2020 was the year of Zoom weddings, micro weddings, and matching face masks. Overwhelmingly though, it was a year of uncertainty and postponements. With the long lockdowns in the UK for the most part prohibiting weddings entirely, only a fraction of anticipated weddings took place.
But unlike in industries such as travel and entertainment, weddings are not cancelled but rather postponed. Despite difficulties, people do not lose their desire to tie the knot!
This means that instead of a slow post-pandemic recovery, we can expect a marriage boom in the later months of 2021 and 2022 as all the long-postponed weddings finally take place. Adding to that newly engaged couples, experts predict marriage rates to be sky high in the following year. At the same time, we cannot expect things to simply go back to how they were before the pandemic – COVID19 will certainly leave a lasting impact on the wedding industry world. For example, trends such as micro-weddings, off-the-rack bridal wear, and all things vintage are likely to stick around for a while.
UK Wedding Stats: Key Facts and Figures
- On average, there are 275,000 weddings every year in the UK
- An estimated 14.7 billion GBP is spent on weddings per year. Most is spent on the day itself but significant amounts also on retail and on travel, tourism, and pre-wedding events.
- Approximately 400,000 workers are employed in the wedding industry, directly and in supporting roles.
- Marriage rates in the UK have been slowly declining for years due to changing social attitudes. In 1990, 375,410 couples tied the knot, a number that had declined to 271,668 in 2017.
- But in 2014-2015, marriage rates experienced a small rise due to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
- August is the most popular month for weddings in the UK and Wales.
- The average age of newlyweds is going up: in 2018 it was 38 years for men and 36 years for women, a sharp contrast to 1970 when it was 27 for men and 25 for women.
- In 2018, only about one-fifth of weddings were religious ceremonies.
- In an ordinary year, the wedding market earns revenue of approximately 7.5 billion GBP.
For much of 2020 and a large chunk of 2021, weddings were completely prohibited in the UK. In April of this year, weddings were back on the table, but still only allowed 15 guests maximum. This grew to 30 guests in April, but it was not until mid-July that all restrictions on weddings were lifted.
For the wedding industry, this means that a long period of struggle and uncertainty may finally be over – and its biggest challenge could actually be contending with the demand.
- Over 220,000 weddings were postponed last year, which represents approximately 80% of 2019 wedding rates.
- In the year from July 2021 – June 2022, it is expected that wedding rates will rise 205%, to a rate of 7 people per 1000.
- Vendors involved in all aspects of the wedding industry suffered losses in 2020. Bridal stores suffered negative growth of -37.5%, photographic activities of -19.1%, and catering services: -25.5%.
- A study by Hello Safe estimates that the wedding industry lost a total of 5.3 billion GBP in 2020, and London alone lost 900 million GBP.
A Wedding Boom?
After many months of waiting, couples can finally tie the knot with no restrictions. This means that wedding rates are likely to soar in the coming months and years. But what will this boom actually look like?
- The UK Weddings Task Force forecasts that there will be a whopping 470,000 weddings in the UK in 2021 and 350,000 in 2022. That is nearly 200,000 more weddings than in pre-pandemic years!
- A total of 320,000 weddings have been postponed since March 2020. Adding this to newly engaged couples, there could be as many as 800,000 weddings in the pipeline in the next few years.
- Earlier this year, all restrictions on weddings were expected to be lifted by 21 June. An unprecedented 50,000 weddings were set to take place in the four weeks following. When restrictions were extended for another month, these had to be postponed again – but it’s safe to say that the next wedding season will be a big one.
What does a wedding look like in a pandemic or in the months following? Despite the uncertainties of the previous year, there are definite wedding trends emerging. Couples may be excited to get back to their wedding plans, but they have certainly made some adjustments along the way.
- Although weddings are back on the agenda, in-person fittings for bridalwear and suits are still difficult. As a result, online searches for wedding dresses and suits have quadrupled in recent months.
- When it comes to brands, there has been a marked increase in searches for contemporary labels rather than big luxury brands. For example, searches for Khaite have gone up 63%, and 42% for Christopher John Rogers.
- More brides are foregoing the princess gowns for off-the-rack wedding attire that can be worn again. Vintage and second-hand wedding dresses are also proving popular.
- Reformation is still the most popular brand for wedding guest dresses.
- Smaller weddings have meant that more couples are opting for restaurant receptions.
- A greater number of couples are opting for outdoor ceremonies to stay safe.
- Despite fewer guests, couples are not scaling down their cake requests – they are simply sending cake to friends who could not attend instead.
The Micro Wedding
Although restrictions have been lifted, the micro wedding may be here to stay. While some couples will probably opt for an all-out bash now that they can, the pandemic has shown that a micro wedding can still be a classy affair. For those who prefer a more intimate event, the micro wedding is likely to remain a popular option.
A study of 2000 unmarried adults across the UK found that nearly 70% just wanted to be surrounded by close friends and family on their special day. This was regardless of whether COVID19 restrictions were in place. In fact, 27% said they would consider getting married in their local pub!
According to Coco Wedding Venues, searches for smaller venues are still common. They urge more venues to offer a micro wedding package, as smaller weddings are here to stay.
As the world changes shape, the way people get married changes too. And while these changes are usually incremental, the past year has shown us that this is not always the case. 2022 is set to see a wedding boom of epic proportions in the UK – but this does not mean the industry should sit on its laurels. With more people opting for more casual weddings with smaller guest lists, businesses catering to brides and grooms will need to adapt to the times.