The recent announcement from the government that outdoor wedding ceremonies are to be permanently legalised within the grounds of approved premises, has been met with strong approval.
This was a temporary measure introduced during Covid-19 to allow weddings to go ahead at a time when indoor gatherings and events were heavily restricted.
Recognising that this offered many couples more flexibility and choice, it will now feature as a permanent amendment to The Marriages and Civil Partnership Regulations as of today (6th April 2022).
How much will this change or shape the way modern couples choose to wed?
To get a bit more insight into the potential impact this new amendment might have on couples planning their big day, we spoke to Bex of award-winning Oakleaf Weddings.
How much do you think indoor restrictions during Covid-19 have impacted on the events and wedding industry?
A huge amount. 100% of my 2020 bookings and a large amount of my 2021 bookings were postponed. Some even cancelled due to couples not being able to cope with the emotional stress of 'will it, won't it happen?' In some cases their venues even closed down. This has been the case with all my fellow industry friends, and unfortunately some haven’t been able to navigate to the other side of the pandemic.
The desire for couples not to compromise on their wedding day and wanting to see everyone's lovely faces without masks was completely understandable. Couples wanted to have the wedding they dreamed of, not the restricted one they were required to have.
On a positive note, 2022 and 2023 diaries are busier than ever with postponements and new bookings, and it's an absolute joy to see clients and suppliers getting excited about events again!
Have you noticed any differences from pre Covid-19 to now in people’s expectations?
Yes but in opposite ways. Huge parties and intimate gatherings are both very popular. Many of my clients are rightly treating their wedding as an enormous party to celebrate both their marriage and the chance to party like they haven’t been able to for two years. The opportunity to see friends and family they might not have had face-to-face contact with since the pandemic is now possible, and this is definitely cause for celebration. It's an opportunity to make the guest list even bigger and to include all those people they’ve been desperate to hug.
How do you think that these differences have impacted on or altered wedding patterns/trends?
On the opposite end of the scale, the trend of the ‘micro wedding’ is certainly here to stay even now the pandemic is over. A pandemic certainly makes people realise what is important to them, and in some cases priorities have changed to feature less guests (their absolute nearest and dearest) focusing on quality not quantity in their wedding decisions.
For these couples, making sure their small number of guests are really well fed and watered or their long table seating 15 people is decorated with an abundance of florals is more important. More money can be spent on styling one table really well instead of 10 tables more sparsely.
However, due to the pandemic and other nationwide/worldwide issues suppliers are having to charge more to keep up with the cost of supplies, fuel, living, etc so both clients and suppliers are looking to make their money go further.
Legal outdoor weddings and non-legal weddings performed by a celebrant have been given a real boost by Covid-19 which is only good news in my opinion. Couples are finally being able to say their vows in the great outdoors without needing to jump through outdated hoops to stand under a permanent structure.
The next step will be to allow outdoor and indoor ceremonies to take place anywhere, and not just in licensed venues. Some couples wish to marry in their own homes, in family gardens or at another location special to them, but they are unable to do so legally as things are. This coupled with a shortage of time slots for registrars to perform weddings has led the way for another option of employing a celebrant to perform the wedding (I'm reticent to say trend as it would almost trivialise the amazing job these people do).
Unfortunately these ceremonies are not legally binding, but they do allow couples to have their ceremony anywhere (with the owner’s permission), and they are very personal allowing your own vows and rituals. However you must still legally marry at a licensed venue which is usually a registry office.
Hopefully Covid-19 and the introduction of legal outdoor registrar ceremonies will lead the way for legal celebrant and non-celebrant led ceremonies anywhere a couple chooses.
What would you say are the main criteria for couples when planning their wedding?
Most of my clients are looking for venues that allow them to do what’s important to them with as few restrictions as possible.
As a venue I would look at what can be offered to clients within reason and as a client I would look at what’s important to you. My main advice to couples would be that it’s your wedding so don’t compromise on what’s important to you or let anyone dictate what they think your wedding should be.
If you haven’t got the budget to match your dream wedding, think about what would make you happiest and prioritise that without worrying too much about the other stuff!
What do you think of the recent government announcement that the temporary measures during Covid-19 to allow outdoor wedding ceremonies are to be permanently legalised?
I welcome it wholeheartedly. I would just advise couples to consider the comfort of themselves and their guests, and to think about the time of year they intend to wed.
Couples should be prepared to be flexible, and not set their heart on an outdoor wedding in August when it still might not offer the weather they would hope for on the day. Couples can still have a beautiful indoor ceremony and enjoy the outdoors when the clouds clear. Or they might want to embrace the rain and take an umbrella for the photos.
How do you think this will affect the decision-making process for couples?
Hugely - many licensed venues have beautiful grounds that have always been picture perfect backdrops for wedding ceremonies but until now they have been underutilised. Clients might revisit a venue they had previously ruled out based on its indoor space but could offer something outside. It also means that people might be more likely to stay in England instead of travelling to Scotland or abroad for a legal outdoor ceremony.
Do you envisage a change to the main criteria couples look to fulfil as a result of the amendment? If so, what changes do you anticipate there being?
Somewhat - it depends if venues change their prices to reflect the larger range of options available to couples as budgets still are a major factor in planning a wedding.
There are also venues that offer stunning indoor ceremony rooms, and just because couples are now allowed to marry outside doesn’t necessarily mean they will choose to. The stress of not worrying about the weather or the appeal of a particular aesthetic of an indoor space won’t change due to the amendment.
Many thanks to Bex of Oakleaf Weddings