After what seems like an eternity, we have finally got some dates for the end of lockdown restrictions! Whether they are realistic or not is still unknown but we've got some dates to work towards which is great news for us here at Ren’s, wedding couples and caterers alike.
I'm Ren and my Sussex based wedding catering company has been trading since 2009. Last year was fully booked for us and we were set to hit our milestone of achieving a one million pound turnover, which of course, me and the team were all super proud of. As a business we had done all the hard work securing the bookings and working with over one hundred wedding couples to plan all the fine details, menus, tastings etc. We had our resources planned down to a tee including all the staff in place and trained up to the highest of standards. This was of course everything we do normally as a business in order to prepare for the busy wedding season ahead but on a bigger scale.
First Lockdown strikes
It was a massive shock and we found ourselves being plunged into the unknown. We had to cancel our summer weddings and unfortunately, despite the furlough schemes, we just couldn't stand in the way of some of our staff who had financial commitments and needed to move on. At Ren’s, our team is our biggest asset, and this was heartbreaking for us. It also made us wonder, is this the first signs that we may not make it back? My events managers were working harder than ever, liaising with all our wedding couples and trying to put a brave face on it all. We had to try to rebook as many weddings as we could without overloading ourselves and lowering the quality of our work. At the time, this seemed like the sensible thing to do and my confidence was restored as we had an action plan in place; delay our existing bookings and then recoup any losses once everything was back to ‘normal’.
Second Lockdown - a real killer!
With most of our wedding couples having rescheduled their wedding dates already, the prospect of having to do it all again and rebook for a third date was too much. Understandably many couples started to pull out of their plans and cancel as if they couldn’t do their wedding the way they wanted they didn’t want to do it at all which is completely understandable. With the majority of our couples cancelling their big days, this meant refunding big deposits which meant that our already depleted bank account was drained. It also made me feel like we were losing all of the hard work and commitment we had put in to secure a successful year creating memories for our wedding couples' big day’s.
I'm not going to lie, inbetween washing and sanitising my hands a zillion times a day and keeping my safe 2 meter distances from others, I spent a good deal of time moping about and feeling sorry for myself. I wasn't blaming the government for the pandemic, but if they were responsible for imposing lockdown restrictions which ordered us to stop trading, then surely they were responsible for our business too?
After a while however, it dawned on me that this was not a unique problem to our industry and it was in fact happening to so many others. What if things never returned to the way they were? How do we adapt? People still gotta eat, and we're social animals - we gotta get together!
Looking ahead …
With this 'roadmap' of dates recently announced, for the first time we have some answers to give a bit of confidence back to our wedding couples, our staff, and to ourselves. We have found that everyone is grabbing onto the news as tightly as possible and many are daring to plan again in anticipation to get back on the wedding 'horse' after a full year of stress and denial.
Our phones have been going off the hook with new and existing enquiries, filling up every available space going for this year and next. The new 'normal' will probably include weekday weddings as standard and I would advise anyone thinking of planning a wedding to book it soon if you have your heart set on any aspect of your wedding including a venue, caterer, florist, band, etc.
On a financial level, I cannot speak for other caterers and venues, but at Ren’s we felt it was only right and justified to hold our 2020 prices for the next year especially for couples that had to reschedule (in some cases three times!) If you have booked your wedding already, I hope you have found your suppliers to be as flexible and accommodating as us here. Please remember that they have all had the same kind of year as Ren’s has experienced. Their livelihoods have been threatened but their job and raison d'etre is to provide a service to you, and to relieve the stress on you on your big day- not add to it!
That said you may struggle to find a bargain, especially if you are thinking of a smaller celebration. Wedding caterers usually price per head in order to make the sums more accessible for clients who just want to be able to compare quotes.- This means that a wedding for two hundred guests would cost precisely double that of one hundred guests. You may also find now that there are extra 'add ons' and surcharges for smaller weddings as caterers struggle to recoup the losses from 2020 and also potentially hold out for that 'juicier' larger scale wedding bookings. The bargaining power you may have had a year ago may not be so strong and in my opinion it would be tough work to haggle with an industry who has been so disproportionately affected financially.
Some money saving tips
If you are considering a small wedding (say 30 guests or so), and don't want to pay a similar amount to a wedding of one hundred, there are always hacks and tips:
A midweek wedding may be an option- the venue will definitely offer a sizable discount and if you are only inviting very close friends and family they will more likely take time off work to attend.
Ask the caterer if you can provide your own cake/canapes/evening food - it's a great job to give to one of your groomsmen/ushers/mother in law etc who has been asking what they can do to help! Baking a cake for two hundred guests is enough to make any mother-in-law fall into meltdown, but if it's only for 30, that's much more like the kind of thing they've done at home for house parties and birthdays.
If you have guests who want to 'be there without being there' you could ask the caterer if they could prepare extra meals to be collected by guests at the same time to take away - they could then eat the meal at home or together with a separate party at the same time and connect via zoom.- You'll find that this will be considerably cheaper as the caterer will not have to provide service/ table linen/place settings etc for the extra guests.
We are still thinking of creative solutions to these kinds of situations, so if you have any similar ideas of your own, don't be afraid to pitch them to your caterer on here in our comments available on this blog - they are feeling it out too!
Above all, however, remember that the whole wedding industry has changed for good, and like many other parts of life, will never be quite the same again. Don't feel you need to conform to the same standards and expectations that have always existed. Who cares any more? You will have the best stories to tell about your special day the more you have embraced adversity and come through it at the other end. Over the next year, you will get to decide what a post covid wedding looks like. What things about a traditional wedding are worth keeping and what should be scrapped. You will be the new experts in the field, however might I suggest a ban on week long stag and hen do's/first dances/ and a time limit on best man speeches?
I wish you all the best of luck. Feel free to email me any questions at www.renskitchen.co.uk.