Sunday always feels as if it’s the right moment to take a pause and just lift our heads and look around.
Right now, the rest of the week seems to fly by in such a blur that it becomes increasingly more important to take some much needed time out to reflect on what’s happened and where we are. This week, I’d love to share our weekend musings with you all and I hope that you find this update interesting, informative and ultimately hopeful.
Since the start of this pandemic, we’ve both (Tamryn and I) been working very closely together beyond the parameters of Love My Dress, but on campaigning and lobbying for our beloved wedding sector too. Back in March when the impact of this pandemic was gathering pace, I was personally adjusting to the sudden and very unexpected loss of my father, who passed away on 30th January. My dear old dad died in his sleep, aged 81, on an otherwise regular winter morning. February was for me, also mostly a blur – adjusting to the shock news and, at the end, eventually holding dad’s funeral – a wonderfully uplifting and memorable occasion. I can’t remember much of March if I’m honest, except for one thing; lockdown.
A Condensed Timeline
I’m not here to share my own story of life since since 23rd March 2020 when we entered our first national lockdown. Each of us have our own experience and I’m acutely aware that for some right now, the only way of surviving through this is on a day-to-day basis. Looking forward into an imagined future, or indeed backwards into the lived experience of our Covid19 lives, can induce overwhelming anxiety. But let me just say this; back in March, after one horribly stressful evening I won’t ever forget where I genuinely thought we’d lost everything we’d worked so hard for over the past decade (our business, our home, my career in the wedding sector), I had this moment of absolute clarity as I lay on the bed staring into what felt like the abyss. I knew I had to fight.
Since that moment, we’ve been doing everything possible to bring together and support all those who work in wedding sector, and everyone whose wedding has been impacted by this crisis.
We’ve been speaking up for couples, suppliers, venues and everyone connected to the wedding world here in the UK for many years now but since March, everything has of course taken on a new sense of urgency. We’ve been loudly voicing our concerns for couples who’ve had their weddings taken away from them, and for venues and suppliers who’ve faced months without income -alongside their own trials and tribulations. We’re constantly, acutely aware how difficult and deeply painful the last eight months have been for everyone.
Many of you will already know that back in July, we published an article here on Love My Dress that sparked a national movement. Our article asked the question, ‘what about weddings?’ (and is WELL worth a read if you haven’t already, if anything, for the useful timeline of events included). Four months later and that question has it’s own website, social media following and hashtag that has been shared many thousands of times both on Instagram and Twitter (yes, Twitter is a thing all over again).
We’ve been working with our friend Jessie Westwood from Studio Sorores on ‘What About Weddings’ for months now. What About Weddings has become both a wedding sector campaign group and lobbying team and since September, the scale and speed of the campaign has stepped up in ways we couldn’t believe possible. If you’ve been following us on the new @whataboutweddingsofficial account on Instagram, you’ll have seen our updates. Behind the scenes, the pace is frenetic. In the past couple of weeks, we took on a team of wonderful, dedicated volunteers who are now assisting us with our campaigning and we must thank them here for all of their assistance and input – it’s true to say we couldn’t do any of this without these people.
But, onto the update of this week…
The Westminster Debate
Monday night saw the longed-for wedding debate in Parliament and we were thrilled by the speeches that all the MPs gave as they stood up for weddings in the place where it really matters.
You can watch the debate below. You can also read a full transcript from the debate here. The debate happened because of this petition and we shared an update of ‘progress and positivity’ on Instagram after the debate – please do read this, it’s important.
Last Sunday, the night before the parliamentary debate, we organised a Twitter Bomb with the aim of getting #whataboutweddings trending ahead of the debate so that MPs could be in no doubt of the strength of feeling out there. We hit our goal and #whataboutweddings trended with hundreds of people got involved. MPs definitely heard us and the feeling of community and solidarity was uplifting and wonderful.
The wheels of government do seem to turn exceedingly slowly and we completely understand the frustration and the desire for movement and change but fingers crossed, this debate is the start of forward movement for us all.
From this debate, a number of MPs have reached out to us to learn more about the wedding sector and to find out how we might all be able to work together and, of course, we’re very happy to help.
In the past month, we’ve also met with government departments and senior representatives from Public Health England to understand their concerns. This is vital, if we’re to overcome them and move forward. You can never talk to too many people.
The What About Weddings campaign has also been reaching out across the wedding sector to bring people together as we know that there are lots of groups who have been working incredibly hard on potential solutions that will let us all get back to weddings sooner rather than later. And frankly, unity right now is key. We must all be working together in our campaigning and in our exploration of solutions that will help our sector reopen back up again safely – and soon.
Bringing the sector together & learning from others
On Wednesday this week, Tamryn, Jessie and myself hosted a roundtable discussion of representatives of a whole host of bodies representing every corner of the wedding sector from venues and photographers to marquee providers, caterers, florists, celebrants and many more. The positivity on that call was absolutely uplifting and we were all able to share knowledge and intelligence – this can only be good for us all as we move forwards and these conversations are still continuing.
View this post on Instagram
(If you work in the wedding sector and would like to watch the full ‘Mental Health in the Wedding Sector’ session that we hosted with Dr Rosena Allin Khan in October – please drop us an email on [email protected]. We will happily grant you access to the password protected video).
We also undertaken a lot of work with colleagues in the wider events sector as here, there has been so much forward movement. It’s vital that weddings are represented in conversations around rapid testing, insurance, pilot events and other clever solutions that are not only being discussed, but already in existence and being used beyond the wedding world. It’s incredible how much work these groups have done in such a short space of time and we heartily commend these groups and thank them for including us in their discussions.
Hold The Vision, Trust the Process
It’s important that we do stop to realise just how much progress has been made, particularly in the last month. We feel more positive now about the return of weddings than we have for a really long time and if we could just convey one message to you all today, it would be this: Please hold on for a little longer. Things are moving now in ways they weren’t before.
I’ll be honest, this campaign has certainly taken us out of our comfort zones. Speaking up and speaking out can sometimes feel as if you’re jumping off a cliff without knowing how you’ll land. It’s scary and exhausting and there are some days where I find myself having to dig really deep mentally and emotionally to access the resilience required to power through. Having the unquestionable trust, respect, support, solidarity and sisterhood from the two women I am working with so intensely on a daily basis has for me, been life changing.
There is so much support for the campaign and for our goals and there are so many people affected by the effective closure of the wedding sector that there is absolutely no way that we can sit silently by, doing nothing. Tamryn, Jessie and I – we each feel very deeply that we have a moral obligation to speak up for everyone in our community – the couples, the businesses, those feeling alone, left out and ignored. We will speak up when you can’t and we will amplify your voice whenever we can.
(Learn more about our first campaign film here)
If you want to speak out, know that we’ll support you all the way. We, along with many others working their socks off for the sector and for all couples who simply want to be married, have got your backs.
For now, we urge you with all our hearts: please stay positive. Hold the vision, trust process.
With love from us both,
Annabel, and Tamryn xx
Mental Health & Support: If you are struggling through this pandemic, be you a wedding business owner or bride/groom/couple whose wedding has been impacted by lockdown restrictions, please know you are not alone:
1. Turn2Us: Fighting Poverty (UK Charity for those in financial distress)
3. MIND – mental health charity
5. The Love My Dress closed support group for brides
6. The Wedding Industry Support & Discussion Group