Will coronavirus change the face of weddings for years to come?
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Two Suffolk wedding experts explain why more intimate nuptials may be the way forward – and how these are being made as safe as possible
Lockdown has forced thousands of couples up and down the country to either postpone or cancel their big day, in a bid to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
But with the Government officially announcing on Tuesday 23 June that ceremonies of up to 30 guests can take place from Saturday 4 July onwards, the small wedding business could potentially see a boom from couples who want to tie the knot sooner rather than later.
While the future remains uncertain as to when larger ceremonies and receptions can resume, smaller weddings certainly have their advantages.
Two experts explain what the draw is for more intimate nuptials, why they’re worth considering and what changes guests can expect to see as the world continues to get to grips with social distancing.
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Based on the Suffolk Heritage Coast is Woodhall Manor, an award-winning wedding and events venue that welcomes smaller wedding parties.
Woodhall Manor can accommodate up to 24 guests for its most intimate ceremonies – and features 14 beautifully-designed guest rooms, including two bridal suites.
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Tammy Madge, of Woodhall Manor, said: “It’s often said that the best things come in small packages, and that can definitely be the case when it comes to weddings. Intimate weddings have lots of plusses,” explained Tammy.
“For starters, they usually cost a lot less, so you get to see all your most important friends and family and talk to them for more than a few minutes each. Your per head budget will stretch a lot further too, so you can splash out on the things that are most important to you. You can make your day as personalised as you like, and the world is your oyster when it comes to where and how you can get married.
“When you’ve got less guests to think about, you can actually put yourselves first, because you’ll have the scope and probably room in the budget to do the things that make you happy, rather than trying to stretch your budget to feed all 250 wedding guests.
“Just because your wedding has a small number of guests doesn’t mean anything else has to be small. Go big on the details that will make you both happy,” she said.
So what does Tammy think the future holds for wedding sizes? “Smaller weddings, or a hybrid intimate wedding with a large afterparty, have been trending for a while, where couples want to say their vows with their nearest and dearest, but also want a big bash,” Tammy said.
“A hybrid wedding is perfect for this, as it also allows guests with elderly relatives to not be so exposed to large numbers of people. I think this will continue into next year and beyond - but when those larger bashes can actually resume, we don’t know.”
Over in Groton near Sudbury sits Dove Barn, a venue that offers romantic and rural barn weddings in a sleepy corner of Suffolk.
Its website states that it ‘excels in intimate weddings from around 25 people and up to 110 guests’ - and while weddings of over 30 are out of the question for the time being, it is already planning to welcome couples and their smaller guest lists.
Adam Dixon-Smith, owner of Dove Barn said: “Safety is paramount to us, and of course, to the success of any wedding. We are very keen to go ahead as soon as possible, as the wedding barns are all ready to go, and the gardens are blooming exceptionally this year in the summer sunshine.”
With a range of new social distancing and hygiene measures in place, Adam is confident that couples and their guests can still relax and enjoy the big day. “We will be placing gloves, masks, and hand sanitiser stations around the venue, and we will of course be adhering to all social distancing rules,” he said.
“The barn doors and windows will be open, to allow a greater flow of air throughout the venue and more regular cleaning of key areas is also planned. Social distancing measures may include a flow of guests in and out of the venue, as guests move to different parts of the barns and grounds while staff are able to follow behind to pack down and clean the various areas. We are lucky to have lots of individual areas that will allow a natural flow without guests feeling ‘man-handled’.”
With food and drink playing a pivotal role within a wedding, how will venues ensure that social distancing and hygiene are maintained once receptions can take place again? “There will be more structure to the wedding breakfast service - with less guests per table, and tables will be more spread out throughout the venue. There will still be a professional and friendly service from the caterers, just with no contact,” Adam explained.
“We are always keeping an eye on how restaurants and cafés are looking to open, and how they are going to do it, so we have lots of options in the future for our couples.”
With a number of procedures in place, Adam has noticed that more couples are already starting to lean towards a smaller wedding – with some more than happy to have a socially-distanced day.
“In general, couples have realised that their wedding may have to be smaller - one bride was so relaxed and flexible that she believed social distancing might make the day more interesting and memorable!”