The UK Weddings Taskforce has calculated the wedding sector will lose £325m for every week of delay if the government does not go ahead with the planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions on 21 June.
There are an estimated 50,000 weddings planned in the four weeks from 21 June in danger of being cancelled if the restriction on guest numbers (currently 30 in England) is not lifted.
In a meeting with ministers on 19 May, the Taskforce said it asked to discuss a contingency plan for weddings should the nation not meet Step 4 by 21 June, which the government declined to explore. It is now too late for any contingency owing to the preparation of wedding businesses, the requirements of the supply chain and the significant investment already made in hiring and training staff and getting infrastructure ready. As of today, 26,000 couples have paid in full for their weddings from 21 June. That figure increases by 1,800 couples every day.
Furthermore, it is estimated that 300,000 workers – 75% of the workforce – will not return to work and will be at immediate risk of redundancy as the sector's 60,000 businesses continue to grapple with heavy restrictions, a lack of consumer confidence and looming emergency loan repayments.
Of couples who have booked a wedding in the four weeks after 21 June, 80% claim they will cancel their weddings and a further 25% with weddings booked for later this summer will cancel due to the ongoing uncertainty.
There is also an estimated 550 tonnes of food on order between 21 June and 8 July that will go to waste, impacting the supply chain and wholesalers, growers and producers. Likewise, an estimated 150 tonnes of flowers and foliage ordered for the same two-week period will go to waste, a further blow to the UK's 8,000 florists and many wholesalers and growers who invested heavily on a rebound in the wedding sector.
Around £16.5b has been lost by the sector since the first lockdown, with 320,000 weddings having been postponed or cancelled.
Weddings Taskforce spokesperson and wedding planner Sarah Haywood said: "A hugely expensive, irrecoverable investment has been made by the decimated weddings sector in the ramp-up to full reopening on the 21 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.
"For wedding businesses, the loss is not just the £325m for each week's delay to full reopening. It is the millions in addition lost on staff wages in the last six to eight weeks to prepare for 21 June, and the effects on cashflow for businesses who have not been able to trade in a commercially viable form for 15 months.
"The harsh treatment of our sector, lack of parity with other closely related industries, and government's refusal to work with us on sensible solutions to see the sector through to the other side of the pandemic now jeopardises 400,000 jobs. 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."
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