The £85,000 cost of a cancelled wedding

The bouquets have been ordered, the dress fittings done and — for many couples up and down the country — the countdown is on to their long-awaited big day.

But with the planned easing of restrictions on June 21 now in doubt, a cloud of uncertainty has descended over tens of thousands of weddings planned to take place in two weeks’ time.

Many face scaling back large celebrations to smaller, Covid-compliant affairs, ‘dis-inviting’ friends and relatives and — crucially — losing vast amounts of money in deposits.

Katie Trybus, 29, and her fiancé Liam Grosso, 29, got engaged in Greece in 2019 and due to get married on June 24, at the picturesque South Farm in Royston, Hertfordshire

For some it’s the final straw after a turbulent and disheartening 15 months, which has seen them postpone and reschedule the date several times.

And it’s not just the couple who’ll lose out on the best day of their lives. From caterers to venue owners, cake-makers to florists and taxi and train operators, the cancellation of a single wedding means losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds for the wider economy.

So just what is the ripple effect of weddings being scaled back, or cancelled, if Freedom Day on June 21 is pushed back by two weeks or more as feared?

Last month, Money Mail Editor Victoria Bischoff, whose second attempt down the aisle now hangs in the balance, told of her own despair and called on Boris Johnson to stop unfairly penalising people getting married.

Here, one would-be bride and groom lay bare the costly reality of calling off their big day, providing a stark warning of just how crippling to the economy the extension of Covid restrictions could be . . .

Fearing a snap decision

Wedding photographer Vicky Shannon of The Shannons Photography has been looking forward to capturing ‘relaxed, non-staged and story-like natural shots with a sepia tone’ on Katie and Liam’s big day later this month.

Wedding photographer Vicky Shannon of The Shannons Photography could lose up to £1,450 of income if numbers are drastically cut or the day is postponed

Wedding photographer Vicky Shannon of The Shannons Photography could lose up to £1,450 of income if numbers are drastically cut or the day is postponed

However, if guest numbers are slashed, the couple won’t need anything like the number of photographs they would require for the big wedding they still hope to get to have, and the cost would drop dramatically.

The couple have paid £1,850 for the day, £400 of which is a deposit, meaning the photographer could lose up to £1,450 of income if numbers are drastically cut or the day is postponed.

On the basis of ten weddings over a fortnight, overall Vicky could look to lose around £14,500 if the restrictions are extended.

Loss: £1,450


The couple: £9,770 loss

Katie Trybus, 29, a student programme manager, met her fiancé Liam Grosso, 29, a national account manager, 12 years ago through mutual friends. 

The couple, from Hertfordshire, got engaged in Greece in 2019 when Liam proposed on the tenth anniversary of their first meeting.

They’re due to get married on June 24, at the picturesque South Farm in Royston, Hertfordshire.

Should restrictions not be lifted on June 21 they have the option to keep their date but have a much smaller wedding, postpone and roll their deposit over to a later date, or cancel altogether.

‘We’re having 100 guests in the day and 150 in the evening,’ says Katie.

‘The date is purely a coincidence; it’s the original one we booked back in February 2020. We don’t really have a plan B. If numbers remain at 30, we’ll be so disappointed, as we want to celebrate with all of our friends and family and not cherry-pick the closest.’

The couple have paid £17,000 to South Farm, which includes venue hire for the ceremony and reception, as well as food.

They stand to lose £4,000 in venue deposits and cancellation fees if it can’t go ahead.

On top of this they would also lose a further £5,770 on deposits paid to other suppliers, drinks, decorations, hair and make-up trials, invitations and outfits.

‘It’s been difficult to get excited with the levels of uncertainty over the past 18 months, and we’re feeling anxious that no one knows what’s happening,’ Katie adds. ‘If everything goes to plan on June 21, it will be the best day ever. We’re trying to stay optimistic!’

U-turn would really take the cake 

A cancellation would cost cake maker Nola Colli £480

A cancellation would cost cake maker Nola Colli £480

What’s a wedding without a fabulous cake? And as we all know, fabulous doesn’t come for free. 

‘I’ve invested time working out the design with Katie and Liam, ordered various ingredients and baked cakes for their trial,’ says Nola Colli, 34, owner of Tierz Watford, who is making the couple’s wedding cake. ‘A cancellation would cause me to lose out on £480.’

As the couple did not have to pay a deposit, she will not receive any compensation for her time. 

She’s managed to keep her small business going during the pandemic by expanding into making themed birthday cakes.

 ‘However, compared to pre-Covid times, my business is down 35 per cent in sales. This has been extremely tough for me as I work on my own,’ she adds.

On the basis of ten weddings over a fortnight, overall Nola could look to lose around £4,800 if restrictions are extended.

Loss: £480

Venue and caterers: £14,000 loss

Katie and Liam have planned a big, traditional wedding with all the trimmings. The meal will be Asian fusion-style, a nod to their love of travelling together, and the couple have gone all out to make it a memorable occasion.

Hayley, 32, the wedding planner at South Farm, says they’ve already had four planning sessions — two in person and two virtual — as well as hosting a food tasting evening for the pair. 

Assuming the wedding is cancelled, South Farm would stand to lose £14,000 for this day alone, in food and staff costs.’

The venue owner, James, adds: ‘We’re desperately hoping to be back to our normal guest numbers come June 21, and it’s upsetting not only for the couple but for all the suppliers in the industry. Any further delays would have a huge negative impact.’

The average venue hosts four to five weddings a week, so with reports that Covid restrictions could be extended by a fortnight, South Farm could stand to lose around £140,000 overall if Freedom Day is moved to July 5.

Dresses and suits: £3,250 loss 

Shopping for a dress in times of Covid is far from easy. Rather than take along her family and four bridesmaids to help her choose, Katie could only have her mum with her.

After trying on almost 90 dresses at ten different bridal shops, she came across Pure Couture, a bridal boutique that lets brides work with seamstresses to design their own gowns.

Once completed, Katie’s dress, which takes elements from four of the off-the-rack dresses she tried, will cost around £2,000. Due to the pandemic restrictions, she was only able to try it on for the first time last Friday.

‘I’m so excited about the dress, but it has provided yet another element of uncertainty having to do things this way,’ says Katie. The total cost of the bridesmaid dresses is £200.

They have also spent £1,050 on suits for the groom and groomsmen. Of course, if the couple are able to get married in the future they should be able to re-use these outfits.

There’s no way we’d make-up such a loss 

Hairdresser Victoria Fitzgerald and Make-up artist Erin Moys stand to lose around £759

Hairdresser Victoria Fitzgerald and Make-up artist Erin Moys stand to lose around £759

Hairdresser Victoria Fitzgerald, 37, says: ‘If the wedding doesn’t go ahead, I would lose out on £90 for the bride, £60 for each of the four bridesmaids and £50 for the mother of the bride,’ she says. ‘I’ve also had to book out half a working day.

Make-up artist Erin Moys also stands to lose a significant amount, including half a day of work, plus £70 for the bride and £50 for each bridesmaid and Katie’s mum.

Together the hairdresser and make-up artist stand to lose around £759 — and overall are looking at a loss of £10,000 over a fortnight.

Loss: £700

Entertainment: £510 loss

As a self-employed DJ from London, Jason Lee, 31, has had a tough time lately.

‘It’s been a ropey year for everyone in the hospitality industry, and specifically me as a DJ,’ he says. ‘Since outdoor restrictions eased, and now indoor ones too, I’ve managed to start booking some events, but not the number of gigs I’d like to see in the calendar.’

For this wedding, he’s already put in several hours’ work: a planning meeting, getting his equipment tested and devising a provisional set list.

If restrictions remain as they are, his services simply wouldn’t be allowed at a Covid-compliant wedding (where dancing/music is currently banned) and he would not make any money at all.

‘I would lose out on £450 revenue by not attending the wedding, plus another £60 for the PAT — electrical safety — test for Liam and Katie’s event.’

On the basis of ten weddings over a fortnight, overall Jason could look to lose around £5,000 if restrictions are extended.

Guests and wedding party: £28,200 loss

‘We’ve dropped hints to friends and some family in regards to attending with reduced numbers,’ says Katie. ‘We’ve created a ’50 list’ but not one for 30, which would be brutal.’

With Katie and Liam’s wedding taking place on a Thursday, meaning most guests will have to take two days off work, cutting numbers to 30 would result in 120 people losing out on two days’ income if they are unable to change their holiday dates — an average of £235 per guest, or £28,200 total.

Bridesmaid Katrina Burton, 29, a teacher from Watford, says changes so late would be ‘outrageous’.

‘So far we’ve had to cancel Katie’s hen do and re-plan it on a different date, doing it in a Covid-safe way — which proved to be quite difficult,’ she adds. ‘We want to stay as positive as possible, but also manage realistic expectations.

‘We just want to see our best friend get married in the way that she deserves.’

A blooming profit would be left to wilt away 

Kings Langley Florists stand to lose £700 if their bouquets are no longer required

Kings Langley Florists stand to lose £700 if their bouquets are no longer required

With orders already placed at the wholesaler, staff hired and several hours spent designing the flowers, Kings Langley Florists risks losing out on significant sums.

‘We’ve opted for a green leafy vibe, with pastel colours around the outdoor seating and the pergola where the ceremony is taking place,’ says Liam.

The couple have paid £1,200 for their flowers, £500 of this as a deposit, meaning the florist stands to lose £700 if they’re no longer required.

On the basis of ten weddings over a fortnight, Kings Langley Florists could lose around £7,000 if restrictions are extended.

Loss: £700


Accommodation and travel: £15,480 loss

The average wedding costs each guest £129 in travel and accommodation — meaning both the rail/taxi and hotel industries face losing out on vast sums if one couple’s nuptials don’t go ahead.

If numbers have to be cut to 30, that’s approximately £6,840 in lost train and taxi fares, and £8,640 in lost accommodation fees; a total of £15,480 that — given current Covid-friendly cancellation policies — can’t be recouped.

And that’s assuming Katie and Liam’s big day doesn’t have to be cancelled completely — which would mean losses of almost £20,000 for the wider industry.

Retail: £9,600 loss 

Having barely spent a penny on clothing over the past 15 months, wedding guests are expected to go all out at the end of this month, spending up to £80 per person on their outfits.

While some may not have bought anything to wear yet, those who find themselves off the slimmed-down guest list are likely to return their outfit. If 120 of Katie and Liam’s guests do this, that’s a loss of £9,600 to the retail industry.

Total losses of cancelling one wedding: £84,140