2020 has well and truly thrown us all a curve ball. Who knew back in January that we’d see weddings and the way the wedding industry works completely turned on its head? From tight guest number restrictions to all-out bans, it’s been a challenging year for many of the small, independent businesses that make up our amazing industry.
Despite this, many wedding vendors have found ways to make their businesses work thanks to their willingness to be flexible, their creativity and their compassion for couples struggling to come to terms with their new wedding plans.
Here at Hitched, we’ve been so heartened by some of the stories that have emerged from suppliers and venues that we felt compelled to share them. From a venue that helped childhood sweethearts tie the knot just before lockdown to a DJ lending an ear – and an incredibly flexible approach – to his clients, we share the ways some wedding vendors have changed their businesses to survive COVID-19.
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In November, we spotted a seriously romantic story nestled amongst the frightening headlines that have become synonymous with 2020. The story came from one of our very own Hitched listed venues: Bath’s Historic Venues. We chatted to Marketing Executive Gemma Reynolds, who filled us in on the media impact the story had when couple Tilly Christmas and Kieran White tied the knot.
“The story was featured in the national and local press, on local TV news broadcasts, on the BBC News website, and the couple were interviewed on BBC Radio 2 by Jeremy Vine,” Gemma tells us.
The story came about when school sweethearts Tilly and Kieran had their large July wedding at another venue cancelled. The couple decided to book a wedding venue with extra wow-factor to make their 15-person COVID-compliant wedding even more special. The ceremony space beside the Grand Bath and the Roman Baths’ Terrace fit the bill perfectly, and the team were able to fit them in on 3rd November, just two days before the second lockdown and in time for Christmas – ideal for a White-Christmas wedding!
Bath’s Historic Venues have also hosted plenty of small weddings that didn’t make the headlines but certainly made the year for their couples. July bride Pippa was thrilled with the flexible service from the iconic Bath venue: “The Roman Baths has stood for 2000 years and is timeless and beautiful regardless of lockdowns and pandemics. It was perfect for our original plan of 60 people and it was equally special with only seven. Having a unique space like that to yourselves is a once in a lifetime experience", Pippa explains.
“We count ourselves lucky to have been working with such an understanding venue. The Bath's Historic Venues team were the best people to have on our side throughout this whole experience, they were great at communicating with us about the new guidelines and letting us know what was our responsibility and what was theirs. We changed our date twice and both times it was no stress, this helped us so much and gave us the confidence to go ahead with the day.
“It was the perfect day (even the weather showed up for us!) and everyone working there on the day were so lovely and helpful. Having a lovely wedding is still 100% possible, you just have to be a little flexible and accept the idea that you get to celebrate over a much longer period of time.”
Speaking of celebrating over a longer period of time, Gemma and the team invite couples to take advantage of their 'marry now and party later' offering, and it seems many are keen to do so: “Couples who hold an intimate ceremony at the Roman Baths can take advantage of our two-part wedding offer: If you have a ceremony before April 2021 you’ll receive a 15% discount on the hire of your chosen venue for a party at a later date. You won’t pay anything for the party element until you have chosen a date.
“The Roman Baths have always been a popular choice for intimate and elopement weddings, even more so in the wake of government restrictions. We’ve had a real flurry of additional enquiries. In December, despite the uncertainty about the new tier system, we have 15 wedding ceremonies booked in, some of which have booked at very short notice.”
Gemma has found that many couples are embracing micro weddings, particularly those that struggled with the idea of being under the spotlight at a large celebration, and the flexible, safety-first approach at Bath’s Historic Venues has certainly helped to give couples the confidence to book.
A flexible approach is something that has also helped Tony Nanton, co-owner of Sugarbumps wedding DJs, as well as a compassionate service.
Back in March, Tony was dealing with tearful and upset brides coming to terms with the fact that their weddings would need to be postponed. Tony has taken each day and each new set of restrictions as they come: “I have rearranged our spreadsheet continuously. Not once have we been unable to help, as I have another two DJs who work for us, however Lukas and I have been able to commit to our bookings thus far.
“I’ve told couples that if they decide to downsize, change venue and need a smaller DJ option, we’ll commit to it and adjust our fee accordingly. If those changes go from huge wedding barn to a country pub for less hours, then so be it.
“When restrictions were lifted, I did a handful of sit-down gigs in Oxford. The two venues involved totally understood how to work with social distancing and the rule of six, the last gig was an absolute ball. Watching tables desperate to dance and everyone laughing and smiling was magical. Playing soulful House and Soul Weekender anthems was a blissful release! Livestreams just aren’t my bag, so it felt so good to drop a set, even if was just to a seated audience.”
While Tony has managed to rearrange bookings for weddings still going ahead, he has also had to face the unfortunate reality that some will not: “We have also had two break-ups in the last eight months. Again, the call is made to them to reassure and also check that they are in a good place. COVID life has impacted mental health and general wellbeing. I’m a 53-year-old guy with a full-time job (DJing has always been a fabulous paying hobby), good family life, and I’m doing okay. One phone call costs me nothing and I simply want to make sure that the client is okay.”
As well as checking in with his clients, Tony and his team are looking to the future: “When do we get back to making a room of people dance with the bride and groom? I have no idea, and I won’t even predict. However, we’ll roll with the punches, and as soon as the curtain is fully raised, Sugarbumps will be ready and focused.”
Another vendor looking ahead is Kent-based caterers Touchays, who have launched a boxed catering service for 2020. The team are ready to fulfil Christmas orders for take-aways locally and for hampers packed with goodies across the UK.
While the company have been working on micro weddings, the boxed service allows them to reach more clients and spread a little Christmas joy: “Couples and friends often ask us to supply special occasion meals for them to enjoy after their events have taken place, which we love to do. However, we decided as a business to adapt and launch a delivery service as we were finding that our clients wanted to enjoy our dishes at home instead of their usual takeaway. We love preparing our boxed food, made with love, and delivering to our clients and to see the happiness on their faces and know that they can indulge, dress up and have a special eat-in meal", explains owner Clare Smith.
"Touchays have sweet treats and hampers available to send anywhere in the UK. If you would like help preparing your Christmas dinner Touchays have this boxed and ready on receipt, to pop in your oven, so you can sit back relax and enjoy a glass of your favourite tipple as we’ve done all the hard work for you.”
After a year like 2020, we predict many clients will be keen to take Tochays up on their offer of a hassle-free Christmas.
Read the latest COVID wedding help and advice.