Have you spoken to anyone trying to get married this year? It has been a nightmare.
My fiance Rob and I have already made more agonising decisions than I can count as we whittled our guest list down from 220 people to 30. We can't face any more stress, so we are rushing forward our nuptials to this weekend, avoiding the latest limit of 15 laid out by the British Prime Minister this week and which comes into force from Monday.
If all goes well – and there aren't more changes to the rules by then – we will have a church wedding in Yorkshire this Sunday in front of our immediate families.
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You might say that if a wedding is as small as 30 people already, it won't make much difference to cut it down to 15. I totally disagree. Yes, 30 is small. So small that we have had to uninvite our bridesmaids and ushers. But we can still have our parents, siblings and their partners and children. It won't be the wedding we originally dreamed of, but it will still be a beautiful family occasion.
When the guest list is already so selective, you can't trim any more. If it was just 15 people we would either have to uninvite some of our siblings or accept that it would be just us and our parents attending. Can you imagine calling your sister and telling her she can't see you get married? I can't – especially this year, which for my fiance and me has already involved unemployment, moving cities and being separated for months because of the pandemic.
The wedding industry seems to have been chopped and changed more than most others in the past six months. It makes sense that the Government has put so much effort into reopening hospitality venues, given that pubs are worth £23 billion ($44.7b) a year to the economy, according to MCA Insight. But weddings are a huge boost to the economy too. In 2019, the average UK wedding cost £16,000, according to wedding-planning app Bridebook, adding up to a £10 billion a year industry.
These numbers are not so wildly different that the economic value of opening a pub to hundreds of people too drunk to follow the rules is worth the risk to health, but a staid family wedding of 30 people isn't. Especially when, at a family gathering, everyone knows who is or isn't vulnerable – and no one is going to be cavalier about spreading the disease to those at risk.
Politicians have forgotten that weddings are incredibly important for couples and their families and friends. They are the punctuation marks in the year: reminders for us all to pause and breathe, and to focus on what matters most in life. In the months leading up, they offer us a precious moment of joy to look forward to. And in the years that follow, we can look back at the photographs and smile at how much the children have grown and the adults have aged.
This year has been the temporal version of the colour beige already, and restricting weddings further will just make it worse. One month will roll into the next, without being able to think: "Oh, well at least in a fortnight there's Mark and Jo's wedding." Time will pass, and we won't even know it.
Alice Denyer is based in England with different restrictions around weddings than New Zealand