‘Some weddings have been postponed four times – politicians still owe answers’

A man who owns one of Northern Ireland’s large-scale wedding venues has said there could be yet more couples postponing their marriages despite the Stormont government’s attempt to clarify opening dates.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 7:42 am
Chris Lyttle in the Assembly yesterday; what little information there was about wedding venues was brought to light thanks to his Assembly question
Chris Lyttle in the Assembly yesterday; what little information there was about wedding venues was brought to light thanks to his Assembly question

Gavin Mackie said that some customers had already delayed their nuptials as many as four times, thanks to a lack of meaningful information about how and when wedding venues can open.

Some media sources were reporting yesterday that one of the measures due to be announced was that indoor wedding receptions of up to 30 people would be permitted from May 14 onwards.

But despite being trailed in the media all day, when the full list of measures was published by the government in the evening, there was no mention of such a thing.

Instead, only a vague reference was made to weddings was made on the floor of Stormont, and then only thanks to Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle.

He had asked “if it is possible to be clearer with regards to the number of guests people celebrating their weddings might be able to have at their receptions after May 24?”

Arlene Foster replied: “That’ll depend on the size of the venue that they are having their wedding reception at.

“Obviously some venues are very large so you’ll be able to have larger weddings, but if the venue is quite small it’ll have to be a risk assessment carried out to see how that can be achieved.”

It was not immediately clear why the indicative plan of 30 people at receptions from May 14 was ditched in favour of a non-specific number of people from May 24.

Businessman Mr Mackie said it leaves grooms and brides-to-be with further question marks over their plans, on top of what has already been “a really, really tough year”.

Mr Mackie, who owns Larchfield Estate between Lisburn and Ballynahinch, a 400-capacity wedding venue, told the News Letter that when restrictions were eased last year, they had the space to admit 170 guests.

“We were assuming it’d return to risk-assessed socially-distanced capacity, which is what we were running successfully last year from July 10 right through to October,” he said.

He wanted to know “what’s changed” between now and then to justify the apparent lack of easing in the restrictions now.

“We just need clarity for couples – that’s the biggest issue,” he said.

“I think it just makes it impossible for them to make a decision. It’s very, very tough on couples. It’s been ongoing for a whole year for them.

“If there’s no clarity now, people will all want to postpone again – and many of our couples have postponed three or four times already.”

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Alistair Bushe