The CEO and founder of Bridebook.co.uk sends out an urgent call to support and save our community and industry amidst the coronavirus pandemic
This is an opportunity for professionals, businesses and staff within the UK wedding industry as well as couples, families and wedding guests to highlight the insensitive and uncooperative behaviour of wedding insurers amidst the mass wedding cancellations due to COVID-19. Join us in asking for support from the British Government to ensure these insurance providers cover their responsibilities during this crisis.
Who we are:
The UK Wedding Industry is one that thrives on celebrating one of life’s happiest moments. Working fastidiously behind the scenes to ensure that every couple’s wedding day runs smoothly and exactly as they had hoped, our remarkable community hosts over 20 million wedding guests and 252,000 weddings every year in the UK, worth over £10 billion to Britain’s economy.
The industry is comprised of 139,000 businesses, mostly small, local or family-run, and combined we account for over 500,000 jobs in the UK. We are the caring, entrepreneurial, local small businesses that bring these weddings to life. From cake-makers to caterers, dressmakers to DJs, venues to violinists, florists to photographers, and so many more. We spend our days bringing joy and celebration to the entire population.
How COVID affects our industry:
The COVID-19 crisis and related government regulations have essentially wiped out the peak wedding season for 2020, from April through September, in which 80% of UK weddings take place. As a result, 36% of all 2020 weddings will not take place this year, and 56% (141,000 weddings, representing £5.6 billion) will be significantly impacted. Heartbreakingly, couples throughout the nation are scrambling to cancel and postpone one of the most significant and long-awaited days of their lives, with damaging implications to the livelihood of the many professionals supporting these weddings.
The unsupportive role of wedding insurers:
30% of couples, approximately 76,000 in total, purchase wedding insurance each year to provide reassurance for the unimaginable circumstance that the wedding doesn’t take place. Now that thousands of couples are in this exact predicament the wedding insurance industry is largely avoiding their financial responsibility. Different statements about coverage are being issued by each insurer, causing confusion and ultimately resulting in financial losses for couples, venues and suppliers.
The insurers have instead focused on steering couples to pressure their venue and suppliers to postpone to later dates at no cost, rather than paying out to the couples. Rather than accepting the liability themselves, they are pushing the financial burden back onto the budget-stretched couples and small businesses who are, in-turn, cannibalising their own future business to assuage the situation. At the same time, the insurers of these small businesses have themselves turned their backs due to the crisis. To date, we have only seen uncollaborative behaviour by this goliath insurance industry against our severely impacted community of small businesses.
The impacts of mass cancellations and postponements to the industry:
The wedding industry has effectively been brought to its knees having made huge sacrifices to help couples who haven’t purchased wedding insurance, while being pressured further to also cover those who have. The no-cost “in-kind” postponements that insurers are encouraging, in lieu of paying the couples, are detrimental to the livelihood of many wedding businesses across the country. This proposed ‘solution’ removes valuable future dates from suppliers’ calendars thus only exacerbating the impact of the crisis.
Our industry is also largely unable to secure new business for the foreseeable future due to venues being closed for viewings and registrars not taking any new bookings. This is to the further detriment of the extreme cash flow challenges that many businesses are experiencing within the wedding community.
Whilst many hospitality businesses will be able to spring back to life instantly post-crisis, the wedding industry will take significantly longer to recover due to protracted lead times in arranging a wedding and the legal requirements of giving notice. Already, in the short time that the UK has been dealing with cancellations due to coronavirus, many businesses have been forced to close their doors permanently, and we can expect more to come if our industry is left to absorb the financial losses of the cancellations on its own.
What we ask of the wedding insurers:
We implore wedding insurers to join the rest of the country during these incredibly tough times and act with more responsibility and empathy. We ask the insurance providers to understand that couples and venues are being forced, through no fault or choice of their own, to cancel weddings, and to recognise that their policies have been purchased specifically to address this challenge.
This is the time to step in and be supportive, not to step away. If wedding insurers financially support the third of couples who have wedding insurance, it would not only give the couples the reassurance and peace of mind that they deserve, but it could give the industry the lifeblood and capacity to survive.
What we ask of the British Government:
We ask the British Government to recognise the severity of the situation that the small businesses of the wedding industry are currently facing, and to stand with us. It is reprehensible that, in the face of a global crisis where our community is being forced to shut down business completely and cancel hundreds of thousands of weddings, the wedding insurers are not accepting their share of the financial responsibility. We are therefore asking for your help during this crisis, so that we can be there for our nation when they need us afterwards.
Why the UK needs our wedding community intact, especially following the pandemic:
Each wedding that takes place in the UK is an ecosystem in itself. From guests staying in local B&Bs and buying new outfits, to couples booking honeymoons and families finding gifts, to students waitering and caterers keeping supply-chains humming, to florists blooming, stationers printing, venues bustling and dancefloors jumping. And all in the name of love and celebration.
The world needs love and celebration more now than ever before, and I know our whole industry cannot wait to get everyone back on those dancefloors and smiling again. Weddings are joyous occasions, packed with friends and family, and filled with embraces. And in this awful crisis today it is those happy moments that we miss the most.
We don’t want to lose such treasured local businesses. We want to be here to celebrate with you, together, when all of this is over. As the future of the wedding industry hangs in the balance, our community needs the wedding insurers to understand the role they have to play and to start honouring their policies, helping couples and the industry recover from this disaster.
A vital contributor to both the British economy and the wellbeing of our nation, our industry hopes that you can support us through the challenging weeks ahead.
For your valued time reading this letter, we are truly grateful.
See you all on the dancefloor,
Hamish Shephard, Founder of Bridebook, Partner of family-run wedding venue, Hedsor House, On behalf of the UK Wedding Professional Community.
Image credit : The fabulous photography featured in this article is courtesy of www.davidstubbsphotography.co.uk