Oxford Fine Dining at Oxford Town Hall

Big weddings with hundreds of guests, dancing and entertainment may be off limits for 2020 due to the pandemic, but couples still determined to tie the knot are increasingly opting for a micro wedding.

These small, intimate weddings have become increasingly popular over the years, but with social distancing restrictions now limiting guest numbers to 30, the micro wedding is the only current option.

“People have their budgets in place for 100-150 people and some are still spending the entire budget on 30 people”

Melissa Bennett, Events Planner at Oxford Fine Dining, told us that while it’s not exactly business as usual, they are doing their utmost to support couples who planned to get married this year.

A micro wedding scenario with Oxford Fine Dining

“Micro weddings are the new normal and we are pleased to offer these to couples who have been waiting and hoping their wedding would go ahead as normal. Many couples want to go ahead with their weddings and we can do this within the new guidelines,” she said.

Melissa added that the Oxford Fine Dining team pull out all the stops to make the day as special as possible: “We are offering seated drinks receptions with canapes on the table and then a three-course meal to create a buzz. No dancing is allowed but guests will be able to continue to drink and spend time together.”

Melissa Bennett of Oxford Fine Dining

The advised maximum number for all attendees at weddings, including the couple and guests is 30. This also includes any third-party suppliers, such as photographers or security. It does not include staff employed by the venue or third-party catering staff.

Melissa says: “I have had some very teary brides on the phone, but it has good to come up with a new vision for them, and as a result I’ve had a much closer relationship with them which is a great privilege.”

And what of the options? “People have their budgets in place for 100-150 people and some are still spending the entire budget on 30 people, so we are adding to the experience for them in many ways, and making it a special and memorable day. Although 30 is the maximum number of guests allowed, we are also being asked to do smaller events for ten or 15 people who are having small, intimate dinners.”

Oxford Fine Dining’s micro wedding spring showcase

Melissa added that sequel weddings (a couple hosting multiple ceremonies, already a tradition in many cultures and religions, such as Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas, or Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin) are also set to become really popular in 2020 and 2021.

“A sequel wedding gives couples the flexibility to get married now and have a party next year when social distancing is a thing of the past,” Melissa added.

It is no secret that weddings are big business, but with numbers restricted and events scaled back, can the industry survive such a massive shift? Even with bookings now being taken for next year there is still no certainty that large events will be allowed to take place. Further announcements from the government are expected in October.

Suzan Allan from Croxfords Caterers relied on her packed summer society wedding schedule but has pivoted her business to supply brides and grooms with special, complimentary luxurious picnics so they can still celebrate their day. All her bookings for this year have been re-booked for next year when restrictions will hopefully have eased.

She told us: “Croxfords has been drawing the names of one lucky couple out of a hat each month and providing them with a complimentary picnic version of their wedding day meal, which has gone down a storm. 

“We have also been catering very special occasion lunches and suppers. I have clients eager to book for 2021, but who knows what will happen. What I do know is that economic survival will be for the fittest only and Croxfords will still be here.”

Croxfords have been creating luxury picnics for couples whose weddings could not go ahead this year

Oxford Fine Dining has remained sustainable with bookings now coming in for next year. Melissa added: “At the moment we are sustainable but low in terms of profit. We are offering micro weddings to enable us to keep going, our business is split 50/50 between weddings and corporate bookings.

“We have been kept really busy during lockdown and have done really well to keep our heads above water. The kitchen is still open and we are still cooking! We can confidently say to people that we will still be here.”

The Oxford Fine Dining Team has been providing meals for the NHS with furloughed staff volunteering to come in and help.

Emily Clark, events manager at The Perch added: “We started advertising smaller weddings for up to 30 in August and have been absolutely delighted with the positive response.

“We’ve received bookings now from five wonderful couples, and are experiencing a lot of further interest in weddings for this year.

“We are so glad to see so many lovely couples not putting their events off until next year but enjoying our marquee for a more select group of family and friends.”

She added: “I certainly hope that weddings will be returning to ‘the norm’ for next year, as we have a large number of bookings for 2021 and are very much hoping to be able to host them all at full capacity.

“Smaller weddings are on the rise, so I think we will see more ‘micro’ weddings in 2021. I think long term we might be looking at larger weddings making a come back though.”



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