How Venues in the UK Can Prepare for Socially Distanced Weddings
With the hope restrictions for weddings will be eased and allowed there is certainly no guarantee that weddings will be back to ‘normal’ and things could certainly be very different for a while yet.
When weddings can take place there will be guidance published by the government to help with preparation, what is allowed and what isn’t, as times goes by then hopefully these restrictions will change and be eased, this could be small outdoor weddings only, a limit on the number of people at the wedding, distancing measures and overall capacity restrictions.
The Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) is an industry body that supports all members of the British wedding industry and they are working hard to help produce guidelines to help the government formalise a roadmap to allow weddings to commence again and as soon as possible.
At the moment weddings with up to 30 people can take place from 4th July 2020 in England, however this is a ceremony only, no reception, no drinks, no canapés and no party. The limit of 30 people includes the couple, guests, registrar and photographer, but this is a first step, larger weddings will go ahead again and it is important your couples know this too.
Thoughts on preparing for weddings again
Firstly, no one wants a socially distanced wedding, no one wants to have to change their wedding plans, limiting guests, restrictions or not having their loved ones there.
Requirements from couples will also change, some may want a small intimate wedding so they can get married as soon as possible, others may still want a day with all their friends and family and have no intention of reducing their guest list so may look to rearrange even further into the future.
Mid week weddings will become popular as couples look to rearrange and book available dates, we expect the next 2 years to be very busy as you play catch up with couples from this years postponements.
With this in mind, what preparations can you start to make and what things can you think about for when weddings can potentially happen once again? These are our thoughts and areas we think you can start considering in preparation for when larger weddings can begin again.
Space and Restrictions
When official guidelines are given it’s paramount to remember that no couple wants a socially distanced wedding, the bride wants to be walked down the aisle with her father as she has always dreamt, without face masks, 2 metre distancing and taped off floors. Couples want to hug loved ones in celebration, party together and enjoy momentous moments and we certainly hope they can.
As a venue it is important to look at things that you can do to help which allow you to hold weddings to their best potential when the go ahead is given. There could be ways you can streamline your service or open other areas of your venue to champion the smooth running of weddings for upcoming bride and grooms but which also adhere to strict guidelines. A balance of joyous celebrations and safety needs to be met.
What can you do as a venue, do you have an outdoor space, is there an area you can use which is not at present, can you take a wedding outside, if you do what would you need?
Are you using the space you have, if there were social distancing restrictions inside, how can you arrange tables to accommodate and what capacity would you have? How can you ensure toilets can be accessed safely and hand sanitiser is available. How can areas for bridal preparation be safely used? Can you increase the space available for these areas?
Every venue is different so it is important to look at what you have, areas you use and don’t use and think of creative ways to use those spaces.
Keeping a distance
When weddings and receptions can start again it is important to consider the journey of the day and the impact on different stages of the wedding, such as;
- Guests arriving and parking
- Walking into the venue
- The ceremony
- Congratulating the bride and groom
- The drinks reception
- Evening meal
- And finally the evening party
It is important that a distance is maintained and there are no large groups of people congregating, so it is important to look at these areas and peoples potential behaviour through the day. When guests arrive at your venue to park, do you have clear signage showing guests where to go? Perhaps a member of staff is needed to help guide and move guests along to stop them gathering in certain areas.
Knowing who is there
It is important you know who is attending gatherings at your venue to help with track and trace if someone was to fall ill, both guest and staff lists will need to be kept. This should include who is coming and who actually attended. This information is likely to need to be stored for up to 21 days.
You could obtain a guest list from the bride and groom or make it simple for them by producing an online form which guests complete pre-arrival and then this can be ticked off on arrival. For example guests arrive, they are asked for their names, ticked off and then directed to where they need to go next. A bit like hosting a strict VIP event.
If someone was to fall ill you will need easy access to details of all staff and guests that were there on that day. Couples will want to ensure the safety of their guests and would likely be willing to help provide any information if needed of guests.
Food and Drink
An important part of any wedding is the cuisine and yet again this can easily be effected as the pub and restaurant industry is finding out. Couples will obviously still want delicious food and beverages so it’s important to look at the logistics around your services. Instead of guests queuing for the bar or a buffet service could you offer exclusive table service to eliminate close groups congregating, perhaps you have table buzzers to call a waiter over to take orders, or perhaps an app to help to streamline the process and help adhere to distancing measures.
Another important area to consider is extra staffing to accommodate with strict rules, this could be extra waiters, bar staff, kitchen staff or cleaners, keep in mind you may require more if individuals were to fall ill or have to isolate. Put plans into place and work out back up plans for staffing shortages.
Think about how you will serve drinks, canapés and food at your venue.
Recording a wedding has always been important, certainly for guests that cannot make it due to location or health, however it is even more important now. With travel restrictions and people having to shield themselves there is likely to be people that unfortunately cannot make it, with that in mind, what service can you offer to help your couples?
The ability to stream the ceremony and speeches is a great option allowing couples to include people that may not be able to attend. How can you help achieve this, do you have camera equipment, suitable software or is there a local company which can help or you can direct couples to. Do you have power supplies and outlets in place for the wedding party to bring their own equipment?
While there may be restrictions in place by the government, couples needs may also change, couples personal views and preferences can range from extra cautious to just wanting to let their hair down about the situation meaning you will need to adapt to their needs whilst enforcing safety guidelines.
A wedding isn’t a wedding without the celebrations into the night and a full dance floor, but restrictions may change this, creative solutions could keep the party going. Smaller dance floors but more than one, or perhaps adding high top tables or floor markings to the dance floor to help people keep there distance.
While everyone wants weddings to be happening again, some couples may not wish to go ahead with some of the restrictions or limitations in place and may wish to postpone. It is important to work with couples, show them what you are doing, show them what you can do and how you are protecting them and their guests.
What about viewings?
Viewings are so important, we believe virtual tours are here to stay, they are an excellent tool to showcase your venue in all its glory and a stepping stone to help couples come for a physical viewing. It’s true nothing can beat going to a venue itself, getting a feel for it, the space, the vibe, discussing your vision for the day and many of you may have begun opening your doors but with the situation still present and online presence so important, keep up with promoting your virtual tours.
For couples looking further a field from where they live, an online tour may just show them what they want and make them travel the distance to come and view your venue in person. This can also be said for destination venues.
At your physical venue viewings make sure you are prepared for the worried what if questions couples may have, even with potential 2021/2022 weddings, postponement, restrictions and uncertainty will still be fresh on their mind. If you can offer support and confidently explain what process’ you have in mind for various situations you can build a rapport letting them know they are in good hands.
Get your Calendar in Check
With couples re-arranging weddings and newly engaged couples looking to book theirs, there will certainly be an increase in mid week weddings, look at what availability you have and how you can incorporate mid week weddings, highlight dates which can be booked. Your diary organisation is going to be of extreme importance as the lockdown begins to ease more.
Ensure you are ready
These are just some areas to consider and without knowing exactly when weddings can take place and under what restrictions it is difficult to plan, however gearing your thought process and having different scenarios for possible circumstances can begin preparations allowing you to help couples who have their wedding booked with yourself and other potential bride & grooms. This gives you things to consider and things to think about with regards to your venue before formal guidelines are published. Every venue is different, so it is important to focus on your venue and what you can do to ensure weddings can return safely at your venue.
Try to remain optimistic, keep in contact with your couples and ensure they know you are doing everything you can as an industry and also as a venue to ensure their wedding can go ahead safely and as they would want it to.
Don’t wait, prepare your venue as best you can for weddings to return, getting steps and systems in place, thinking about table plans, safety of guests and staff, how you will communicate these changes to your couples and their guests. Larger scale weddings will return soon, so be ready to hit the ground running.
We shall update this article with more information as the situation changes.