Wedding venues across the county have revealed they are getting booked into 2023 and requests into 2024 as the industry deals with a huge backlog caused by the pandemic.
With a huge array of great wedding venues across Surrey, there is no shortage of demand for people who want to get married here, but uncertainties around logistics and a strong desire for couples to have weddings once things are “back to normal”, wedding venues reveal that they and so many in the industry are working harder than ever to arrange people’s special days.
Susie Evans is wedding and events manager with The Barn at Botley Hill, a venue inthe village of Limpsfieldnext to Oxted, that is relatively new to the trade – its first weddings were in summer 2019.
She told SurreyLive: “We’re fully booked more or less for next year, 2022, and we’re filling up for 2023. There are requests for 2024, but we don’t work that far ahead. We probably get up to 10 enquiries a day at the moment. It’s all really positive.”
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Roadmap restrictions announced on May 17 allowweddings with up to 30 peopleto happen. While some people like this opportunity to have a smaller event for only the closest family and friends to attend, others prefer sharing their big day with as many people as possible.
And Susie said it was definitely more the latter - they have hosted around 15 weddings in the last year, but that number pales in comparison to the 120 events they have postponed.
“[May 17 is] a step in the right direction, but it’s still had a huge impact on the industry as a whole, because so many people won’t get married, when there’s only 30 people there. As a venue we’re only doing two weddings in the next month, from May 17, when we normally do up to four a week.”
With weddings being such a large undertaking for so many, she also says so many of the couples she works with are keen not to do things by halves.
“It’s a celebration, it’s more than just a quick party. It’s something that they’ve planned, some of them, for years. I think it’s been emotionally draining – our team have worked every hour under the sun. We realise it’s theirbiggest commitment of life.”
'Couples have moved dates almost five or six times'
Rosie Glaister, the owner of Ramster Hall in Chiddingfold just outside Godalming, said she remembers what a shock it was in March 2020 to see the industry take such a huge hit.
She said: “We [kept] thinking, by the summer we’ll be back up and going again. I think all our couples thought that as well. People were pushing it a few months into the summer, and it just got further and further away. We’ve had certain couples that have definitely moved three, four, almost five or six times. Thinking it would be fine by the autumn, andthen it wasn’t.”
The hardest part for Ramster Hall and so much of the industry is the uncertainty of the future – sadly, not all wedding venues in Surrey are in a position to open up again post-pandemic.
She said: “The costs of runninga place like thisare not insignificant, we really need the weddings to keep the roof on the place. The garden has to be kept immaculate.”
But so much has also been said about a bright future once venues can open again, which Rosie says she is excited about.
“My biggest wish is that after June 21, everyone can have a good party, and have what they want to do. I think the biggest turning point is when they can dance. The one at the end of Maywhen they can’t dance, it is a disappointment.”
'Next year will be the telling time'
It’s not just venues facing uncertainty over what their clients are allowed to do and when, bridal shops, which reopened on April 12 are too.
Amanda Willis, owner of Encore Evenings and Bridalspoke to SurreyLive in advance of opening, and work since has been very busy and far in advance.
While many have simply resigned to having smaller weddings, the future is hard to predict.
Amanda added: “I think next year will be the telling time. They are having to rebook weddings from this year to next year, which means they don’t have a full calendar to book new weddings.”