sundaylife

| 12.8°C Belfast

Coronavirus: Northern Ireland couples 'hoping against hope to tie knot in 2020'

Wedding industry in chaos but love shall overcome, this year or next, workers assure brides

Close

Sinead Norton. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

Sinead Norton. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

Lisa Hetherington from Nor Lisa Fashion Alterations Business, Enniskillen, with her son Camden.

Lisa Hetherington from Nor Lisa Fashion Alterations Business, Enniskillen, with her son Camden.

Vicki Gaston

Vicki Gaston

Sinead Norton. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

Northern Ireland brides dreaming of a fairy tale summer wedding may have to postpone their big day until next year if the lockdown is not lifted in the coming months.

Although some brides here are still hopeful their dream nuptials will go ahead as planned before the end of June and haven't changed the date.

Meanwhile, others have put off their vows until August at the earliest. Last week, former Big Brother star Orlaith McAllister told Sunday Life she had been due to wed her solicitor beau Neil Logue at the luxurious Lough Eske Castle hotel in Co Donegal last weekend but her wedding has now been postponed until December.

If lockdown continues until after the summer, bridal suppliers say we could see more autumn weddings here than ever before.

With churches, hotels and beauty spots closed down due to the government-imposed restrictions, brides are struggling to find a new venue for a summer wedding should the cermonies be allowed by then.

Meanwhile, dress-makers, wedding venue décor businesses and florists - all of which were shut down as non-essential - are having mixed fortunes due to the pandemic.

Enniskillen-based bridal alteration designer Lisa Hetherington, who co-owns Nor Lisa, said: "It felt like cancellations started to come in overnight. At the middle of March, we noticed less booking and a number of cancellations then.

"I have a number of brides trying to book in for alterations but due to the fact alteration shops are classed as non-essential, we aren't able to have fittings. We do have a list of brides who would like us to contact them once we reopen. I've had inquiries for weddings next month."

Close

Lisa Hetherington from Nor Lisa Fashion Alterations Business, Enniskillen, with her son Camden.

Lisa Hetherington from Nor Lisa Fashion Alterations Business, Enniskillen, with her son Camden.

Lisa Hetherington from Nor Lisa Fashion Alterations Business, Enniskillen, with her son Camden.

Lisa added that, with more time to save, brides here are splashing more cash than before. "We haven't heard any bride say their wedding will be of a lower budget due to the virus. We had a few brides reduce their wedding numbers for them to be allowed to go ahead, but this was before full lockdown."

The designer, who lives in the town with her husband Stuart, a telecoms trainer, and their six-month-old son Camden, now uses her sewing skills to make masks for health service staff and other key workers, having raised some money online.

With demand for bridal venues outstripping supply, Lisa said: "Some of our brides have postponed their weddings and moved them to between August 2020 and early 2021. We do have some brides who are still hoping that their June/July weddings won't be cancelled, so they have not postponed yet. It's very hard on brides not to know where they stand."

With no income from her business, Lisa and her family are now living off savings. "I have zero coming in," she said.

Belfast florist Vicki Gaston, who runs Norah Mitchell Flowers, had to shut down her shop off the Holywood Road after Mother's Day this year.

"April was due to be a big month for us in terms of weddings, so a lot of brides were in touch when lockdown was announced. From that point on, I've been dealing with brides who are postponing and re-arranging their wedding dates."

While some brides are happy to re-arrange for later in the year, others are still holding out hope for a summer wedding. "Many brides don't want to change their wedding plans too soon in case lockdown is lifted. But no one knows how long this is going to last."

And brides are feeling the strain too. "Usually when I meet a bride, they are beaming and jumping for joy but having these conversations now is very different. Some of them are very upset and crying, others are very despondent," Vicki added.

The florist shop is now completely shut down and, even after all the stock was removed and a deep clean of the premises, Vicki said she feared for the health and safety of staff and customers. "I could not 100% guarantee the safety of those in the shop."

Vicki Gaston

She added bridal parties had been spending an average of £1,000 on flowers, including bride's bouquets, table decorations and venues festooned in blooms, with some postponed weddings planning as little as 40 guests.

Vicki, who lives in Bangor with husband Tim (57), who works for a student loan company, and their two sons Michael (22) and Alex (19), said the backed-up weddings will have a knock-on effect for those planning to get hitched next year.

"If you got engaged this year, you may not be able to get the date you want next year. There are only so many weddings that can happen."

Sinead Norton, who runs Swift Wedding Services, also had to close her wedding decor showroom when lockdown was announced. However, because the family-run team can cater to more than one wedding a day, they have managed to keep going, albeit with events put off for the next few months.

Sinead (46), who also founded the online business community, Mums at Work (MAW), lives in Magherafelt with husband Chris (35). She has three grown-up children from her first marriage, Jamie (24), Melissa (22) and Danielle (20), as well as Liam (13), twins' Lily and Jack (12) and eight-year-old Harry with Chris.

"April weddings had to be postponed because the hotels had to close," she said. "There will be less availability (for weddings) in 2021 but luckily we have been able to slot 120 brides into new dates."

Sinead added with hotels not likely to be allowed to re-open until July at the earliest and pressure on dates for Saturday weddings, many couple's plans will have to wait until next year.

She revealed that bridal bookings are still coming in, with some happy to move their nuptials to next year. "We are already taking bookings for next Easter, which we wouldn't usually get until September or October this year. There are still June, July and August 2020 brides who may need to rebook for next year."

While the showroom is shut down, Sinead has used images from previous weddings and ideas from Pinterest to help create the perfect backdrop for the big day. She said brides here are anticipating the end of lockdown. "We have told people we will have an open day when this is over.

"This will be the busiest autumn wedding season - if people stay in. By September until December, it could be the busiest wedding season that we will ever see."

  • Nor Lisa Fashion Alterations Business, Enniskillen, tel: 028 6634 0444 or visit www.nor-lisa.com
  • Norah Mitchell Flowers, Belfast, tel: 028 9065 4290, visit www.norahmitchellflowers.co.uk
  • Swift Wedding Services, Magherafelt, tel: 07590 900 853, or visit www.swiftevents.blog

Belfast Telegraph