COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on practically every aspect of Irish society. With the death-toll still rising, and spikes in infection numbers occurring all too frequently in the past few weeks, there’s a palpable sense of pessimism in the country at the moment. If there was ever a time when happy events and celebrations were needed, it surely is now. It’s a pity, therefore, that the wedding industry faces ever-mounting challenges.
As part of the Government’s re-opening of the country after lockdown, Phase 3 (June) allowed for the re-opening of hotels and venues. Guidelines were issued by Bord Failte relating to weddings. The number attending a wedding at that time was capped at 50 (including staff), strict social distancing was recommended, and other guidelines were issued relating to food service (e.g. individual condiment settings, no sharing of water jugs/milk/sugar, etc.). As limiting as these guidelines appeared, it was hoped that Phase 4 would increase the numbers indoors to 100, and outdoors to 500.
The rising number of cases of COVID during July resulted in the extremely disappointing news that the numbers at indoor events would remain capped at 50 until August. Guidelines were further tightened in the past week, resulting in the requirement for all guests to vacate the premises by 11.30pm and face masks required to be worn every time a guest leaves a table.
In these difficult times, when the health and education systems are under pressure, certain parts of the country returning to lockdown, and a general air of uncertainty prevailing in society, it is easy to dismiss the need for weddings to go ahead as frivolous and low-priority. To dismiss it as such is to underestimate the value of weddings, not only in sentimental value to the couples and their families, but to the thousands of venues and suppliers that depend on weddings for their income, and the €1.5 billion the industry contributes to the economy per annum.
But “love conquers all”, as they say, and weddings are going ahead despite the challenges. We have seen the numbers of weddings that we service dramatically slashed, but in the past few weeks we have helped couples celebrate their “big” day in novel ways – in their conservatories, in back gardens, and in small and intimate venues. Couples have been inventive and patient, and have met the challenges of social distancing with responsibility and good humour. We salute every one of them, and wish them long and happy lives together. Their marriage may not have gotten off to the start that they had dreamed of, but we have no doubt that the determination and hard work at this stage shows that they can and will accomplish great things together.
Nobody knows when this important industry might return to “normal”, we only know that one day it will recover. In the meantime, it is important that we adapt to the Government’s guidelines, however strict they might be. To do otherwise would be to put the current system – as limited as it is – in danger. This was recently highlighted in an article about one of Ireland’s top wedding planners, Tara Fay, who predicts that weddings could be cancelled altogether if guidelines are not observed. Having worked with Tara on a recent wedding that ticked all the boxes of current guidelines, and yet was creative and fun, we can attest that with some creative thinking and determination, great weddings are possible in the current climate. Let’s none of us put that in danger!