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‘22 of 50 guests cancelled’ - the couples and businesses hit as coronavirus cancels weddings

PUBLISHED: 06:30 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:19 31 March 2020

Some of the couples and wedding businesses being impacted by the coronavirus. Photos, left to right, clockwise: Emily Follows, Hockwold Hall, Denise Bradley, Naomi Sowter, Getty Images/iStockphoto, Trina Lake and Vicky Wackett

Some of the couples and wedding businesses being impacted by the coronavirus. Photos, left to right, clockwise: Emily Follows, Hockwold Hall, Denise Bradley, Naomi Sowter, Getty Images/iStockphoto, Trina Lake and Vicky Wackett

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Vicky Wackett and Tom Baxter should be enjoying their first days of newlywed life.

Thousands of couples have been forced to cancel or postpone their weddings amid coronavirus. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoThousands of couples have been forced to cancel or postpone their weddings amid coronavirus. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Instead, they are among thousands of couples who have scrambled to reschedule their big day or remain in limbo over whether it will go ahead.

The government lockdown and instruction that weddings should be cancelled, has thrown an industry into disarray.

Miss Wackett and Mr Baxter, both 32 and from Dereham, were due to have a church ceremony and a reception at Swanton Morley’s Hunters Hall on Saturday, March 28 after three years of planning.

But even before lockdown, self-isolation measures put a question mark over proceedings.

“We heard from 22 of our 50 day guests, many who were older, who had been told by doctors they should stay indoors,” Miss Wackett said. “We were looking at only having half of our day guests.”

Vicky Wackett and Tom Baxter, whose wedding has been postponed. Photo: Vicky WackettVicky Wackett and Tom Baxter, whose wedding has been postponed. Photo: Vicky Wackett

Soon after, they decided to postpone, with the “amazing” staff at the hall able to find them a date in August.

“I’m pleased we postponed when we did,” she said. “We were very lucky. We are both singers so we do weddings and all our work has been cancelled, so we’re really lucky we didn’t have to pay for anything else.

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Emily Follows and Steven Moss, whose wedding is due to take place in June. Photo: Emily FollowsEmily Follows and Steven Moss, whose wedding is due to take place in June. Photo: Emily Follows

“It’s not something you even think to worry about - my main worry had been if the weather was going to be nice.”

Others, though, have less certainty.

Emily Follows and fiancé Steven Moss were due to marry at Norwich Castle in May, but their ceremony has been moved to June. Their reception, at Attleborough’s Connaught Hall, has been cancelled, and flights to Rhodes for their honeymoon in mid-May are yet to be scrapped.

Miss Follows, 26 and from Attleborough, said she isn’t optimistic the ceremony will go ahead.

She said there was a lot of confusion in the industry, adding that while they’d been refunded for their reception, they could end up as much as £5,000 out of pocket.

Naomi Sowter, with fiancé Johnny Parfitt and their son Seth. Photo: Naomi SowterNaomi Sowter, with fiancé Johnny Parfitt and their son Seth. Photo: Naomi Sowter

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“No-one knows what’s happening,” she said. “It is just one of those things, but it is heartbreaking. We’ve been planning for well over a year, all my wedding stuff is personalised with the date and at the moment it’s all just sitting in a big storage bag.”

For Trina Lake and Bradley Richards, who run The Crown pub at Costessey, they discovered they would have to cancel their wedding, which was due to be held at Glen Lodge in Bawburgh at the start of August, on the same day they closed the pub.

“We knew it was the right thing to do, but you have photographers, videographers booked, a dress on order - there’s so many things you have to think of,” Miss Lake said.

Naomi Sowter, 28, a nursing sister at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, was due to marry partner Johnny Parfitt on June 20 this year. The couple had prepared to dramatically scale down their ceremony when the Church of England restricted wedding ceremonies to five people.

“We were probably being slightly optimistic but we were talking about whether we should just have our mums with us, or our dads,” she said.

But the lockdown made the decision for them, and they have managed to reschedule their big day for October.

Trina Lake and Bradley Richards with fruit and vegetable boxes outside The Crown pub in Costessey. The pair found out they would have to cancel their wedding on the day they had to close their pub. Photo: Trina LakeTrina Lake and Bradley Richards with fruit and vegetable boxes outside The Crown pub in Costessey. The pair found out they would have to cancel their wedding on the day they had to close their pub. Photo: Trina Lake

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Another couple, who were due to get married in the last week of March, said they never imagined they’d have to tell their friends and family they were postponing their wedding.

They said when the government increased social distancing measures they felt there was “no way we could justify going ahead” adding that, with close friends and family aged over 70 and with underlying health conditions, they didn’t feel they could “put the lives of our loved ones at risk while celebrating the start of ours together”.

“One of the biggest blows came when we called our wedding insurance company and they advised us that if we ourselves decided to rearrange, and the venue was willing to go ahead, then we would not be covered for any extra costs incurred,” they said. “Thankfully, both the venue and all our suppliers have been extremely understanding and have allowed us to postpone without any charges.”

Hockwold Hall. Photo: Hockwold HallHockwold Hall. Photo: Hockwold Hall

They said they were aware that postponing a wedding was “minor” in the grand scheme of things, and said their hearts broke for those affected by the virus.

“It seems like the next couple of months are going to be extremely tough for all of us, but at least we know that when we do eventually get married we’ll be able to have one massive and, more importantly, safe celebration,” they added.

‘Four to six weeks is enough time’

Richard Thomas, owner of Hockwold Hall, said they were working to rearrange all weddings which were due to be held in the next few weeks, but had asked brides to be flexible.

Many brides and grooms have been able to rearrange their weddings for later in the year. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoMany brides and grooms have been able to rearrange their weddings for later in the year. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Like most venues, most couples book two to three years in advance,” he said. “I don’t have a huge amount of availability for 2021, and we do have bookings going as far as 2025.

“We are saying to all our brides that we have all got to be flexible to find a date that works for all of us.”

For weddings further ahead, he said they were watching how the situation unfolded and reassessing a month in advance.

“I would say to people not to make any rash decisions,” he said. “We get emails on a daily basis from brides getting married in September, October and November. The most sensible advice is to speak to your suppliers, share your concerns over the date and ask how it would work if you moved. I think four to six weeks is enough time to change everything around.”

Nick Brewer at the Spanish Churros and Chorizo stall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNick Brewer at the Spanish Churros and Chorizo stall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

‘Email after email’ of cancellations

A street food trader says he has lost all his bookings until July amid a “devastating” time for business.

Nick Brewer, who runs Churros and Chorizo, which serves Spanish delicacies at its Norwich market home and at events, said “email after email” of event cancellations had started arriving a few weeks ago.

The government then announced the first raft of closures, which he said, though sensible, was “devastating” for business.

Currently, the business has no bookings until July, but Mr Brewer is wary of how long they will stay in the diary.

While he has considered takeaways and deliveries, he said he felt it was safer overall to shut his doors for the time being.

“All the weddings we have had cancelled will be rearranged, so next year should be better,” he said. “But no cash flow is worrying.”

He said, being self-employed and renting a market stall, he did not meet a lot of the criteria for government support, but said the street food community was rallying to support each other.

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