Has The Reason For Weddings Been Lost? Every day we are living and breathing the pandemic - COVID19. It’s only recently that I have been able to take my head out of my new day to day life, take a look at what has just happened and think, oh my what do I need to do next! Coronavirus has brought brand new challenges for each and everyone one of us, I remember the week before lockdown my baby girl Eda falling poorly, to then my eldest baby Florrie becoming poorly and then myself - thinking what the hell am I going to do! I shut my shop ‘The Bridal Emporium’ that week before Boris finally got on his pedestal and decided I needed to protect my business and my staff.
Claire Amelia, outside of her bridal shop the Bridal Emporium, in Leeds city centre.
The first few months were scary, taking care of two small babies full time, my partner working silly hours, not having days off, my bricks and mortar business shut with no new revenue coming in and no clue what will happen in the future. I kept all my staff on making sure they had wages coming in, I communicated with all the immediate brides who had to postpone in the first few weeks/months and I somehow kept my sanity (just!). I sat there and listened to our brides' stories', I wept, I laughed, I felt their pain, when they had no one else to take it out on other than myself that their wedding had been postponed, I read about bride’s families passing away due to coronavirus but yet they were still so kind and gracious, this uncertain time has really caused so much emotional turmoil.
Claire Amelia, working from home during COVID-19 with her 1 & 2 year old girls Eda and Florrie.
All of our beautiful brides going through their own personal nightmares, I could feel your pain, anger, confusion and worry. The main objective for me was to keep positive, be kind and mentally support those who needed it. The hardest part for me was that I was also in pain, I had shut my doors on my business without knowledge on what will happen and if we will reopen. I knew I could support my business for a certain amount of time and I knew I still had to be smiley, friendly, comforting to my customers - yet I was suffering silently. Wedding suppliers are generally small independent business owners, during the first few months of the pandemic, we have had to deal with highly emotional customers and also our own financial worries. There’s a big difference with what we have had to go through, the support we have had to give to our clients has been heightened even more and in comparison to other small independent business owners who would have shut their doors, they wouldn’t have had the extra pressure of making sure their customers are actually mentally ok.
So, what did I do? I worked even more than I normally would and pushed forward my new business ‘Emporella’. An online wedding platform for the wedding industry in the UK. A place we can call home for all of the suppliers, brides, grooms and wedding parties who are involved within the wonderful world of weddings. I just got my head down and ploughed on, thinking we need support, we need to grow awareness, we need to show people that we do have something special right here in the UK. Emporella soft launched in May, and we’ve been working hard to create a network with our suppliers to build our content within the platform.
Claire Amelia and her two girls, the realities of wedding dresses, babies and working from home.
I’ve been so wrapped up in pushing forward my businesses, trying to survive, working in my businesses instead of on them, I have forgotten about the real message right now. What About Weddings. What about the ‘I Do’, the journey to get to that point and the journey that we have planned in our heads for afterwards. Weddings are so much more about everyday life, they’re about hope, friendships, gathering all your family and friends together or just eloping and being in the moment with one another. It’s not just another day, the picture is bigger than that. It is about you and me, it is about all of the wedding suppliers you get involved with to make it the perfect day, marriage is about security, knowing that if anything happens you are safe and I bet some of you can help me explain even better about what it means than I, seeing as I am still waiting for the ring on the finger ;-) I do have a man so don’t worry too much about me..
Team Emporella, Claire Amelia, Kirsty, Chloe, Lucy & Hannah.
My shop has been open now 4 weeks, which has been yet another struggle to make sure we’re COVID safe and making our customers comfortable, and guess what, it’s been at my expense. I have had to spend money to make sure we are safe to reopen, but I have not made much money during the closed months. Re-opening the shop was my next test, to see if I can financially make sure we are stable, I know what I needed to take to meet demands. Year on year my bridal shop turnover has grown, last year I expanded my team and refurbished the shop, now that I have higher outgoings, I need to keep an eye on what's happening within our environment. Sadly, the first 4 weeks of reopening, we did not hit our target and took less within those 4 weeks in comparison to last year. Yes, my shop is open but the reality is, I need to earn x amount to keep afloat. What does that mean now? I have to keep adapting and working on bringing revenue into the businesses to protect my staff members, which I will do. I also soft-launched Emporella to the big wide world and my Claire Amelia bridal collection is back on track for an autumn launch, keeping positive! Recently, I have managed to play catch up with just life, have a lie-in, spend time with my family, my loved ones and I have sorted my own mental health with the pressures I have just endured (the mental health issues don't go away - we just have to understand the triggers, keep positive and accept change to be able to move forward).
Team Bridal Emporium, Levita, Ellen, Sarah, Stacey & Hannah.
So, are you ready? We need to do this! We need to tell the government that their choices are WRONG! I am now ready to help with the other voices shouting about our wonderful industry, please join us in our cause. I have been trying to do everything I can to protect my teams, we are stylists, dressmakers, marketing executives, social media experts and your Yorkshire girl gangs who want to give you the best wedding experience you possibly can have. Please do join us #WhatAboutWeddings
How can we sit back and not shout out about how unfair their restructuring of getting the country back to ‘normal’ when weddings can only proceed only allowing six people to attend outside or two households inside, we were recently allowed up to 30 people at the wedding, but sadly this has been revised since. The first baffle is the fact that there are restaurants that can seat over 100 people at one time, but yet if it was a wedding who booked out the restaurant, it would be classed as illegal.
At a wedding, you would have a full list of everyone attending in case you need to track and trace, you have your bubble, seeing as you invite your family and friends, so why have they chosen to not allow weddings? I know the government doesn't live in the normal world! I’ve said since I was a teenager, I would love to be in parliament one day, to tell them how day to day life is to the 'normal person' (what is a normal person, who the heck knows! those who pay taxes, abide by the rules ;-)) and what we need to do to make our environment a happier, safer and kinder place..but that’s another story I may or may not tell you one day ;-)
The love involved around weddings is so phenomenal, it makes my skin tingle, when brides say yes to the dress, when they collect their dresses, when I have interacted with them and discussed their big days, it gets me, it’s actually getting me now (maybe I shouldn’t be listening to U2 - With Or WIthout You) but when you think about life in general, we think about the main factors of life; Birth, Marriage, Death. So, when I first heard that weddings are cancelled for the foreseeable future, it hurts, and now to hear only 30 people could attend a wedding, and recently reverted back to a smaller number of people.
Did you know that the wedding sector in the UK makes up £10 billion a year (hitched.co.uk) and that the majority of wedding suppliers are those that have been hit hard by COVID, self-employed or small limited companies that have not received help from the government as of yet? So, with hardly any weddings going ahead, the small independent businesses not getting support from the government or having the knowledge on how to survive during the pandemic, why are the government not taking this into consideration?
You could flip the way you look at it too, weddings, after you are wed, the government offers many more legal benefits, for example, while living together is becoming an increasingly popular option for many, couples living together (called cohabiting) don’t enjoy the same protections and privileges under the law as a married couple. So although getting additional legal rights might not be your main reason for tying the knot, they can have a big impact on your life further down the line in terms of financial protection. (https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/media/the-legal-benefits-of-being-married-uk/) Why is the government making it harder for the general public to protect themselves?
#WhatAboutWeddings we will be stronger together.
When thinking back about conversations with friends and family, the majority of us have the same conversations over and over about weddings, where would you get married? What would you wear? How many people would you invite etc. We dream up our big days over and over in our heads. This should not be taken lightly, we don’t dream up in our heads ‘ what are we going to eat in that new local restaurant next week’ for years and years, ‘I hope Leeds get into the premiership’ (for the Leeds fans - I know you do ;-) and congratulations by the way) what I am saying is, there is a bigger picture than just a wedding day, there is the build-up, the mental health that absorbs itself around the world of weddings, day in and day out.
Weddings should be a priority by the government to come back and grow again, share the love and support the indies. Weddings are starting to be talked about in parliament, MP Paul Scully, Minister for London and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets) responded to a question this week with⠀⠀ “We took evidence from a number of areas, including the wedding industry, and we have the “Safer Events: A Framework for Action” White Paper. All those people will feed into that discussion. Weddings are essentially parties, and we need to ensure that they can be regulated in a COVID-19-secure way. I will meet the wedding industry associations again tomorrow to continue discussions in this area." It's great that Paul Scully is making his point to support the wedding sector, I do have to disagree with the ‘weddings are essentially parties’ comment, and I would welcome to have a deep conversation about the effects mental health has on people when it comes to weddings. I actually say to many of our customers, we are bridal stylists and we are also mental health advisors. (Just made a note to find a charity that I can work alongside, see if there is any support for our customers and also seek guidance from them on how we can communicate with our customers effectively when it comes to mental health - if you know of a charity, please send my way).
Write to your MP, draft letters available within this blog.
What do I need you to do? There’s a hashtag going around #WhatAboutWeddings can you please start using your voice to tell the UK that we are not forgotten and we will come together to support one another. Then, can you please write to your local MP, this can be done via https://www.writetothem.com/ and find our draft letter at the end of my blog, there are 2 drafts, one for suppliers and one for brides and grooms. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I think I could ramble on so much more about what’s happening to the wedding sector on the ground upwards - but that’s wasted time, you and I need to help others and start getting our voices heard.
Female Entrepreneur of Emporella, Bridal Emporium & Claire Amelia Bridal