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‘Overheads are going up and my phone has been in meltdown’ – wedding venues concern over Welsh Government’s new Covid rules

It was a massive relief for couples looking forward to getting married over the Christmas holidays.

When First Minister Mark Drakeford announced new Covid restrictions this week for hospitality, an exception was made for weddings and other ‘life events.

While numbers are limited in pubs and clubs with the return of the “rule of six”, events such as weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and wakes can still go ahead – but only with strict social distancing and carefully managed numbers.

READ MORE:’We demand answers’ – pubs and restaurants react to news rule of six is ​​returning in Wales

The number of attendees has to be managed by the venue, however, which must prove the figure to the local authority, which in turn is verified with a risk assessment.

And that means extra challenges for an industry still reeling from the effects of coronavirus lockdown.

Pencoed House Estate has erected a marquee to accommodate all guests – but admits it isn’t ideal

Jamie Williams, managing director of Pencoed House Estate, said: “Even though wedding venues are exempt from the rule of 30 indoors and 50 outdoors, we still have to do a risk assessment to see how much social distancing we can have in place within reason .

“It means they have passed the buck really. They can’t afford to close us because of the support that’s needed, but they need to be seen to be doing something.

“It means a lot of extra works for couples and their guests. We can now only have six on a table, which might have had ten or more, because of social distancing. But if people want say 80 guests it means we have to put some of them in an adjacent marquee, which isn’t ideal.

“Some couples are reducing numbers of guests as a result, which although it might save them some money, it also means they have the inconvenience of telling some some guests they’ve invited that they can’t come now after all.

“It also means the cost for us is going up but the spend per head is coming down; there’s more flower arrangements for example, and we can’t do normal bar service but table service instead, which means we have to have more staff.

“The overheads are going up and take a lot more managing. That said, we have done this before, we still have the screens, the staff are all trained, but we are getting a lot of queries. My phone has been on meltdown, not just from couples themselves, but from guests wanting to know if they can attend and what the rules are.

“My personal advice would be if you are vulnerable and you are not 100% sure, then perhaps it might be right to decline an invitation.

“But we are encouraging couples to go ahead. In May we were limited to 15 in doors and there was no drinking or food, so it is better than it was then.

“It’s been tough on couples. They have been waiting on the announcement to see if their wedding can go ahead, and for some of them it is their second or third date because they had to postpone their earlier ones. It must be very stressful and there are tears”.

Oldwalls on Gower is a very popular wedding venue

Commercial director of Oldwalls on Gower Shakira Obaid said: “We were relieved weddings are going ahead and that the wedding industry has finally been recognized.

“We have spoken to all the couples to let them know their weddings can still go ahead.

“We’ve had some anxious couples calling us but we’ve been able to reassure them. We’re just relieved we’re able to continue, and that it’s a positive end to the year.

“We are used to it by now; working with health and safety officers and working with couples to mitigate the risks.

“Some of our clients are on their second or third dates for the wedding have been on tenterhooks all week [waiting for the Welsh Government announcement] so it is a relief for them they can still go ahead.

“We have been working with health and safety consultants to determine what the latest restrictions mean to us as a venue and how we can minimize the impact for our couples. There will need to be some compromises but ultimately the number one goal of couples taking their Vows this Christmas can go ahead”.

Plas Dinam is hoping restrictions will be eased by spring time

Eldrydd Lamp, owner of Plan Dinam in Powys, said: “My main take from the latest rules are that it is really denting consumer confidence in Wales.

“Most of our couples come from away and now when they are looking to get married they will think Wales is more risky for them, because it has stricter rules.

“So people are going to start thinking we won’t book holidays in Wales, we won’t book our wedding in Wales because the rules are tighter.

“It affects our business because we do not have the same rules as in England.

“We don’t have any weddings over Christmas in January, but I can’t even begin to contemplate what it will be like for us if these rules are still in place when we start up again.

“It was so hard going through it last time and we are still scarred from it”.

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