Please help us’: Wedding industry ‘close to collapse’ with 400,000 struggling workers

Wedding suppliers have pleaded with the Government to support 400,000 struggling workers.

Industry leaders this week met officials at No10 for crunch talks over the need for a roadmap to reopening amid fears the industry is “close to collapse”.

After 95% of weddings were postponed in 2020, three-quarters of firms suffered revenue losses of more than 75%, and some have folded.

Tamryn Settle, of the #WhatAboutWeddings campaign group, told the Mirror: “Businesses who haven’t earned since last year are now losing all the money that they hoped to earn this year.”

Many suppliers say they have missed out on government support.

Venues are struggling with fixed overheads and business owners say self-employment support payments only cover a fraction of lost earnings.

Half of businesses have not been able to access Local Restrictions Grants or Additional Restrictions Grants.

Those who have got just £1,334 on average, a survey found.

And the financial strain is taking its toll, with 90% of suppliers reporting a severe impact on their mental health.

A Mirror probe into wedding businesses found many workers are suffering from anxiety and depression.

Suppliers said they need a realistic plan for when weddings of 50 or more will be allowed, so couples can book with confidence.

Others stressed the need to investigate rapid testing to allow events to reopen safely.

Tamryn added: “It’s heartbreaking hearing from suppliers who have to sell their equipment or move back in with their parents.

“Not knowing where we stand is just destroying people’s mental health right now.”

Tamryn called on the Government to urgently provide financial support to the industry, and added: “We have built a £15billion industry.

“Please don’t turn your back on us. It’s not about opening when it’s unsafe – businesses just want to be there for the recovery.”

Her plea comes after the newly-formed UK Weddings Taskforce asked for a sector-specific support package and for weddings to be included in the PM’s roadmap out of lockdown, due on February 22.

Sarah Haywood, taskforce spokeswoman, said: “The wedding industry is close to collapse.

“It has received no sector-specific support, despite not being able to trade in any viable way for 11 months.”

Almost 825,000 couples are due to marry in the first two years after events can resume, spending an estimated £25bn between them.

A Government spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with stakeholders in the wedding industry and the Places of Worship Taskforce.

“Wedding businesses can access the Government’s…package of support worth £280bn, including the extended furlough scheme, loan schemes, grants for businesses forced to close of up to £3,000 a month, and £1.6bn shared between local authorities for discretionary grants.”

Wedding shop owner

Emma Meek, who owns the Miss Bush bridal boutique, warned that if the shop is forced to shut for the first key quarter of 2021, she could lose 40% of the year’s business.

The store, in Woking, Surrey, had to close for four-and-a-half months last year.

And 90% of Emma’s 2020 brides have postponed their weddings, leaving her storage facilities at bursting point.

Emma, 54, told the Mirror: “We have got to put weddings on the same level as every other type of hospitality and acknowledge its importance to the economy.”

Celebrant

Lynn Tierney, 64, had 19 bookings in her diary for last summer but performed only two.

She has had to manage on her pension and was not eligible for government support.

Lynn, from Witney, Oxon, said: “It has had a devastating effect. Now gradually we are seeing postponements from this year into next year.

This year, I had 16 bookings and now I have 11 on my board. I know it’s the same for lots of people but I do feel the wedding industry has been ignored and left out.”

Wedding DJ

Chris Henderson has struggled with depression and could face bankruptcy if his bank refuses to defer his bounceback loan repayments.

The 30-year-old, from Middlesbrough, was homeless before he started building up his business seven years ago.

Chris said it was “utterly heartbreaking” to see 90% of his gigs cancelled last year, and his diary for this year is currently empty.

He added: “I can’t even sell my equipment… because there’s no one to buy it. DJs are all in the same boat.”

Wedding planner

Victoria Abrahams-Walker normally helps to organise 30 weddings a year,
but she has only managed one since November 2019.

The 41-year-old, who also runs a stationery business in Leeds, said she and her clients were stuck “in limbo”.

She told the Mirror: “When there is no money coming in but overheads are the same, how long can you carry on?

“We are viable and have got business stacking up, but how long will it be before we get that tap switched on?”

“We need some financial support to see us through.”

Videographer

Videographer Mike Savory, 39, carried out only two of 43 bookings from last year.

Pleading for proper government support and a plan, he said: “If they are going to wipe out another year of weddings I have worked damn hard to build my business and my reputation and it’s being taken away from me. It feels like we are being forgotten. We need help.”

The dad-of-two from Norwich lost 90% of his income in 2020, forcing his wife to take up an extra day of work.

And for 2021 he has already lost 30% of his business for the year.

“I think we all understand that weddings couldn’t take place,” he added.

Venue owners

Venue owner Lara Gill, 32, was signed off work with stress, anxiety and depression after all 30 weddings planned at her exclusive country retreat in Bude, Cornwall, were postponed last year.

With monthly overheads of £12,000 and anxious couples – some of which have had to postpone three times – the pressure became too much.

She said: “I feel like we have been totally forgotten by the government and we are not worth their time.

“If we can’t do this season in some viable capacity then I really think the wedding industry won’t be here as we know it.

“It’s just difficult that through no fault of our own we have been left in this position, and it feels like nobody really cares.”

Hair stylist

Bridal hair stylist Jennie Galgey, 50, from Essex, said it felt like she had “lost everything” when she was forced to stop working.

The mum-of-two said she has been fighting tears on a daily basis after her bookings for last year were slashed from 80 to just 14.

“I think it is a human right to get married,” she told the Mirror. “This has been a real strain on brides. We need a roadmap.

“And if we don’t get financial support soon for the wedding industry there’s lots of people who are hanging on but their fingernails.

“Those businesses could sadly go under which will affect couples.”