fully compliant and ensuring track and trace is undertaken yet weddings can not properly take place in a world where restaurants and pubs can do business and people can attend football matches.
The lack of support and uncertainty is unsurprisingly the most common comment and feedback we received. From an industry that has been left in the dark, forgotten and certainly not supported.
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Postponements and Cancellations
As we can all conclude 2020 was dismal for the industry but from our findings complete cancellations were minimal and thankfully on average 85% of weddings were moved to 2021, added to original 2021 bookings the wedding industry has the potential to face a really busy year.
This year, venues have on average 45 weddings booked to take place, including many postponements, that’s a 125% increase compared to this time last year.
With Boris Johnson’s optimism stating “by summer it will be a different world for the wedding and events industry*, 2021 wedding season is set to be all systems go but it’s blatantly clear from our survey not only is this the hopes and dream of wedding venues, it’s a clear necessity for the wedding industries survival. *Speech from Dec 3, 2020
The Future for Weddings
We’ve outlined many of our thoughts in our articles How are Weddings Changing? and Popular Wedding Trends for 2021 and yes, we do believe 2020 has shaped a completely different industry, weddings have had to change and couples will begin to adapt their planning to new needs and wishes.
I will leave you with some straight talking positivity, I can’t tell you this year is going to be your best yet and big weddings will go ahead 7 days a week but I can tell you there is a future of weddings poised to happen and things will get better. During the Christmas and New Year period we have seen a huge surge in traffic and record number of enquiries for our wedding venues, engagement season has begun, and although things are different this time, wedding planning is taking place. Enquiries for 2022, 23 and 24 are happening, couples are still planning!
Couples want to their find dream venue and will need to hear your confidence as venue owners and managers, after all weddings are about love, joy and excitement, not fear and worry. Stay optimistic, positive and upbeat. We will get through this together.