The uncertainty brought by the coronavirus crisis could not have been more cruel to our couples. Years of planning and money saved to celebrate the perfect day. Friends and family travelling from far and wide, all put in danger. What to tell family and what to do? Not knowing if it can go ahead or even should we still do it? Unknown territory with no maps or experienced guides.
We have seen the worst we believe, and have been deeply impressed by the courage and adaptability of our couples. Below is the story of how events unfolded and the lessons we have learned so far. Although much uncertainty will remain, some lessons suggest a clearer way forward.
Our first calls and the start of the climb up the mountain of worry began around the 12th March. It soon became clear that this was a growing threat with no clear guidance or answers so we decided early on that we would remove some uncertainty for our couples. We told all our weddings in March, April and early May they could either postpone to later dates or carry on with the assurance that we would host their wedding as long as we were not shut down by the government. We also confirmed that Cornwall registrars would do the same. A few decided to look at new dates but the majority wanted to carry on for the time being.
Friday 20th March
Leading up to the 20th we had put extra hygiene and sickness reporting measures within the venue to protect our staff and customers. We were very aware that should weddings be able to continue the danger that our key staff would have to isolate due to coronavirus was high and therefore protecting each other from infection was our priority. And for our customers, we wanted to ensure they felt safe whilst at the venue so hand wash and hand sanitiser stock was increased and cleaning throughout the venue and accommodation stepped up. These measures were implemented quickly but soon became the least of our worries.
After the government announcement on Monday 16th March that everyone should avoid pubs, bars and restaurants, we as primarily a wedding venue were somewhat left in limbo. There was no clear guidance to us regarding hosting weddings and no ban on weddings or restrictions on numbers attending so we were left with lots of questions but no clear answers on what to do. At this point all of our remaining March wedding couples were very worried and those in April and May too.
On Friday 20th March at 5pm, after a long day of contingency planning and mid-wedding (what was to be our last for some time), the head chef came to the office to say there had been an announcement from the government that all pubs and restaurants must close that night!! Surely they would give more notice than that to weddings? Tuning in we heard the news ourselves and that this meant all social gatherings must cease which left us with no doubt that we had to close the venue.
At 7pm we had to make the hardest phone call to our bride and groom who were due to get married the following day on Saturday 21st March. In all that has happened so far, this couple and their family have been the hardest hit, they have had to deal with the most amount of disruption and disappointment, finding out just hours before their wedding day that it couldn't happen. And for them, we are all so sorry.
The kitchen had already prepared all of Saturdays wedding food plus food for 60+ Mother's Day diners so we moved fast and decided to offer takeaways on Sunday 22nd to our local customers. Some food was also delivered to local NHS workers and thankfully nothing went to waste. A big thank you to all of our customers who collected a roast that day.
On Monday 23rd March, as you all know we were all put into full lock down and the venue plus the wine shop closed. Over that weekend we received hundreds of emails and calls and we went into overdrive contacting everyone scheduled to marry over the next 14 weeks.
We have successfully managed to work with our couples, reassure them that their wedding will happen and reschedule the 26 weddings that were booked from the 21st March to the end of June. And the couple who had their wedding cancelled the night before were back in touch within a couple of days to re-book a date in 2021 which we will ensure is more than worth the wait!
Many couples have had their dates booked for years so we know this hasn't been at all easy and those whose weddings were due to take place in March and April had finalised all their plans, menus, dietary requirements, decor, everything was ready to go to the finest detail and now they are back to waiting. There has been massive disappointment for everyone, for all brides and grooms, family and friends and the whole of the wedding industry here in Cornwall and beyond.
But coming out of the first week of lock down, we can be happy that we have managed to find new dates for everyone so far and we are very much looking forward to getting back to hosting all of our weddings later this year.
We would like to thank every single couple affected for their patience, for staying calm and for their loyalty. Here's to you all.
For those of you getting married in July and beyond, lets wait and see what happens over the next few weeks. Listen to the advice and we will make a plan with all of you should we need to. For now we need to wait for a while before making any decisions so that is what we are doing and what we ask you do too. But you can always contact us with your concerns or questions and we are here to answer you and help wherever we can. There is also some good advice for couples available online in wedding forums and on sites such as Hitched and Bridebook.
We have heard a few worries that waiting will not leave enough time to make arrangements with suppliers and accommodation however most of our recommended suppliers are working in the same way we are and will postpone services and transfer deposits over to new dates. Accommodation providers are especially hard hit so most we are aware of are offering free cancellations or short notice cancellations. If you are booking through sites such as airbnb or booking.com they have made steps to ensure accommodation providers have a flexible cancellation policy.
Our advice is to hold on for now and remember that we don't need you to confirm arrangements until 4 weeks before your wedding and you then have until 2 weeks before for your final, final numbers and balance payments.
If anyone is struggling with suppliers or unsure what they should do then drop us an email and we might be able to make other recommendations or be able to help.
For now, whilst we all wait for this to be over, life and nature continues on at the winery and our online wine shop is still sending out home deliveries which is a godsend for many; good food and good wine will get us through. Plus the precious daily exercise of course.
After working very hard over the last couple of weeks to reassure our couples and our staff, we have had the time over the last few days to reflect and share our experience from within the weddings team. We are optimistic that we will back to hosting weddings from July 2020 onward but like everyone we are waiting and watching to see what happens over the next few weeks and what new advice we are given from the government and local authorities. Until then we are still here (working remotely from home) to answer questions and address concerns as best we can. We are hopeful that weddings will soon continue and for now we must all keep calm and carry on with planning for happier times.
Our gardens and grounds are bursting into Spring time colour and we will be sure to post updates on social media in the coming weeks. The wild flowers by the pond are peaking through and the birds are singing, happy in the sun at last. The gates to the site are open for any of you wanting a walk round the grounds whilst we are closed.
We are still busy behind the scenes working on new wedding menus and wine lists whilst keeping the gardens, lawns and barns in tip top shape, just waiting for you all to enjoy as soon as the time comes! And for those getting married later this year, why not use this time to make those decisions on menus and drinks that you've been putting off? Or get your seating plan sorted and place cards made? And if you're thinking of homemaking some of your decor then what better time? all are perfect home projects to keep busy with over the coming weeks.
Obviously most of our time over the last few weeks has been dominated by coronavirus and what it means for all of us at work and at home, but in between we have been chatting to couples about barrels of Tribute on the bar, cooked breakfasts in the barn, the best potato dish to serve with their chosen menu and which shots could be served instead of traditional toasting drinks! It's been a nice distraction for them and for us. So if any of you have questions about your wedding day or ideas you need to run past us, please do get in touch and we can start planning the fun stuff that's going to feel all the sweeter after everything that's happened. We are still here at the end of an email or on the phone to offer advice and support (and drinks recommendations too)!
All the best to everyone of you and here's to planning for happier times soon!
Anna & Jess and all the Knightor team x
P.S. we have measurements of pretty much anything you can think of on file so if you need to know the width of our chairs or anything else then please just ask as we have probably measured before!
Stories from Knightor
Wine, weddings and feasts