Wedding sector’s role in Ribble Valley economy reviewed at council
Thousands of weddings are held in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley each year, forming a key part of the district’s economy which includes venues, food, drink, shops and transport businesses.
Weddings, along with food and walking, have been important elements of Ribble Valley Council’s tourism strategy for nearly 10 years, with regional and national activity.
The Covid pandemic, the cost of living and other developments are among the many factors shaping the wedding sector.
Now, the council’s economic development committee is reviewing the wedding sector, trends and council activity.
Clitheroe Food Festival is also being looked at.
At different council meetings or other summits this year, questions have been raised about limited rural bus services to get workers to businesses.
Also the potential impact of the Haweswater Aqueduct water tunnel scheme by United Utilities, and farming, food production, climate change and sustainable tourism. So these themes may influence the area’s wedding sector too.
A council economic report on weddings highlights how a “Ribble Valley Wedding Heaven” brand was launched in 2014.
Newer trends include a demand for mid-week and Sunday weddings, with couples looking for flexible options and prices.
This offers opportunities for businesses too, the report suggests.
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The Covid pandemic’s legacy and the current economic backdrop are also factors.
There is strong interest in outdoor spaces and new laws for outdoor weddings.
But public confidence seems to be returning with the average number of wedding guests returning to pre-pandemic levels. Hotels, barns and country houses are popular.
Also northern weddings are seen as more affordable than southern versions.
The average national cost for a wedding venue is £8,000 and Friday is currently the most expensive day to get married.
For couples, popular engagement dates are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, new year, Valentine’s Day and February 29 in a leap year.
Many then choose their wedding venue within three or six months. So winter and spring seasons are important for marketing activity.
The report states: “Weddings form an important part of the visitor economy, not only in direct spending at venues but also in supplementary accommodation, wedding suppliers, dining and retail.
“Given the diverse range of business which benefit, the full economic value is hard to measure.
“It’s estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 weddings now take place annually in the Ribble Valley.
“Last year, saw the highest national average (total) cost per wedding at just over £19,000. So the economic value of wedding tourism begins to be appreciated.
“Also, this average cost does not include additional guest accommodation, local dining and retail benefits.”
Statistics say weddings now account for more than 40 per cent of annual turnover at many mixed-purpose venues . Some venues rely solely on wedding income.
For business owners, weddings provide cash-flow certainty.
In addition to the 26 licensed venues in Ribble Valley, there are countless places where receptions and wedding celebrations take place.
The wider north-west region is now the third most-popular region for weddings.
The Ribble Valley hosts more than a third of all Lancashire weddings and three times as many as the next-highest district, the council understands.
Regarding activity with businesses, Ribble Valley Council says wedding sector meetings are held two or three times a year including suppliers, shop owners, accommodation and dining businesses.
Ribble Valley Borough Council offices. Pic Robbie MacDonald LDR. Approval for LDRS partners, Img 9170
Niche journalists and bloggers have been invited to events, and TV coverage has been gained.
Nationally, the Wedding Heaven brand has been used at wedding fairs and a Ribble Valley fair is also held at Stonyhurst College.
The wedding partnership has also made presentations to the Law Society regarding legal changes around marriage.
Much of the council’s wedding sector work is unique, the report adds.