Leeds wedding businesses say they have been hit hard by coronavirus cancellations

Businesses in Leeds connected with the wedding industry say they have lost up to half their trade as the coronavirus pandemic has led to hundreds of ceremonies being cancelled.

By Emma Ryan
Saturday, 13th February 2021, 11:45 am

The pandemic has hit the wedding industry, as well as couples, hard.

The industry is worth £10bn each year, according to the Association of British Wedding Businesses, with the financial hit from cancelled and postponed weddings in 2020 costing around half of that.

And Leeds is no different, but there are signs of trends changing.

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Weddings at Oulton Hall.

At luxury venue, Oulton Hall, there are usually around 120 weddings held there each year. It drives at least ten per cent of the hotel’s business with extra revenue being made with guests staying over.

Last year it did around ten weddings and the knock on impact has been on jobs and staff - and there is still no certainty as to when business can be resumed.

General manager, Claire Steven said: “We are now in a stage where we are re-planning some weddings for the fourth time. We have been as flexible as we can with the knowledge that we have got in front of us at the moment. We are very much hoping that the majority of our weddings can go-ahead this summer.

“The impact (on the industry) has been huge. Obviously we don’t have the levels of business that we would have had, that has impacted the number of jobs that we have got available”

The Bridal Emporium in the Grand Arcade in Leeds.

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She added: “Individual travellers or family groups are still willing to come and stay with us, get away from it and enjoy the facilities. That will be very similar this summer. If you are looking at ‘staycations’, you can’t get availability anywhere decent for love nor money.”

There is also the knock on effect to suppliers and in turn, their suppliers.

Trevor Backhouse, from Patisserie Viennoise at Otley, told the Yorkshire Evening Post that in 36 years of business, last year was the worst.

Making wedding cakes accounts for 50 per cent of business and almost all the weddings they had on their books were cancelled or downsized.

He said: “My heart goes out to anybody to do with hospitality or tourism. Some brides were adamant to get married. The smallest one we did was just the bride and groom. Instead of having a big, decorated three tier cake they were going for a six inch sponge cake.

“People you would not even think of are being affected. The people we use to get deliveries of milk and cream have gone bust.

“Wedding cakes is at least 50 per cent of our business. We are fortunate we do other things with our confectionary and chocolate, we do three tonnes of chocolate every year so we have that to fall back on. I am lucky I own the property but for those paying rent as well it is horrendous.”

However, with couples looking to get love back on track, a boom for the industry is predicted for 2022.

The Bridal Emporium based in the Grand Arcade Leeds predicts a change in wedding trends for the next couple of years.

It was heading into 2020 with the potential for it to be the best year in business to date, but, with the outbreak of coronavirus, the business had to diversify.

Hannah Smyth said: “We had the first lockdown and introduced virtual appointments so we could continue the demand. During November lockdown we offered alterations for micro-weddings, it was lovely and great to be a part of it. There is a real element of romanticism about it.

“We adapted and have a VIP area outside the shop where brides (trying on dresses) can bring guests and they sit outside with a viewing area through the window.

“Myself, I would plan for a micro-wedding this summer. Everyone that has gone for it has said they loved it, it is interesting.

“This lockdown is the third one that we have gone through and it feels different this time but I think there could be a real boom. We have had a lot of people buying for the following year. We probably had 100 brides planning to get married in 2020 which have been pushed back two or three times. If people are thinking 2022, I think this summer there could be a real boom.”

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