The UK wedding industry has lost an estimated £4.8bn ($6.3bn) due to the coronavirus pandemic, as a significant number of weddings were canceled or postponed.
There was a 32% drop in weddings taking place in 2020, compared to the previous year, with 127,000 nuptials postponed, according to a study by Hello-safe.co.uk.
Around 80% of UK weddings take usually place between April and September, but this year the nationwide lockdown and social distancing restrictions banning gatherings wiped out peak wedding season, with 80% of weddings postponed and 51% of celebrations “significantly impacted,” the study found.
The highest rates of wedding cancellations were seen in the south of the country, with 43% of weddings cancelled in the Greater London area, followed by South West England (42%), the East of England (39%) and South East England (37%).
Some 80% of cancelled weddings have been rescheduled for 2021, meaning the wedding industry will have to cater for around 160,000 more weddings than usual next year.
Up to 410,000 weddings could happen in 2021, and with the average wedding costing £30,000, the UK wedding market could go from £7.5bn to £12.3bn next year. However, many venues and suppliers are concerned about making it through to next year due to the £4.3bn loss already incurred in 2020.
In the week before the lockdown was implemented, between 15 and 21 March, Brits were 14 times more likely than in the last five years to search “cancel wedding” on Google, according to Hello-safe.co.uk. The term “postpone weddings” was searched between 19 times more than usual in that same period.
As an immediate response to the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK, the number of queries for “wedding insurance” went up by 900% to 140,000 between 8 and 14 March.
However, many couples were left disappointed and out of pocket by the wedding insurance industry. Many insurers refused to pay out for cancelled weddings arguing that despite policy wording covering infectious diseases, people were not covered because cancellations were due to the government-ordered lockdown, not an outbreak of COVID-19 at the venue.
Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue, who investigates issues of consumer protection, said this argument was “sophistry.”
“The government action was taken because of the pandemic,” she told Yahoo Finance UK. “It’s basically weaselling their way out of it.”
Many insurers including WeddingPlan, John Lewis and Debenhams, then decided to temporarily suspend issuing new insurance policies. Insurer CoverMyWedding said that it would keep issuing wedding policies, but without any cover for claims resulting from COVID-19.
From 15 August UK wedding receptions have been able to go ahead with a maximum of 30 guests in the form of a sit-down meal, according to government guidelines.