First off, can you tell us a little about yourself and your job role?
My name is Colette and I’ve worked in the wedding industry for just over a decade now. I’ve worked at various venues, but currently manage the weddings at Wylam Brewery. I came on board in early 2016 and then we opened our doors in May 2016 and it’s been pretty much all systems go ever since.
Outside of work I’m a mummy to 2 little boys who pretty much take up all of my spare time. I also love spending time with my husband, my family and friends.
On a personal note, how have you found juggling wedding planning for couples and day to day life in lockdown?
At first, it wasn’t easy at all. I think like many other people it was a lot to get used to. Aswell as working from home and adapting to that, I now have to home school, which I have also had to adapt to so there has been a lot of juggling time around and trying to find a good balance. Lockdown has obviously effected a lot of peoples wedding plans, which has been a hard time for people. I’ve found myself being on my emails and phone during the evenings a lot more than usual just trying to answer as many peoples questions as I can as this is something no one could have foreseen only a few months ago.
When did you first notice when plans were going to have to be put in place?
It was always something on our minds to be honest. Since the beginning of lockdown rumours and watching other countries going in to lockdown, it was something our wedding team and directors were having daily meetings about. We were watching for government updates and guidelines being released, so if the worst did happen, we knew we could act as quickly and effectively as possible.
When the governments announced the lockdown, what were your first steps?
When the announcement was made on the Friday evening that all venues must close, we unfortunately had a wedding booked for the next day, so this was our very first priority. I rang the couple and we began looking at a new date, and then I followed this process for all our couples who were going to be impacted by the announcement. Our main focus was on reassuring couples as best we could with the information we had available, whilst also letting them know that we were still working and at the end of the phone/email if they needed us.
As a venue, how have you been dealing with postponements?
We have been really flexible working closely with all of our couples to try and find them a new date for their wedding. We have managed to find the majority of couples new dates and we also have some dates on hold for couples who still aren’t quite sure what their next steps are. Obviously this has been upsetting for a lot of people, so our main focus has been reassuring our couples that their day will go ahead as planned, albeit at a later stage.
What has been the most difficult part of rearranging wedding dates?
Finding a new date for couples that not only works for them, but that works for our venue, their friends/families and all of their suppliers. Trying to get all of this to come together takes a lot of organising and booking people in advance, so doing it all so last minute has been challenging.
How have you seen couples adapting their plans, changing from a peak summer wedding to say a December wedding, what advice have you given for a change of season?
Yes, we’ve had all sorts of change overs. People who were due to get married in Summer this year are now getting married in Winter next year for example. For weddings that needed to be postponed, Spring seems to have been a popular choice actually. Our venue is very bright and light, so even during Autumn and Winter it still lets in a lot of natural light and looks amazing. So rather than advice, I think my main focus at the moment has just been reassuring our couples. Reassuring them that regardless of the season they change to, we as a venue will make sure they have the best day ever.
What would you say to couples with 2020 wedding dates still in place?
At the moment I would say to stay calm. Get yourself a back up date booked in if possible with your vendors and suppliers. If the worst does happen and your wedding has to be postponed, you can be prepared with a new back up date and you can start to work towards that.
To 2021 couples who are just starting to plan, what should they start doing?
Start researching and booking suppliers as soon as you can. Next year is going to a very busy year for the wedding industry, with all new bookings and postponed weddings, so get in early as you can to avoid disappointment. When researching suppliers, narrow them down, get in touch to check if they have your date available and start making bookings. The first things I would advise couples to book are the sort of suppliers who you can only work one wedding on a day. So things like a photographer, a band, a DJ and an event dresser.
If couples can’t physically see venues, how have you overcome this?
We have now started doing socially distanced viewings, which is great as we have a huge backlog of couples wanting to see the venue. However, before that we were following strict guidelines so we had to change the way we did things. I showed a few couples around via video call, which was a new experience but it was actually great for couples who wanted to get their venue booked and this is something we will continue to offer as many couple who book our venue do not live in the north east so it offers another opportunity to ‘see’ a venue whilst travel restrictions are in place.
Do you think there will be any changes in the wedding industry after this?
Over the last few months I have reached out to local venues, which isn’t something I would usually do. But it was reassuring talking to other wedding coordinators, so it would be nice if that could carry on. It’s felt a lot more together and I think that will be something that carries on moving forward. We all offer something different to the industry and there’s enough wedding business for us all to enjoy.
I’ve also found myself talking to suppliers more then ever. We have always supported other businesses and we will continue to do so by supporting all our lovely suppliers.
So overall I would say we are better connected. I think we’ll have to wait and see how things change as the lockdown rules start to ease off over time, but I think the fact that all throughout this we have still received enquiries about weddings in the future is a very good sign. After this is over, I think the wedding industry will come back stronger than ever!
What do you think we should all take away from this situation?
I think this has been a very testing time for us all in a lot of ways, but one thing that stands out for me is how much everyone has come together. So I think at the end of this we can all take away from this a stronger sense of community and a lot more admiration and respect for every key worker out there.