The Asian wedding industry has been “largely ignored” by the government in its easing of restrictions around weddings, members of the Asian Wedding Association (AWAUK) have claimed. The association, which represents venue owners, caterers and wedding planners has warned that a further delay to the planned 21 June reopening could totally “destroy” the industry.
The last year has seen many weddings delayed multiple times. Under stage three of the government’s roadmap - the current position - weddings and civil partnerships with up to 30 people were allowed to take place from 17 May. This doubled the previous limit of 15.
But the AWAUK says that the concessions made so far - allowing only small weddings - means the Asian wedding industry has been impacted “disproportionately” and has remained mostly closed, due to a large number of guests being a “culturally valuable” aspect of celebrations.
“We are the forgotten industry,” Atul Lakhani, chair of the AWAUK told The Independent. “Everybody has traded, except the Asian wedding industry. We have been culturally discriminated against, and we’ve been impacted disproportionately,” he added.
As per estimates from Hitched, the average UK wedding size is 82 guests. But the average Asian wedding in the UK has approximately 300 guests, with some events reaching a figure of 600 people, according to Guides for Brides. The UK wedding industry contributes £14.7 bn to the economy each year, £5 bn of which comes from the Asian wedding sector.
“It is illogical that our sector has been ignored, marginalised and forced to accept arbitrary numbers of 15 and 30 guests to celebrate our culturally valuable celebrations,” Lakhani said.
“You can now go into a crowded pub or an outdoor garden, and they are absolutely heaving. The only difference between a big restaurant or a pub with 200 people and a wedding, is that there isn’t a bride and groom in there,” Lakhani said.
The AWAUK has urged the government to go ahead with its current plans to lift restrictions on weddings on 21 June - which could be in jeopardy because of the increase in the Delta variant of Covid - warning that “the entire Asian wedding industry faces a cliff edge from which it will not survive”.
“We are extremely concerned that the lack of representation of our plight may destroy our industry,” said Lakhani. “This would lead not only to thousands of job losses but brides and grooms would lose millions [in] deposits and savings which they have allocated to the biggest days of their lives.”
LaToya Patel, CEO and co-founder of Asian wedding planning company, SW Events, said that while members from across the whole wedding sector have been ignored when lifting restrictions on hospitality and other sectors, “businesses that are structured to work at scale, including many Asian wedding businesses, have really suffered”.
“It took the government far too long to acknowledge in their wedding guidelines that weddings are more than just a legal or church ceremony. This is where I do feel there was an unfair lifting that disproportionately affected not only Asian weddings but most cultural weddings,” she added.
The UK Wedding Task Force, which represents the wedding industry and has been working with the government on its coronavirus pandemic response, said it is working hard to ensure that no one community is being discriminated against.
“We can see that the government is becoming more aware as the guidelines continue to change and reflect wider needs. There has been a huge amount of education needed to get to this point and we know that this work is continuous,” Sarah Haywood, the taskforce spokesperson said.
She added: “However, we understand the difficulties involved for couples and businesses trying to plan cultural and religious weddings and will continue to apply pressure for a full reopening.”
The UK task force predicts that across the entire industry, 50,000 weddings planned in the four weeks from 21 June are in danger of being cancelled.
“80 per cent of couples who have booked a wedding in the four weeks after 21 June claim they will cancel their weddings and a further 25 per cent with weddings booked for later this summer will cancel due to the ongoing uncertainty,” the task force warned.
A UK government spokesperson said it is still aiming to lift all restrictions on guest count, but it is too soon to commit to an exact date at this stage. A spokesperson said: “We know how disruptive the pandemic has been to couples and the wider wedding industry, but we have to ensure that we are putting the safety of the British public first and that is why it is right to continue to look at the latest data.
“We have already issued straightforward, clear and accessible guidance for those holding weddings and receptions under current guidelines and continue to work closely with the sector.”
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