UK

Coronavirus weddings: ‘We have to phone 15 people and un-invite them’

Bride being walked down the aisle Image copyright Getty Images

“We have to phone 15 people and tell them they can’t come anymore, which is an absolute nightmare,” says Tony Slade, who is due to get married to fiancee Laura next week.

They had already limited their wedding guest list to fewer than 30, in line with the UK government’s coronavirus restrictions in England.

Now they face a further cull, as Boris Johnson announced the maximum number of people allowed at weddings is being cut to 15.

“More than likely we’ll probably still go ahead with it,” says Tony, from Edenbridge in Kent. “It’ll be Laura’s family of six and my family of five.”

The couple – who have been together for 10 years and have a daughter together – will “have a long chat about what to do this evening” and make a decision.

“I don’t know how you can have pubs but you can’t have weddings,” he says. “I understand there’s certain things they’ve got to do but I don’t think they’re looking at it in the right way.

“You can sit in a Wetherspoons with 100 people back to back but you can’t have more than 15 at a wedding, even spaced out.”

He adds: “I’m disappointed. Laura’s done all the planning in record time. She had about six of her mates who were bridesmaids who can’t come now. My best man and groomsmen can’t come either.”

The new rules have not been published yet – but if they are similar to the current regulations, the limit will have to include all attendees – including the registrar and suppliers such as photographers.

Amy and her fiance Alan are also facing the prospect of having to send out another batch of “un-invites” to their wedding.

The couple, who live in Cheltenham, originally cut down their wedding guest list of 100 to fewer than 30.

“Upset was the first feeling I had,” says Amy, of the moment when Mr Johnson announced the rules.

“We had got very excited about our new plan which we just made about three weeks ago. To cut it down again is another blow.”

Image copyright Jess Lowes
Image caption Amy and fiance Alan did not want to be identified

“I don’t understand how it fits with the other regulations,” she says. “Maybe I can understand them cutting down the reception, but the ceremony as well? Why does that have to be 15 when a church service can have as many as they want?”

Under the current rules, places of worship can decide their own limits for services – but not weddings – depending on how many people can safely fit inside while social distancing.

With her wedding in one month’s time, on 23 October, Amy, 35, who is a teacher, isn’t sure what she and her fiance will do, and says they will discuss it properly before deciding.

“People have booked their travel,” she says, with some guests due to travel from Northern Ireland. “That’s the problem.”

‘Just want to get on with it’

Some couples are determined to go ahead with their plans despite the new limit, not wanting to put their lives on hold.

“We just want to get married,” says James Hoggarth, a chartered accountant from Leamington Spa, who has been engaged to fiancee Lindsay for two years. “We have already got one child, we want to have another one at some point.”

Image copyright James Hoggarth
Image caption “It is what it is,” says James – “it is the hand that we have been dealt”

They originally had 110 guests planned for their wedding next month, which they then cut down to 30, and will now halve to 15.

“Cutting down the first time was difficult,” he says. “To then have to cut it again and have to cut out family is very hard. But it’s what you have to do.

“It’s difficult. It will almost certainly mean we will end up cutting aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.

“It will probably end up being that we end up with the three of us, two registrars and then very close family – parents, siblings, best man and maid of honour.”

James adds: “After the initial shock, I just want to get on with it,” he says. “It’s not nice but it’s unfortunately the world that we live in. We just want to have our day.”

‘We can’t make a living’

But it is not just couples who will be disappointed with the government’s change to the rules on weddings.

Marc Gough, who runs a crockery and glassware business in the wedding and events sector in Greater Manchester, said the cut to the limit for weddings to 15 was “heart-breaking”.

Image copyright Whitehouse Event Crockery
Image caption The wedding industry has “been completely, utterly decimated”, says Marc Gough

“I have moved nearly 300 weddings already from this year and then to put a restriction of up to 15 for six months, I now have to contact all the brides. We’re then possibly going to have to give refunds.

“I can’t go back to work, I can’t earn a living because you’re restricting me to weddings of 15 people,” Mr Gough said on BBC Radio 5 live. “We can’t make a living.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionBeth Johnson and Phil Hobbs had to scale down their wedding day

Mr Gough says that before the pandemic, his business Whitehouse Event Crockery had a turnover of £750,000.

“Now, I have probably turned over just £20,000. To walk into that warehouse, to put a smile on my face to the staff that I have left, to the clients that I deal with constantly, the brides, it’s truly heart-breaking.”

Mr Gough says it is “draining” having to put a “brave face on to my family, to business people, to my staff”, and called for more financial help from the government, including an extension to the furlough scheme which is due to end next month.

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