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Why are weddings restricted when any number of people can go to the pub?

Written by on 27 September 2020

Gemma Bowditch, from Somerset, was due to get married this winter but changing government rules have left her frustrated and upset.

We got engaged on one very wet Thursday in August, while walking our dog in the rain, Pete got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. We decided on a date and fell in love with a venue near Frome, Somerset. Once the deposit was paid, we were able to start planning our perfect wedding day.

We have spent hundreds of hours making floral wreaths for the church, table decorations, garlands for all the fireplaces in the house, and I asked friends and family to save all their flower petals so I could make our confetti.

Every supplier was booked, deposits all paid, but then came the announcement in March: No weddings. Then that became weddings of five, weddings of 30, and now weddings of 15.

Four of our closest friends have postponed weddings this year but Pete and I have remained positive, hoping that by November the number of guests permitted would increase. We had discussions (and tears) over how we could narrow our guest list from 100 to 50 if we needed to.

But we finally accepted that we needed to reduce our numbers to 30 if we were to go ahead. We decided to get married with 30 people this year and to celebrate our first anniversary next year with a party for those who could not attend the wedding.

What you can and can’t do – and the penalties for breaking the rules

We ordered 30 handmade face masks, individual hand sanitisers, instructions – all in individual bags for guests to collect upon entry into the venue. This took substantial time and extra money, but we wanted to keep our guests as safe as we could.

More from Covid-19

Our venue is a private, exclusive hire only so no ‘members of the public’ would be able to walk in (as they would at a pub). We had confirmed that there were no weddings the week of our wedding or the day after. But then we found out we couldn’t have music or dancing (another blow and a few tears). We looked at alternatives and found we could have some evening entertainment – an extra cost but worth it so our guests could still enjoy the evening.

By September we had accepted the 30 person wedding but on Tuesday 22 September, I turned on the TV. I called up to Pete and in the time it took him to run down the stairs I was in floods of tears. We had everything in place and just eight weeks to go… what on earth were we going to do now?

We still do not fully understand the reasoning behind it. In March it seemed fair as all venues, such as pubs and restaurants, were shut. Now they can have well over 30 people (from different families and locations) until 10pm. Schools, universities and workplaces stay open. Funerals and wakes can take place with 30 people.

But 30 family members, in a private home with no members of the public, cannot gather for a socially-distanced dinner and celebration. Where is the scientific evidence to say that weddings spread COVID more than these other events?

Pete and Gemma were due to get married this winter but changing government rules have left them frustrated and upset.
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Pete and Gemma want the government to reconsider restrictions placed on weddings

Some might say “it’s just a wedding”, “at least you’ve found a date for next year”, “it gives you more time to save”. But it’s not just a wedding – to us it’s a marriage, everything it symbolises, and I’ve already waited two years to marry the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, I don’t want to wait any longer.

We know the government is trying to control the virus but we are painfully aware that they are ruining the dreams of hundreds of couples and probably closing the businesses of hundreds of self-employed people who rely on the wedding industry.

We have watched and listened to so many news articles and it is devastating to see how little weddings are mentioned. All seem to focus on pubs having to shut at 10pm. At least they can be open!

Weddings take months or years to plan so giving seven days’ notice of such major changes is completely unacceptable. You can’t just postpone a wedding in seven days, or cancel without losing thousands of pounds.

I tried to remain positive and supportive of the rules and regulations. But my mental health has worsened, my stress and anxiety levels are through the roof and any time someone mentions the ‘W’ word I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or both. I want to get married without having to decide whether my grandparents are more important than Pete’s.

We want the government to reconsider the 30-guest rule for weddings. It could save hundreds of couples and small business owners the worry, money, stress and tears that we are experiencing.