Friday 9 October 2020 6:14 am

DEBATE: Should the social distancing restrictions on weddings be dropped?

Mark Henriques is managing director of Cripps & Co
and Emma Revell
Emma Revell is head of public affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs

Should the social distancing restrictions on weddings be dropped?

Mark Henriques, managing director of Cripps & Co and petitioner seeking an injunction against the government measures, says YES.

In March, lockdown shattered the plans of the thousands of people set to marry this year. I have watched with dismay as a temporary upset, caused by a virus, became a long and desperate saga of utter misery.

The policies introduced for weddings are baffling. Deciding that weddings were super-spreader events, the government plucked a “safe” number of guests out of thin air. A 30-person limit which was guidance on 4 July became a 15-person limit set in law on 28 September, through a process that by-passed parliamentary scrutiny. With this, the hopes of couples and venues were dashed, and the demise of a £10bn sector began.

And for what? The current spike in Covid-19 cases is in nursing homes, schools, universities and workplaces. Hospitality only has a walk-on part — but that hasn’t stopped our leaders taking extraordinary measures, even though the industry has gone to lengths to ensure weddings are compliant and safe.

We all recognise the need to adapt our behaviour to protect others, but the measures must be properly considered and proportionate to the risk. Currently, this is not the case. To save our industry, they must be scrapped. 

Read more: Til divorce do us part: advice for couples considering separation

Emma Revell, head of communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says NO.

The suspension of normality during the pandemic has hit everyone hard, and when the milestones of life are disrupted it is particularly difficult to bear.

But the impact on the wedding industry, while catastrophic, is nothing compared to what is going on in wider society. Young people have had their academic achievements robbed from them and currently face being locked in university prison blocks because the government and education sector have failed to adequately prepare for the virus’ impact on campuses. The hospitality sector is being punished for its own very mild recovery, with the 10pm curfew smothering the tiny sparks lit by Eat Out to Help Out. And the NHS continues to perform at levels well below what was seen in February when it comes to non-Covid patients.

The key issue here is less about the restrictions on weddings specifically and more about the arbitrary nature of the rules and the bizarre loopholes. The government should stop picking industries to support and start making sensible policies that apply across the board, with the priority being the normal functioning of the wider economy and society — not whether a few lucky couples can enact the extravagant fantasy of a “perfect” wedding.

Read more: Hospitality circuit breaker lockdown could wipe £1bn off UK GDP, research shows

Main image credit: Getty

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