The non event of weddings in 2020…
Well, well, well… It’s been some time since we wrote anything like a blog. We’re useless at this. We prefer just to click away and capture happy times but that sentence alone brings us to the exact reason we’re writing one.
Lets go back a bit. Way back to New Year 2019/2020. Feels like a long time ago, right? Well, you can bet your house on the fact that to many, it’s probably a time (and the following 16 months) best forgotten. We’d only just got over a successful 2019 and we were all looking forward to 2020 being another year full of love, laughs and emotional tears of joy. The news was full of reports that a new, unidentified virus had started to spread across the globe, but it wasn’t going to affect any of us was it? It would blow over before it really took hold. For some reason we turned a blind eye to what was happening outside the UK, thinking we’d be fine. How wrong we were.
We’d already covered a couple of weddings in March 2020, when the announcement by our government was to put the country in the tightest of lockdowns. The photo you see above, taken at Bagden Hall in Denby Dale, was one of the last weddings we covered before the world was put on pause. The 23rd of March 2020 will go down as one of the biggest game changers to the hospitality sector we’ve ever seen. We weren’t prepared. It hit us harder than we thought possible. Hotel closures, event cancellations, restaurants, bars and pubs all shut down indefinitely. All of the businesses which worked through hospitality were instantly ground to a halt.
Our very own business was affected immediately. We were actually covering a wedding on 23rd March and just 2 days before our couple being told that their day wasn’t happening. It was just devastating. We had no idea what was going to happen next or for how long. We’d never come up against anything like it, nor did we have a contingency plan to help our clients pull themselves off the floor and start again. Our own insurance and those of many clients wouldn’t cover claims as this was something no-one thought possible.
Let’s all be honest though, this was nothing in comparison to what as about to come. Accute illness, depression, isolation, lost jobs, the difficulties of home schooling and for millions so far, a lot, lot worse. Devastated families, lost loved ones, split opinions over face masks, social distancing and now vaccines. The effects of Covid19 almost 2 years since it was first picked up on still resonating around the globe. But we have to keep going don’t we? Life, as they say, finds a way. We grow stronger. More resilient. Smile in the face of adversity. And just keep on moving forward.
As wedding photographers in Leeds, West Yorkshire, we have a huge catchment area and with that, a lot of clients. We watched as one couple after another came to us with the news their weddings were cancelled and they had no idea what it meant to them. Neither did we. Reschedule after reschedule, sometimes the same couples having to postpone on more than one occasion. Venues asking clients to book their weddings on days they didn’t want because of course they already had bookings into the year that followed. Would they lose their money? Were their dreams being torn to pieces right in front of their very eyes? Would we as a business lose our clients beacuse just like the venues, we had bookings in our calendars nearly 2 years in advance? It was all about patience, compromise and working together to find a solution that worked. Everyone had sacrrificed so much that we just had to survive and do what we could to keep going.
Without seeing what we did in those first 6 months of lockdown, ‘soft reopening’ and then another lockdown, it’s really hard to describe the pain and upset we witnessed. Each of our amazing clients were rightfully seeing their day as the most important and it was heartbreaking. But we didn’t have just the one couple. We had 30. That’s 60 broken dreams, all asking the same questions. Would they ever get their day? Would they keep the suppliers they’d chosen? Some couples so upset they wanted to cancel completely as the day had become more of a nightmare than something to actually look forward to. All those feelings were completely understandable.
We were lucky because every one of our clients realised exactly what it meant to us too. It wasn’t just about each wedding on a case by case basis. It was also our business. We suffered massively, just as any business would if their work just ceased to exist. This is why working together to get through things was so important and why we will always appreciate the support we had during those months without weddings from our lovely couples.
Lockdowns, lockdowns and local lockdowns?
We’d gone from 33 weekends full of weddings to just 5 in a two week period after the announcement of lockdowns in March 2020, two of which we’d covered before it even began. But the horror story and knock on effect of that was still to peak for some of our couples. We’ll give you a few examples of the devastation is caused and just how strong our clients are:
Our very first couple to take the hit, so to speak, were Rebecca & John. They’ve yet to have their wedding. We’d actually met them a couple of weeks before their day at their venue for a pre wedding shoot. Their wedding was scheduled to take place when lockdown first happened. Since then they have moved dates a further 3 times. The last date they decided on was for Christmas 2020 and they made that decision based on the fact things had opened back up in the UK during August. Bearing in mind theirs was the first wedding to have to cancel in March 2020, for it to happen yet again was just awful. Our govenment putting us into another lockdown and strict numbers on attendees (6) at a ceremony. To have another conversation about either cancelling their day completely or moving on was just as traumatic for us. They have their new date set for December this year (2021) and we cannot wait to see it happen. Their strength to keep pushing on is incredible.
Another story is that of Natalie & John, one of the weddings we actually covered during lockdown, seen pictured above. In fact all the photos above are from the 3 weddings we photographed during both of the UK lockdowns. Natalie and John’s wedding however, was one which threw another unexpected problem into the mix. Local lockdowns.
So, our very brave couple, for reasons we can’t really talk about on here, wanted their day to go ahead as planned, without rescheduling. There was a time factor to their decision but as luck would have it the restrictions had been eased, which allowed 30 people to attend their wedding. The date of their wedding was the 1st August 2020, Yorkshire Day, at the beautiful Holdsworth House in Halifax, Calderdale.
The significance of this? Well, our government then decided to introduce what they called local lockdowns, based on the areas of the highest infection rate. When was this implemented? Oh, you guessed it, the 1st August 2020. And which area was put into a local lockdown? Yep, guessed correctly again. Calderdale. This was put into place the day before their wedding. You read all that correctly.
This meant that a 30 guest wedding had to be reduced to 10 at the reception. Some of their guests were already at hotels having driven hundreds of miles to be there to see our courageous couple become Mr & Mrs. What we were faced with now was a hotel which was due to cater for 30, now having to basically open and run for just 10. Our couple had to reduce the numbers in the space of a day to just a handful, turning away family who had to leave straight after the ceremony. Those who had driven miles and booked to stay in the hotel were now left in limbo. But our our amazing couple carried on. They had their day. We have to say it was as beautiful a wedding as we’ve ever seen. Not one person moaned about what happened. They were just pleased Natalie & John got to say ‘I do’ to each other. John even comforted himself by the fact that at 6pm, when the evening reception was due to start, he was sat at home watching his favourite sport (cricket) as a married man.
Then there is Sophie & Paul, who’s date wasn’t changed. Instead they clung on to the hope their day would go ahead as planned. Both had reduced the numbers to the 30 allowed at the time of their wedding and they had the day they wanted (sort of). This was like a reminder to us what a wedding day was like. Bridal preps, groomsmen photos, a church wedding, a reception. A room full of guests. Just no first dance. Strangely these were still not permitted which to us never really made sense, but we’ll leave that there.
And lastly, we have Alex & Marta. One which really tells a story of lockdown weddings perfectly in the fewest words needed. Originally a wedding planned during the height of summer 2020. In a field. Somewhere in the beautiful English countryside. With tipi’s. And 100 guests… To a wedding in December, with 9 guests at a local Church. Followed by a walk around Temple Newsam with just their dog, Max. In the rain. And a takeaway as their wedding breakfast, on their own. Were they still happy? Absolutely yes. But in one snapshot it does show exactly what all this has caused to the wedding industry and hospitality in general.
We go again
So, back in present times, here we still stand. After all that came before, we’re back in the throws of wedding season. Except this one has all of last years weddings thrown on top of weddings which were already planned. Just writing the words ‘wedding season’ is a beautiful thing. More importantly, we’re now getting to see all of last years heartaches turn into the very dreams they should have been. One week after another, we’re gradually watching the concerns of our couples disappear during the vows and promises they make to each other. There is absolutely nothing to compare a wedding day to. No other day with such planning, tension, nerves, love, tears, laughs and togetherness. It’s an amazing day to witness and one we’re humbled to be a part of. We’re so grateful to have the clients we do, to see them all have their days. Like we said, life finds a way.
As the world starts to recover from the last 2 years, there will always be a niggling thought in the back of everyone’s mind that this disease will not go away. The effects will carry on for years to come. Some will never recover, millions of lives have been lost, other peoples lives changed forever and businesses closed never to reopen. For some people their weddings will never happen. Covid19 has forever changed the landscape in which we live. But live we must.
The wedding industry, along with the entire hospitality sector, is one which has slowly picked itself up from the floor. Confidence has been restored and bookings have returned to the fore, with 2022 and 2023 looking like being huge for us all. It’s still a shame that some venues are struggling for staff. Another side effect of lockdown in the hospitality sector is they found other jobs in areas which weren’t affected by restrictions. That’s just people rightly looking after themselves, but without staff, venues have struggled to offer the same level of service to couples who have waited so long for their day. It’s like a catch 22 situation isn’t it?
But as we write this, we feel lucky to have survived, both in health and as a business. We look forward with huge optimism as we’ve seen over the last few months that after everything that’s happened, you only need to be a part of a wedding to see what ‘normal’ is again. Celebrate life. As Covid has taught us, it’s fragile at times. Enjoy your wedding day with everything you have, involving the ones you love and care about.
Wedding Photographers in Leeds
SKL Photography. Wedding Photographers in Leeds, West Yorkshire. If you require any information on our services/packages, feel free to look at our packages or contact us here. You can also find further work on our very active social media pages, Facebook and Instagram.
Below is just an example of life after lockdown. Weddings we’ve covered across Leeds and beyond over the last 3 or so months. A lot of the faces you see are those who’s weddings were postponed during last year. Couples who waited & waited to have the day they originally planned. For us and especially our clients, it’s been an unbelievably long and stressful journey, but in these cases, really worth the wait.