Chalkmarks: Get hitched on a coach trip as government announces its roadmap to getting married

Picture the scene. You’re dressed up for your big day. You’re being driven to your favourite romantic location to take your vows. Your family and friends are with you. You’re enjoying the Champagne long after the sun sets, and then your driver drops you off on your honeymoon. This is walking down the aisle…on a coach.

IF YOU had to postpone your wedding because of the pandemic and haven’t been able to rebook because venues are backed up until 2023, this could be the news you’ve been waiting for. For the first time in its 100 year family history, Barnes Coaches is offering “a unique wedding experience” that allows couples to tie the knot in a secure covid bubble, onboard one of its stylish coaches.

The unique idea came from Barnes Coaches director, Matt Barnes, who said usually his coaches are hired to take guests to the wedding venue but this is the first time, they would be holding the ceremony onboard.

He said: “We had lots of bookings last year to take people to weddings, but they were cancelled or moved to this year, and we realised there would be a backlog of people wanting to get married so we thought we would combine them into one and do it onboard.”

It’s estimated that more than 132,000 couples postponed their nuptials in 2020 after weddings were banned in England. While restrictions were briefly lifted last summer, the Government yesterday updated its roadmap to allow full-sized weddings and receptions to go ahead. Under the new guidance, couples wanting a big celebration will have to wait until 21st June. 

Smaller-sized ceremonies with up to six people can begin from Monday, 29th March, although receptions are not allowed. Then from 12th April, weddings can take place at covid-secure venues for up to 15 guests with an outdoor reception permitted. On 17 May, this increases to 30 people.

The wedding industry has already started to show signs of recovery with organisers saying many venues are booked up until the end of 2022 and some into 2023. With an enormous amount of pent up demand, Barnes Coaches has already had enquiries and is speaking to wedding planners, who are busy working with engaged couples wanting to set a new date for a more intimate ceremony.

With the average UK wedding costing from £18,000, the coach package also helps brides and grooms save money. Starting from just £499, it includes the decor, the music to walk down the aisle, a location of your choice and a celebrant – all while following the government covid-19 guidelines. 

“You can choose the backdrop, you can choose where you go, you can choose where to stop for a drink. You can plan your wedding how you want it,” Matt added.

Usually a thriving sector, the coach travel industry hasn’t grabbed the headlines in the same way as cruise lines and aviation, but it too was devastated during the lockdowns. The big-star name Shearings collapsed into administration last May but the brand was bought by Leger in July.

Despite a slow start to 2021, bookings have started to come in after the government announced that day-trips could restart from 12th April.

Based in Swindon, Wiltshire, Barnes Coaches is seeing interest in holidays to Scotland and outings to traditional seaside resorts such as Brighton, the Isle of Wight and Weymouth.

Matt said: “People are looking to getaway and be somewhere different but they aren’t looking at going abroad just yet. We’re calling it ‘staycation by coach’ because we think most people will book at home this year.”

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