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Coronavirus: Wedding planners feel financial pressure as couples cancel big day

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Disappointment for Becca Harper and Tim Atkinson

Disappointment for Becca Harper and Tim Atkinson

Mohamed abu Daga and his bride Israa, wearing face masks, are allowed to have their wedding ceremony in Palestine

Mohamed abu Daga and his bride Israa, wearing face masks, are allowed to have their wedding ceremony in Palestine

Disappointment for Becca Harper and Tim Atkinson

Northern Ireland couples due to get married in the coming weeks have been left devastated by new measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

Every year in Northern Ireland there are between 8,000 and 8,500 marriages at an average cost of just over £33,000 - contributing between £264m and £280m to the economy.

Julie-Anne Robertson, who owns EP Design - a wedding planning company in Portadown - said she is being contacted every day by distressed couples.

She said: "Even before the Prime Minister made his announcements, couples who had weddings planned right up until the end of June were realising they would need to postpone their wedding.

"This is what we have been urging clients to do rather than cancelling it, because we are actually all in this together and wedding suppliers recognise that not only is this terrible for the wedding couple, it is not ideal for them either.

"They want to come up with a solution that makes everyone happy or at least the best of a bad situation."

Cancelled weddings mean cancelled honeymoons, and Coleraine-based travel counsellor Briege McAuley said this is something the industry is coming to terms with.

She said: "The impact on couples having to cancel wedding plans varies depending on their honeymoon but a lot of the airlines at the moment are allowing free changes and hotels are allowing free cancellation.

"If the airlines and hotels continue to refund everything, the travel industry is going to go bust, so the industry is trying to get new directives from the Government."

The ripple effect of a cancelled or postponed wedding affects florists, hair and make-up artists, musicians, and photographers, many of whom are self-employed.

David Coote, a photographer from Co Down, said he is facing unemployment for the first time in 30 years because of the impact cancellations and postponements are having on the business.

He said: "For the past week-and-a-half bookings I have had for the next three months or so have either been cancelled or postponed.

"This really creates a cash flow issue when you are self-employed because obviously my bills are still coming in.

"Hopefully the Government will address the issues facing the self-employed because at the moment I am sort of unemployed for the first time in nearly 30 years," he added.

Case study

A Belfast bride-to-be is among those forced to postpone her dream wedding due to Covid-19.

Becca Harper and Tim Atkinson, from Dundonald, were due to get married on Saturday in Belfast’s Titanic Hotel after two years’ of planning and spending £20,000.

Their big day has now been postponed until November due to venues closing and travel bans being imposed to deal with the pandemic.

The couple’s wedding was booked for 125 guests with around 50 of these due to travel from England, Scotland and Wales.

Their two-week honeymoon in Canada has also been cancelled and provisionally replaced with a trip to Iceland and the US.

Becca, who turns 30 tomorrow, says she and Tim (37) were forced to make the difficult decision after further lockdown measures were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

She said: “I rang the hotel and they only had one Saturday available for the whole of the year on November 14 so we took it. As much as we would have loved to get married this weekend, we’re not upset but instead excited about our new date. For us the priority was to do the right thing socially to ensure everyone will be safe and well.

“The last thing we would have wanted was to go ahead this weekend and put our family and friends at risk. So many of them are nurses and doctors working on the front line,” she said.

“We hope to give them a party to remember in November to say thank you for all they’re doing.”

Lauren Harte

Belfast Telegraph