Leeds wedding industry 'on tenterhooks' ahead of Monday’s lockdown exit strategy announcement

Wedding venues around Leeds are eagerly anticipating the Prime Minister’s announcement to see whether the wedding industry will start to head back to normal.

Saturday, 20th February 2021, 6:00 am
Will full weddings in Leeds resume this year? Photo: SWNS

Currently, weddings can only happen in exceptional circumstances, and can only take place with up to six people.

This has meant wedding venues in Leeds have had to stay closed and many weddings have had to be postponed, some more than once.

Claire Thomas, managing director of Wharfedale Grange, said: “I think everyone is waiting on tenterhooks really because it’s going to affect so many people’s lives.

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Will full weddings in Leeds resume this year? Photo: SWNS

“We own this place, if we’re closed, we’re closed and if we’re open, we’re open but for venues that hire the place, that would be huge.”

Some venues have had to get creative and evolve into restaurants just to keep business coming in.

Wharfedale Grange was able to seat 165 people in its restaurant before Christmas but has been unable to hold a wedding with more than 30 people since March.

The venue has said that if it was able to operate at 50 per cent capacity for socially distanced, seated weddings, that would still be 135 people.

By the restaurant rules, this is 30 people fewer than it had dining before Christmas.

New Craven Hall, another wedding venue near the centre of Leeds, was able to hold reduced capacity dining and drinks events but has been closed since lockdown in November.

Owners Jane and Ben said: “Throughout the period when restrictions were relaxed last year, there was a strong sense of injustice in the wedding industry in that we were restricted to a frankly unviable number of guests, rather than a capacity-based system like the rest of hospitality.

“Having to tell a couple that they were only allowed 15 or 30 guests was devastating for them and us, especially when they could go and sit in a restaurant with 70 strangers.”

The rest of the UK’s wedding industry has been showing its frustration with the situation through #whataboutweddings on Twitter.

One person said: “Anxiety levels sky high wondering if I can have my 200-guest wedding in August.”

Others are also saying how concerned they are for everyone involved in the wedding industry from wedding dress shops, to florists, to caterers.

Wharfedale Grange said: “I’m sure that brides are just desperate to move forward.

“We’re talking about brides from the end of March and April 2020 who have had to postpone three or four times.”

There have also been calls for the creation of a Minister for Hospitality to lobby for the industry.

A petition was created, and to date has had nearly 210,000 signatures, and was debated in parliament but nothing came of it.

Ross Tatham, general manager at Hazlewood Castle, said: “Hospitality seems to be the first thing to close and the last thing to open when actually once all the strict rules and regulations have been put in place, I would say that hotels and hospitality venues are probably one of the safest places so it’s strange that hospitality always seems to be left behind.

“I think a little bit more trust in the industry is needed because we can operate, and we can operate safely.”

No one currently knows whether the Prime Minister will mention weddings on Monday, but the venues in Leeds just hope they get a bit more clarity.

New Craven Hall said: “Like everyone else, we would like to see a realistic roadmap out of lockdown being put forward, as couples, venues and suppliers have pretty much been left guessing and waiting for the past several months with no idea of when restrictions will ever end.”

Wharfedale Grange said: “If they would just open up with 50 per cent capacity to start with, it would just get everybody working.”

Hazlewood Castle said: “It’s difficult when you’re in lockdown and you don’t have an end in sight so hopefully on Monday we’ll get some news.”