As couples wait to say ‘yes’, wedding businesses reveal their struggle to survive

Charlene O’Brien in Bud Flowers with her colleague Charlotte


Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a ten thousand dollar fine in his shoe.


The 30-person limit may have been lifted for weddings in England, but tough rules mean florists and bridal shops are struggling to get back on their feet.


Under current government regulations, couples must complete a full risk assessment before getting married and could face a penalty of £ 10,000 if guests violate social distancing rules.


Wearing a mask is encouraged, dancing is not.


“Who wants to get married like that?” Said Saraa Ing, owner of a wedding dress store in Wells Terrace, Finsbury Park, which will soon be closing for the last time.


“People come and ask for really cheap dresses because why should they be spending a lot of money right now?


Business has not resumed at the store, which caters to the region’s large Maghreb population, since it was allowed to reopen in April.



A wedding jumpsuit from Maison Ollichon


Now that the Covid Business Rate holiday draws to a close, Ms Ing said she had no choice but to shut it down.


A red sign declaring “Everything Must Go” stands out among the white satin of the store front.


Just a short walk away, the staff at Bud Flowers also miss those extravagant wedding backs.


“We used to do weddings at places like Dorchester and Claridge’s, but now people can’t have enough guests for that,” said Charlene O’Brien, who has worked in the florist since. his teenage years.


“We were doing so many things like arranging the table, decorating the church or the synagogue, and we did a lot of work on the after party.


“Now most of the work is just making a bridal bouquet, a few boutonniere flowers and the bridesmaids’ bouquets. It is not the same and it has had a big effect on business.


The £ 14.7 billion wedding industry directly employs over 250,000 people across the UK.



Hannah Ollichon, who set up the House of Ollichon in Canonbury Yard, said she started to think something was wrong in early 2020.


“As a bridal boutique in central London, you would expect January and February to be busy – but it wasn’t,” she said.


“I remember saying to my mother, ‘Do you think this Chinese thing is making people a little cautious? Over time, I started to panic.


Some House of Ollichon clients have had to delay their wedding four times and there are over 100 unworn outfits in the workshop.


Many will be there for two or three years by the time they spend a moment in the aisle.


It’s a long time in the fashion world, said Ms. Ollichon, adding, “Some women will gain weight, some people will lose weight, some people will get pregnant. We have decided not to make any further changes until we find out what is going on.


The former city worker started her business in Islington from scratch in seven years after spotting a gap in the market for practical bridal wear.


House of Ollichon – just off New North Road – prides itself on being the only wedding dress store in the world that doesn’t sell any gowns.


Instead, it’s aimed at modern women who want jumpsuits and two-piece, “outfits that actually let you go to the bathroom on your own.”


The store has a large lesbian clientele, and before the pandemic women came from all over the world for fittings.

But Ms Ollichon said she had to downsize the business.


“I don’t think we made a sale in 12 months because it was all too uncertain,” she said.


“My landlord was wonderful, he gave us half price rent for six months. It was a nice gesture, but it was truly a drop in the ocean.


“The thought of going to all our customers and saying ‘Sorry, we’ve gone bankrupt, come get your outfit’ – it hurt my stomach. It kept me awake at night.


To keep the business going, Ms. Ollichon had to give up her full-time role in the business and return to the corporate world.


“We’re not quite in the green yet, but we are in the light green,” she said.


Ms. Ing’s store was not so lucky. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her: “I can’t think about it right now,” she says, before apologizing to help one of her last clients.



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About Daniel Lange

Daniel Lange

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