How COVID-19 Has Affected the Wedding & Events Industry
I have been speaking with a selection of the UK’s leading wedding industry professionals and throughout my next series of articles I will try to understand how the current situation we find ourselves in has affected both their business and the dream plans of their clients. This week I caught up with Thomas Couch, Private Events Manager at Annabel’s in London.
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Thomas Couch (Tom to me!) is a long standing friend of mine and even walked me down the aisle at our wedding last year.
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Thomas coordinates private events & weddings at the prestigious private members club Annabel's, which sees numerous high-net-worth individuals and celebrities pass through their door on a daily basis. Hosting a series of high profile events, more recently the Vogue Bafta party, Louis Vuitton store launch and a series of famous performances from world famous DJs to well known acts.
Thomas began his career in the wedding & events industry working for the Queen’s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, organising a variety of parties for the Royal family around the world. Following this, he worked as the Social Events Manager at Claridge’s, co-ordinating and planning luxury weddings & private social occasions at the timeless 5-star hotel in Mayfair.
Hi Tom! Could you start by telling us why you enjoy working in the wedding and events industry?
Clients often say, “you must really enjoy your job”and luckily for me, I really do. The simple reason being is that working in this industry you are typically dealing with people who are wishing to celebrate a special occasion. By working with them closely to plan this, you end up being very much a part of it, which is incredibly fulfilling.
The execution of planning a wedding is like creating a piece of theatre, there is a beginning, middle and end, which in this case, is the big day itself. Throughout this journey, you create a special relationship with your client which ultimately boils down to them trusting you to create the day they have dreamed of. It is the pressure and responsibility which I thrive on the most and why I have enjoyed each and every event I have worked on (almost).
What has been your favourite wedding you have worked on?
Without breaking my confidentiality agreements (!) I would have to say my favourite wedding involved a gospel choir, 20 piece big band and cast of a West End musical that came straight from the theatre to perform their act! It was quite the night. I will also always remember my first wedding which had 4 guests (including the bride and groom) and a wedding where 3 sausage dogs and a Great Dane walked the couple down the aisle – sadly they were not allowed to stay for canapes!
When you first heard about COVID-19 did you ever imagine it would lead to weddings being cancelled and the country going into lockdown?
Absolutely not. Initially I hoped it would phase out and we would continue as normal, however, as the risk increased, so did the cancellations. It happened almost chronologically with the immediate events postponing or cancelling all together.
Weddings are a little different as there are far more factors involved when it comes to postponing; securing an alternative date at the venue (which is typically booked up for another year), family travelling from abroad, dress fittings, caterers etc. – all things which people have spent a lot of money on and many have been saving a lifetime for.
Ultimately, there is the disappointment that their special day is not taking place on the date they have been looking forward to. With so much uncertainty of when this will be over, it is difficult for people to know what to do about their wedding. I have friends and clients getting married in September and whilst we can hope and pray, none of us know at this stage what will be permitted at that time.
How has your business adapted during this time?
As a private members club we fall under the bar/restaurant category and therefore have closed until further notice from the government. I know a lot of my clients will have queries and currently it is very difficult to answer them without knowing when we will reopen.
In the meantime, our owner’s charity The Caring Foundation has been working with our Executive Chef to create meals for the NHS and over 7,000 meals a week are now being delivered to hospitals in London. Last week I was very pleased to volunteer to help pack the breakfast and lunch bags they have created.
Have you found time to stop or are you busier than ever?
Being furloughed myself, I have definitely found time to stop. As many in the events world know, we work all hours of the day and usually find little time to pick up a book or start a hobby. Slowing down has taught me that it is ok to have a night in or day spent doing house chores. Having everything up to date and organised at home really helps with your mindset and something I want to maintain moving forward. I will also try to keep up the brownie baking and napping, but I worry that might be a little difficult to fit in when we go back to (hopefully) our busy schedules.
Do you see any silver linings from this situation?
I feel there are many positives to be taken from this time. With the majority of the world being in the same position we have found different ways to communicate and keep each other’s spirits up without being able to in person. I know a lot of people I work with have learnt valuable lessons about a slower pace of life and that in our industry, you don't have to be all systems go 24 hours a day. However, this is most likely to change once this over, as everyone will want to plan a party to celebrate (definitely a silver lining)!
Wow what an interesting insight into the wedding and events industry at such a famous establishment!
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Love Claire xxx