Wedding venues urge the executive to establish clear plans to reopen so that they can recover after a year of “heavy loss and devastation”.
The wedding industry in Northern Ireland suffered a 90% loss of business over the past year as coronavirus restrictions reduced the number of guests allowed to attend weddings and venues.
Additionally, the industry has stated that around 60% of its business has already been lost this year as there is uncertainty over the coming months that larger weddings could take place.
The wedding season is summer, so wedding vendors are encouraging Stormont to provide indicative reopening dates so that they have ample time to plan a safe reopening.
Before the pandemic, the wedding sector contributed £ 250 million to the local economy. 8,000 ceremonies took place every year.
Now the industry is 10% busy, with a cap of 25 guests for ceremonies.
Hopefully, in Phase 3 of the Executive’s Path to Recovery, the wedding receptions will return.
Sarah Mackie is co-owner of the Larchfield Estate in Lisburn and a member of the UK Weddings Taskforce, a group that represents all wedding companies in the UK.
She said the past year has been the toughest for her business and a lack of financial support for some venues has put immense pressure on the sector.
She continued, “Many exclusive, non-hotel wedding venues were not eligible for government funding, with some not receiving a single cent.
“This lack of support related to the stress and anxiety of emotional couples has put tremendous pressure on our sector. 94% of wedding business owners say their mental health is affected by the situation.”
“It is now urgent to clarify what data is needed for the reopening steps so that we can plan the best way to reopen and restore in the safest way that would be profitable for our business.
“Weddings take time to plan and precision is required to ensure our customers have a memorable day.”
Jewelers, florists and fashion boutiques also play an important role in wedding ceremonies.
Colm Shannon of the Newry Chamber of Commerce points out that these stores cannot currently offer click-and-collect services under the current restrictions.
Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said the broader hospitality industry had been “decimated” by the pandemic.
However, due to the long planning times for weddings, the venues are particularly hard hit. If the restrictions were loosened beforehand, the amount of business already lost meant they could not make a profit like other hospitality companies.
He said, “A person’s wedding day is one of the most important days of his life. The Northern Irish wedding industry is doing a fantastic job mastering a couple’s dream day and making sure that every detail and aspect of their wedding is taken into account. “
“We can’t wait to begin our long-term planning to reopen and maintain our business. Cash reserves, loans and vacations can only go so far.
“Now is the time for companies across the hospitality landscape to begin their reopening journey and look back on the past twelve months.”