Why Jack Fincham's Bank Holiday Party Was A Slap In The Face For Brides Of Cancelled Weddings
It was 7am. I should have been sipping prosecco, moaning about how I hadn't slept a wink from excitement, obsessively checking the weather and stressing about whether I would manage to walk down the aisle without tripping over. I should have been getting married.
But, along with 4,451 other brides who were also due to tie the knot last weekend, I wasn't. Thanks, Covid.
Despite making the decision to postpone our wedding pretty early on in the pandemic, it didn't make it any less painful for both me and my fiancé, Alex.
So imagine my surprise when, scrolling through Instagram, I spotted Love Island's Jack Fincham attending what looked like... a bank holiday wedding?! Surely not.
Turns out 26-year-old Jack wasn't at a wedding. He was sandwiched into a marquee in Kent, with hundreds of others, at a £120 per person ticketed bank holiday event, organised by The Swan pub in West Malling.
At a time when couples are allowed a mere 30 people at their wedding receptions, how could an event like this have been allowed to take place?
Dressed up and dancing shoulder to shoulder, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a wedding, or perhaps a music festival - another victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
After all, there was a DJ, a barbecue, drinks, hugging, kissing - all the hallmarks of a good wedding party. And despite organisers explaining on Facebook (in now deleted posts) that social distancing would be adhered to, it's clear from the pictures that this went out the window at some point in the day.
"Your tables will be positioned 2 metres apart and you will be allowed to dance at your tables only. There won't be a dance floor and we ask that you don't form the conga at any point," The Swan wrote on Facebook, prior to the day.
"We will be adhering to COVID-19 guidelines and expect everyone joining us to do the same, if our rules are followed we will stay healthy and safe."
Current government guidelines state those from different households can meet outdoors in a group of up to six, while people in a group of two households can also meet in any location.
And alongside just 30 guests, weddings are only permitted to take place in 'Covid-19 secure venues' and with social distancing in place of two metres if possible, or one metre at a minimum.
After the event, police confirmed they had attended the party, with spokesperson Andy Saunders explaining: "We were aware of an event held in a marquee in Wrotham on Monday which had permission to take place under a Temporary Event Notice.
"During the event, patrols attended the venue to remind people about social distancing advice and encourage them to adhere to COVID-19 regulations."
I think I speak for every couple who have had to go through the annoying and exhausting task of cancelling or rearranging their wedding day when I say this event was a huge slap in the face.
Because postponing a wedding isn't easy, emotionally or logistically. It's not something I ever really speak about, because we all know that Covid has taken so much more from so many people.
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But for anyone who thinks it's a case of simply transferring from one date to the next, it isn't. Unpicking plans that you've spent two years (or more) carefully stitching together is a challenge I wouldn't wish on anyone.
In those first giddy months of being engaged, I couldn't wait to whack out my wedding planner and get cracking. But this time around it feels like a chore, one laced with fear and uncertainty.
For starters, working with your venue to find a date (that isn't already booked and that you're happy with) is both difficult and often awkward - especially when they suggest a brisk February wedding when you've dreamed of a barbecue in balmy July.
For us, despite booking the August bank holiday Saturday two years in advance, our new date is now on a Sunday. A little annoying, but nothing compared to a number of brides I know who planned summer 2020 weekend weddings and are now being forced to plump for a Tuesday in January.
Then there's co-ordinating all the different suppliers (we have 14) to ensure they are all free on the same date next year. There's the waiting for them all to get back to you, finally finding a date, trying to secure it and then realising it's been snapped up by another couple in the meantime.
Not to mention the money that's been lost. We're currently £2,000 out of pocket from suppliers who are busy on our new date and won't offer refunds, suppliers who have upped their costs for 2021 (something our insurance won't cover) and the extra charges of having my dress stored for another year.
And it's not just us. There's also the awkward messages from guests whose accommodation aren't offering refunds - meaning they'll essentially have to pay twice. It's not our fault, but we feel responsible nevertheless.
And on top of all of that, the painful task of rearranging your hen or stag do and your honeymoon which, as anyone who had even a holiday booked in 2020 will know, is also an admin horror show.
Some couples have even had to reschedule not once, but twice.
While it's a stab in the heart to couples (107,000 to be precise), let's not forget the wedding industry - which is on its knees - the suppliers, who have been out of work and pocket for months on end this year and the pubs and restaurants who are adhering to measures.
On Saturday 29th August, 133,560 wedding sector workers were unable to go to work and a whopping 213,696 were unable to provide their services.
If the government are going to allow events such as that at The Swan to take place, isn't it about time they took another look at their legislation surrounding weddings? Rules of which include avoiding singing, shouting or raising your voice as well as prohibiting dancing.
In an effort to be seen, the industry has even started a campaign - #WhatAboutWeddings - urging the government to provide support to the damaged sector.
As for the event at The Swan, it is now being investigated by the local authorities. A spokesperson for the council said: "The event details and risk assessment shared with us and Kent Police did not give rise to concerns.
"Media coverage of the event, however, does indicate that the measures agreed were not followed and that rules were breached.
"We are now working closely with Kent Police who are leading on the investigation and will be taking appropriate action."
Tyla has reached out to both The Swan and Jack's representative for comment.
Featured Image Credit: Jack Fincham/Instagram