Indoor events capacity limits dash wedding hopes for couples

The Government's  announcement that the country will not move to Phase 4. 
Indoor events capacity limits dash wedding hopes for couples
Michael Magner, owner Vienna Woods Hotel in Glanmire, whose hotel is confined to only 50 guests per wedding due to Covid 19 restrictions. File picture: Howard Crowdy

Strict rules limiting the number of people at indoor events to 50 have been met with frustration by hoteliers, with weddings among the events worst hit by the regulations.

There were hopes that the number may be increased next week but these were dashed by the government's announcement that the country would not be moving to phase four of removing Covid-19 restrictions.

It leaves the hotel industry "on its knees", according to Michael Magner of Cork's Vienna Woods hotel, while other hoteliers say weddings have been ruined by stressed instead of becoming a source of excitement because of the uncertainty in the sector.

"It's very disappointing," Mr Magner said. 

"We totally support the government and NPHET, but hotels have not been given the opportunity to demonstrate they can have bigger weddings in a safe manner. 

"We have re-trained all of our staff, developed new protocols and safety procedures."

Mr Magner said under current guidelines he can only have 50 people in the ballroom, but he could have 100 people in the room with two metre social distancing in place. 

He said while he appreciates there is a lot of uncertainty, he would rather the government come out and say there won't be any weddings until this winter, or next year. 

"[Deciding] three weeks at a time is not enough notice for couples," he said.

"For couples getting married, it is the most important thing to them. They have put a massive amount of time, energy, planning and money into the day. 

"Since we closed on March 15, we have had to reposition tens of weddings. Many of those weddings were pushed out till July or August, and now it is likely that weddings will be pushed out again.

"Most of our weddings are going ahead later on in the year, or with revised numbers. We have only had two cancellations."

Ettienne van Vrede, CEO of the Hayfield Family Collection of Hotels, said couples are going to start giving up on their weddings and cancel them outright because of the uncertainty. 

The hotel collection comprises Hayfield Manor in Cork, the Great Southern and the Killarney Royal in Killarney.

Denise O' Sullivan, Events Manager, Mark Scally, Financial Director of the group and Kamile Lyne, General Manager The Great Southern Hotel, Killarney which is one of the most popular wedding venues in Ireland. It has had to move 70 weddings to date. File picture: Don MacMonagle
Denise O' Sullivan, Events Manager, Mark Scally, Financial Director of the group and Kamile Lyne, General Manager The Great Southern Hotel, Killarney which is one of the most popular wedding venues in Ireland. It has had to move 70 weddings to date. File picture: Don MacMonagle

Hayfield Manor mainly caters to smaller weddings and they are on track to host more weddings than last year. However, the Great Southern in Killarney's trade is suffering.  

"In the Great Southern, we have had to move 70 weddings to date. The big thing is the uncertainty. We have had guests who have changed the date almost three times. After a while, I think they will just leave it all together, but we haven't had a lot of cancellations yet, thank God.

"There is going to be a limit to what people can take. People just can't plan ahead."

He said the restrictions being reviewed every three weeks is unfair on the guests. 

"We want to do the bigger weddings. We have couples holding out for October to December," he said.

Neil Grant, general manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, said couples are becoming so anxious about their weddings it has become a source of stress, rather than excitement. 

"They just don't know what is going to happen. They have been pinning their hopes on each new announcement, but it's not fair for them to go from month to month.

"We have one cancellation and they ended up doing a small gathering at home. Other weddings have been postponed, but we are reaching a stage where people have postponed twice. Some weddings might go ahead on reduced numbers."

He said the government needs to speak to the industries in limbo. 

"At this stage they need to engage with organisations which have been affected the most. That is the events industry and the publicans," Mr Grant said.

"We can't go on like this." 

He urged the government to come up with parameters to allow socially distant weddings in hotels with larger function rooms.

"They either need to plan for that now, and if they are not prepared to be flexible they need to be straight with us and tell us now that the guidelines will not be changing any time soon."

He also said hotels will need the weddings at weekends, especially leading up to the quiet season in October.

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