Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about weddings and civil partnership ceremonies during the coronavirus pandemic. I appreciate this is an extremely difficult time both for brides- and grooms-to-be and for those who work in the wedding industry and its supply chain.
As you will know, on 22 February the Government announced its roadmap for ending the lockdown in England. From 8 March, weddings will be allowed with up to six attendees. From 12 April at the earliest, this will be increased to 15 and receptions will also be able to take place. From 17 May at the earliest, weddings and receptions will be able to take place with up to 30 attendees. Finally, from 21 June at the earliest, the Government aims to remove all limits on weddings, subject to a research programme on larger events.
I believe it is right that the lifting of the lockdown should be cautious and irreversible. The Government should ensure relaxations of restrictions are clear and notified in advance and that there is no more reversing of decisions at a moment’s notice, including when it comes to weddings. I hope this will allow couples to make plans with more certainty.
However, I know that in the meantime the Government’s plan for lifting lockdown means that many businesses in the wedding sector must remain closed until April, while many will not be able to reopen – or operate on a commercially viable basis – until June.
These businesses play a huge role in one of the most important days in people’s lives and a vital role in our economy. I therefore agree that it is crucial that the Government supports the wedding industry, to make sure they are still here to help people celebrate their special day on the other side of the crisis. While restrictions continue, they must be accompanied by proper economic assistance. We should support businesses and individuals that are still struggling as a result of the pandemic, including by extending business rates relief for at least another six months, as well as by extending and reforming the furlough scheme so that it lasts while restrictions are in place and demand is significantly reduced. I can assure you that I will continue to support efforts to press the Government on this issue.