A leader in the wedding industry is calling for an easing of restrictions on weddings, saying ongoing uncertainty is having a disastrous effect on the lives of couples and destroying businesses.
Wendy El-Khoury, the founder of popular online marketplace Wedded Wonderland told news.com.au a lot of the rules “make no sense” when compared to restrictions on sporting matches and shopping centres, and are savaging businesses and disrupting couples’ lives.
Ms El-Khoury started the Save Our Weddings campaign in March this year when she realised the industry was being forgotten thanks to a lack of official representation.
She said there have been devastating effects, with one couple she knows having to put their IVF treatments on hold after postponing their wedding for a third time. She said couples are being affected “financially, emotionally and mentally” by the situation.
“I receive emails daily from once-upon-a-time thriving businesses looking for answers,” she said, adding some are struggling with the decision to close permanently, while others consider sacking their staff.
“This industry is primarily made up of micro-entrepreneurs, incredible creatives who have had to work hard to build their businesses from scratch,” Ms El-Khoury said. “There is little external investment and a complete reliance of bookings and cash flow.”
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BRIDES FRUSTRATED BY INCONSISTENCIES
She said couples were mostly happy to comply with coronavirus restrictions and hold COVID-safe weddings, but said “inconsistencies around this is what has frustrated many”.
“From sporting activities, to gyms, schools, parks and shopping centres working with no capacity on numbers (rather a four sqm rule) it makes no sense for a wedding venue with a 1000 seated capacity to work with numbers like 150 in NSW for example.
“On top of which at weddings, you cannot stand, walk around, engage with your family and friends however can do this in every other circumstance in your life.”
“Fairness must be the underlying denominator when such decisions are being made,” she said.
She also said other potential positives around weddings, versus other types of gatherings, were not being considered, for example:
• The guests are known to the hosts
• Requests made prior to attendance for unwell guests to not attend
• Venues clean entire spaces between functions from napery, linen, cutlery, crockery, flooring, bathrooms and otherwise
• The menu and food service have been altered to comply with COVID safe practices
She said safety measures like sanitisation stations, temperature checklist and keeping guests details, already implemented at other venues, were also working at weddings.
Wedded Wonderland has a large following on social media, but Ms El-Khoury said when they launched a new Facebook group it acted like a “saving grace” for brides to be, as they tried to stay up to date with the changing restrictions.
“We recognised our responsibility as industry leaders to use our platform and make the voices of the people heard,” she said.
“Unlike many industries there is no official lobby or organisation that represents this industry in its entirety which means – the idiosyncrasies of this market needed to be communicated effectively to the powers above.”
She said business is also suffering and a lack of communication from the government is an ongoing problem.
“Small businesses make the Australian economy go round, so now what?” she asked.
She added a huge amount of small businesses rely on weddings for cash injections, including the beauty industry, like teeth whitening and tanning specialists, hairdressers and makeup artists. The hospitality industry also has specialist caterers who rely on weddings to survive. Ms El-Khoury also pointed out that weddings help stimulate domestic travel and tourism as well as other retail spending.
She said what couples are seeking is “access to information”.
“We understand we are in the middle of a global pandemic however some sort of framework and guidance from the government and health officials would assist many couples in planning their wedding, and save them a lot of money, time and heartache from the unknown.”
She said moving forward she thinks the government needs to give the wedding industry a road map as the industry approaches its peak season.
“Many were confident things would be ‘back to normal’ now,” she said.
WEDDING RESTRICTIONS AROUND AUSTRALIA
• In NSW a maximum of 150 people are permitted to attend a wedding and must adhere to the four square metre rule. All attendees need to provide their name and contact details so they can be contact traced if necessary. Dancing is also not permitted except for the bride and groom.
• In Queensland, weddings with a COVID-safe plan can have up to 100 attendees — weddings without a COVID-safe plan can only have ten attendees.
• In Metropolitan Melbourne weddings are currently banned unless granted an exemption on compassionate grounds. In regional Victoria weddings can have only five attendees (the couple, two witnesses and the celebrant).
• In South Australia weddings are capped at 100 people and the bride and groom are only permitted one dance. Additionally food and beverage cannot be served from a communal area.
• In Western Australia restrictions around weddings have been eased, except for events with over 500 people, where guests need to maintain 2 metres of social distance.
• In Tasmania all larger gatherings are limited by the density of the area with guests required two square metres per person. Venues are permitted up to 250 people in an enclosed space and 500 people in an undivided outdoor space.
• In the Northern Territory any event with more than 100 people requires the bride and groom to complete a COVID-19 safety checklist. A wedding with more than 500 people in the NT would also need to complete this checklist and receive approval from the Chief Health Officer in the state.