MORE than 600 couples with bookings at venues across East Lancashire have had to postpone their weddings due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

James’ Places, which runs Mitton Hall, Eaves Hall, Holmes Mill and the Shireburn Arms in the Ribble Valley, has had 460 ceremonies put back since the beginning of lockdown, with a further 170 couples rescheduling celebrations for dates booked in the next six months.

But with the number of people permitted to attend weddings reducing from 30 to 15 from Monday, many more are expected to postpone or cancel.

Chorley Citizen:

Marketing manager at James’ Places, Heidi Kettle said: “We have cancelled some weddings due to the lockdown restrictions, but the majority of couples still want to get married so are postponing to future dates.

“Over 460 couples have rescheduled so far and we are now looking at rescheduling a further 170 across the group for couples with dates in the next six months.

“When the numbers were capped at 30, we had approximately 50 couples hoping to go ahead with their weddings but with that dropping to just 15 people next week, we expect this will fall to single figures.

“The 15 figure has to include the registrars, photographer, etc, so realistically the number is 12 guests, so in many families this doesn’t even cover both sets of parents and siblings.”

Chorley Citizen:

Wedding venues across East Lancashire are estimating they have lost half of their annual turnover due to the pandemic, with some saying the introduction of the new restrictions, which the government predict could last up to six months, will mean some establishments going a full year without generating any income.

Ms Kettle added: “We’ve probably lost around 50 per cent of our annual turnover. We’re working with couples on an individual basis to offer new dates, the option to go ahead on reduced numbers, or a refund.

“However, for the wedding side of the business there has not been any support really, above the furlough scheme which offered the opportunity to retain staff who weren’t working.

“And we have needed staff to work closely with couples throughout this period to rearrange their special days.

“It has been and continues to be enormously challenging for us. We feel very frustrated by the lack of support from wedding insurance companies too, who in the main have not paid out for any cancellations due to Covid and the burden has been shouldered by the venues like ours.”

Chorley Citizen:

Speaking about the 10pm curfew, Ms Kettle said it will of course have an impact on some of their licensed venues, but it is restrictions on groups visiting that will affect them most.

She said: "I think habits will adjust as they already have, people love socialising with friends and family, it’s part of our way of life so people will make plans within the current guidance to make the most of the situation."

At Bashall Barn, owner Simon Barnes says they were lucky to be in a fortunate position financially, but had this pandemic hit 10 years ago they would undoubtedly have been facing bankruptcy.

Chorley Citizen:

Mr Barnes said: "I'd like to know how many wedding venues, in another six months's time will be in as strong a position as we are, because unless there's additional support for venues there's a fifty-fifty chance of them not surviving.

"We are a venue that takes 80 to 200 so going from 30 to 15 makes no difference as people had already postponed when the original announcement was made.

"This six month element has shaken a lot more people though and we've had a stream of postponements for the first quarter of 2021.

"Weddings are completely uneconomical at 30 or 15 people, and we haven't had an economical wedding for six months and won't be able to for another six months, so effectively that's no income for a whole year.

"How many businesses do you know could survive without any income for a year?"

Chorley Citizen:

With Bashall Barnes offering couples the chance to reschedule their weddings for no extra cost, Mr Barnes said there has been little issue in that respect, but from a cash flow perspective he says it been 'a nightmare'.

"What I don't think the government has factored into account is the long term nature of the wedding industry, as the average booking is 17 months in advance," he said, "this is going to have an impact on us for the next two years at least.

"We are lucky we started the year strong, but a lot won't survive; I'm talking the florists and photographers - it's a real tough time for people."

Ms Kettle added: "Weddings are certainly not going out of style and there is still a demand from couples."

Although Mr Barnes thinks differently: "I wouldn't want to have a Covid-affected wedding, would you?"