Couples struggle to book weddings amid 'unprecedented demand'
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A wedding day is often described as one of the most important days of your life.
But for some couples in Norfolk, booking their dream day has become something of a nightmare due to “unprecedented demand.”
Registrars at Norfolk County Council are continuing to play catch-up following both the postponement of dozens of ceremonies due to the pandemic and the newly-engaged wanting to tie the knot.
And Caroline Clarke, assistant director of governance for democratic and regulatory services at Norfolk County Council, explained that there are “still many more” to get through.
“This is an extremely busy year for ceremonies and we are still working with some couples who had a 2020 or 2021 ceremony booked and rescheduled to this year," she said.
“On top of this, we are also finding that there is a huge demand for ceremonies for this year’s summer season, and there are still many more notice appointments to get through for ceremonies this summer.”
While ceremonies can be booked up to three years in advance, the summer season is traditionally heavily booked by March usually due to lots of Christmas, New Year, and Valentine engagements.
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Combined with couples reassessing their own situations since the pandemic and choosing to get married or hold a legal ceremony, something which they may not have been considering pre-2020, the demand is like never before.
One groom, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had found it “impossible to book a wedding anywhere in Norfolk before September” and claimed that no Saturdays were available for the rest of the year.
He added: “Loads of venues have space but you can't book weddings even during the week as there are not enough registrars. There are too many people wanting to get married after covid.
“Even though we have now decided to plan further ahead – we began booking things last year for our wedding in 2023 – things had already started getting booked up. Even the caterers we planned to use did not have availability for our date two years ahead.”
Couples are typically invited to give notice of their intention to marry or enter a civil partnership up to nine months before their ceremony, but due to suspension of notice appointments in 2020, Norfolk County Council is continuing to clear the backlog.
Ms Clarke added: “Birth registrations were also suspended, meaning there was a backlog of thousands of appointments to complete. The service has also had to register excess levels of deaths over the last two years.
“This high level of appointments paired with the health and safety measures in place meant staff has also not been able to work from all of its offices and the organisation has experienced periods of staff absences relating to covid.
“We have 80-plus members of staff across the county that are trained to legally conduct marriages and civil partnerships. We have also added to this number with a recent recruitment campaign.
"We are sorry for the disappointment this may cause to couples who were still hoping to book a ceremony for this summer. If we get to a position where we can deliver more ceremonies, we will.
“We are keeping a really close eye on our bookings and will open up more booking slots if we can.
“As always, if a couple needs an urgent ceremony for exceptional circumstances, then they need to contact us to discuss.”
Already there have been changes to the jurisdiction around weddings post-covid, including outdoor weddings at licensed venues in England and Wales being legalised permanently following a temporary law brought in.
A different choice
Celebrant Francesca Foulsham, of Norwich, said: “I have had many couples contact me who are unable to marry at their chosen date or venue because of lack of availability due to the Covid back log.
“I chat to my couples and explain that with a Celebrant led ceremony they can marry at anytime and anywhere and include all the personalised, bespoke elements which reflect their values and beliefs.
“The 'legal' part of the marriage can be completed in a very short process, between 10 to 15 minutes at a working registry office, and then they can have their actual wedding ceremony with all the bells and whistles with a celebrant on the day of their choice.
“Celebrant led ceremonies can take place in traditional or more unusual locations; beautiful barns, boutique hotels, tepees, tents, woods, windmills, at a farm, in a field or even at a festival. The possibilities are endless and they don't have to be licenced.
“I'm passionate about helping couples to have the perfect wedding. It's all about giving couples choice and letting them know that there are alternatives out there besides the very formal traditional registry type of service and location.”
Have you struggled to book your wedding or enter a civil partnership due to lack of registrars? Contact reporter Donna-Louise.Bishop@archant.co.uk