Bridebook, the UK’s no 1 wedding planning app, has seen around 64% of 2020 UK weddings impacted by Coronavirus, either due to postponements, cancellations, or travel logistics, costing the global wedding industry £87.5bn.
Belief Wedding Creators, an international platform for wedding planners, vendors and designers, has just created a report on the impact of Covid-19 on 2020 weddings. It shows that 15.6% of global weddings (17.2% in the UK) have been postponed to 2021, 6.29% have been cancelled completely and 30% of global weddings (29.3% in the UK) have been postponed to later in the year.
The latter is a risky move, particularly when the longevity of social distancing rules and the long-term impact of Covid-19 is unclear.
“It is important to have a clear Plan B for any wedding in 2020,” says CEO of Belief Weddings, Giovana Duailibe, especially when the average cost of a global wedding is $49,709.
Although it is a small price to pay for global safety, these cancelled and postponed nuptials may have radically changed the way we all look at weddings from now on.
Will we want 300 plus people at a wedding anymore- will we even be able to? Or has the panic of Covid-19 made us rethink the wedding entirely?
Irena, 32, was meant to be getting married this July. She had 200 guests, a stately home venue just outside of London. She had flower girls and bridesmaids, a tiered cake, a band, and a floral ‘theme.’ In short, she was having what could be described as The Big White Wedding.
Her big wedding has now been cancelled and she’s decided not to postpone.
“My fiancé and I were always going to have a small registry office wedding before the big day anyway,” she says, “This whole process of planning a huge wedding just to see it go up in smoke, has been far too stressful and upsetting. I can’t plan another one right now.”
Instead, Irena hopes she will be able to keep her July registry office date – with just their parents in attendance.
“This has made me realise that I just want to get married,” she says, “I don’t care about anything else anymore. Maybe in a few years time we will have a big delayed party, but I just can’t put myself through it all again right now. Getting married is, for me, far more important.”
Irena is fitting into what many wedding industry professionals are calling the trend for ‘Micro Weddings’ – a gathering of between 20-50 guests that is somewhere between an elopement and a traditional wedding. It was already a growing trend before the pandemic, as cash-strapped millennials realised the only way to afford that Pinterest-perfect big day was to slash the guest list.
Bridebook’s founder, Hamish Shepherd, believes that those affected by Covid-19 wedding delays this year, will fall into one of two camps.
“There are definitely two routes that couples seem to be taking,” he says, “Either the micro-wedding route, with just their very closest family and friends, or the go big or go home route.”
He has already predicted that 2021 will be “The Year of the Wedding,” and that demand for wedding dates will mean more unusual days and seasons are chosen.
“With the backlog of 2020 weddings alongside the regular 200,000+ yearly weddings, the number of postponements far outweighs the number of weekends available in 2021, and we are already seeing a huge shift trend towards more weekday and off-season winter weddings,” he says, “Within the wedding industry, the trend for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday weddings has been growing, and as a suitable solution for many couples, the trend is set to explode in 2021.”
The unprecedented cancellation of so many weddings, is also forcing couples to think imaginatively about what they really want from their wedding.
Revered British bridal designer Phillipa Lepley, has seen this translate into wedding dress design.
“A high number are enquiring about what I call classic ‘fairytale’ dresses. Big skirts and statement silhouettes… ones with real wow factor! At the same time we are also working with some brides who are hoping to have smaller more intimate wedding celebrations in the not too distant future, and they are searching for a serene, ’simple’ but very beautiful stand out dress” she says, “Lots of these postponed brides are exploring exciting ideas with bespoke embroidery and special embellishments on dresses and veils. It feels as though every decision they make has even more meaning behind it than ever before.”
The challenge of thinking creatively about a new wedding has been set for Claire, 33, whose dream wedding this June was cancelled due to Covid-19.
“We spent way over a year planning a very specific destination wedding, in Puglia,” she says, “Now, everything is cancelled and we cannot reschedule as our venue- which we spent so long looking for-is fully booked until 2022.”
Claire and her fiancé are now planning a new wedding from scratch.
“Though we are obviously gutted, it has made us excited to use our imagination and come up with a new idea,” she says, “We thought about just having a small legal ceremony but when we thought about what we were the most looking forward to, it was the ceremony itself- having all our favourite people there. Legally getting married won’t change much for us so we have decided to wait until we can do it the way we want.”
It has also massively changed Claire’s attitude towards her wedding.
“I can’t believe that ten weeks ago I was stressed about the invitation design!” she remembers, “Now I don’t care about flowers or candles or anything else like that. I just want to have everyone together for a big party. I don’t even care where or when anymore!”
Leah, 29, has already seen her May wedding date come and go, marked instead by a zoom call with friends and family and the downing of many of their bottles of wedding champagne.
She has postponed her wedding – in its entirety – to next May, with nothing changed besides the year, and her mindset.
“I definitely still want a big wedding, as that’s what we planned and that’s what I have always wanted,” she says, “But I will be so much more relaxed about it now. I don’t care if it rains, or if some detail isn’t perfect. I’ll just feel so bloody happy that it’s finally happening.”
“I think the drama of weddings will change,” she predicts, “Like, who cares if the napkins don’t match the bridesmaids’ dresses or silly stuff like that. It’s made us all realise we’ll be lucky just to be able to get married at all- and the added bonus will be to be able to do it with friends and family there.”
One thing that has changed, however, is that she is now hoping to be legally wed this year- in a small simple registry office affair.
“What this made me realise is that the legal part of getting married- not just the party- is actually important to us” she says, “Not to be too morbid, but I think at a time like this, it is vital to be legally someone’s next of kin.”
And what of those newly engaged, or even hoping to marry some time in the next few years?
Katy, 32, who got engaged earlier this year, says she is not attempting to even plan a wedding until we know more about the trajectory of the pandemic, but, she says, “It has certainly made us think long and hard about what our priorities are with the wedding- who we absolutely need there, what is most important to us about the day.”
“For many couples, this time has given them a chance to consider what they really feel is essential for their special day,” says Hamish, “For some, this has meant coming to the realisation that all they need is family and a couple of friends. For others, they have been left wanting the biggest, boldest celebration possible. Post-quarantine couples will feel free to challenge what a traditional wedding looks like, and will feel free to celebrate their day in the way that they feel represents them most as a couple, whether it’s a smaller family-style dinner or a crazy late-night fiesta.”
It has certainly made me, an un-engaged woman in a long term relationship, suddenly examine in a serious way what I would want from a wedding too. What would I miss most about my wedding if it got cancelled? I realise that I would fall in the camp of wanting as many people as I love there as possible, that I wouldn’t care about flower arrangements or matching napkins. Just as I miss my friends now, I would miss them at my imagined wedding.
Advice for future brides
I ask one of the postponed brides, what one piece of advice they would pass on.
“If I could give a future bride any advice, it would be to get legally married very soon after you get engaged, and then plan the big fun party a year or so later,” says Leah, “I think it takes the stress out of it and you are so loved up right after you get engaged that the legal wedding would feel really special. Planning a wedding can be so much work that you sometimes forget the real reason is to actually get married and be with the person you love. Coronavirus has certainly reminded us of that, which is one surprising positive.”
It was the same for every bride I spoke to. Big party or small, streamlined ceremony, they all agreed; as long as they get married to the one they love, this year or the next, they’ll be happy.