NI Wedding venues jilted by lack of Executive support after year of devastation as first anniversary

NI Wedding venues jilted by lack of Executive support after year of devastation as first anniversary

01 April 2021

Northern Ireland’s leading wedding venues are calling on The Executive to provide a clear reopening criteria, starting with indicative reopening dates, following a year of severe loss and devastation.

The wedding industry in Northern Ireland has suffered over 90% loss of business over the past twelve months due to a cycle of lockdowns and restrictions slicing the number of wedding guests and venue capacities.

In pre-pandemic times, the wedding sector contributed £250m to the Northern Ireland economy, with around 8,000 weddings hosted each year. Now, venues and vendors are working at 10% capacity with a cap of 25 guests for ceremony only per wedding. It is hoped that Stage 3 will see the return of receptions as venues open in line with socially distanced capacity.

Industry leaders are now asking The Executive to lay out clear reopening criteria, indicative dates, and to provide information on the necessary data that will inform the size and scale of the opening of venues.

With peak wedding season being the summer, wedding operators and vendors are hoping to see indicative dates that will save this summer’s season and allow for some couples to be wed from May onwards. The industry is calling on a timescale to be published to ensure the right planning and time is afforded to couples planning their weddings for Summer 2021.

 

Sarah Mackie, Joint Owner of the Larchfield Estate in Lisburn and member of The UK Weddings Taskforce said:

 

“Without doubt, this has been the hardest year for our business. We have gone from being booked out and thriving to devastation in the space of twelve months. The wedding industry is currently only operating at 10% of its usual capacity, and this is having a major impact on specialist wedding businesses like ours right down to small suppliers.”

 

“Many exclusive wedding venues that are not within hotels were not eligible for financial assistance from the Government, with some not having received a single penny to date. We ask for parity on this front. This lack of support coupled with the stress and anxiety of emotional couples has put immense pressure upon our sector with 94% of wedding business owners reporting that their mental health has been affected by the situation.”

 

“Clarity on what data is needed for the reopening steps is now urgently required for us to begin to plan out how best to reopen and recover in the safest possible way that would be viable for our businesses.  Weddings take time to plan, and precision is needed to ensure our clients have a memorable day.” 

 

“The speed of the vaccination programme is commendable. Now is the time for the Recovery Plan to kick into action and for businesses like ours to begin trading properly again.”

 

“The Executive now must provide us with some indicative reopening times so that we can begin this process. Much of the summer’s bookings have already been lost or cancelled. We need to ensure this summer’s wedding season can go ahead, and there are no more disappointed couples or suppliers who already are under huge amounts of financial and mental stress.”

 

Emma Donaghy from The Old Rectory added:

 

“The wedding industry has been impacted severely by the pandemic. As a sector dedicated to providing the perfect day to couples across Northern Ireland, to see it so badly impacted by the pandemic is really hard. We are now looking to The Executive to provide some hope and guidance on the next steps for the sector to help map out recovery.”

 

“The industry has reported that around 60% of business has already been lost for this year, with further uncertainty over the viability of large-scale weddings this summer. It is time for support measures to be implemented for businesses which 85% of their income is reliant on weddings. A reopening date would be a start.”

 

“As with many businesses, a clear directive is needed for the reopening of the wedding industry. The industry can no longer wait in hope for reopening dates. We need firm clarity on when we can reopen and how that can be done. Livelihoods and marriages are counting on it.”

 

Colm Shannon, Chief Executive of Newry Chamber of Commerce said:

 

“Spring is also an important time for the wider supply chain market, supporting couples at this important stage in their lives.

 

“Jewellers have a key role to play and are excluded from the click and collect scheme at the moment. There are the many florists, fashion boutiques, hairdressers and men’s outfit shops who depend on the wedding business at this time of year.”

 

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster said:

 

“Like the wider hospitality sector, wedding venues and vendors have been decimated by this pandemic and the lack of Government support. The constant cycle of lockdowns and restrictions have meant any real opportunity for business has been virtually non-existent. Wedding venues have also been hit hard by the lead-in time for wedding planning meaning that venues could not sustain when restrictions eased in the summer due to the amount of business already lost.”

 

“A person’s wedding day is one of the most important days of their life. The Northern Ireland wedding industry does a fantastic job catering to a couple’s dream day and ensuring every detail and aspect of their wedding is provided for.”

 

“We cannot wait any longer to begin our long-term planning for reopening and sustaining business. Cash reserves, loans and furlough can only go so far. Now is the time for businesses across the hospitality landscape to begin their reopen journey and build back from the past twelve months.”