Love is in the air in Islington as wedding numbers bounce back

Wedding fever is in full swing in Islington as the number of couples getting hitched there have returned to normal after the pandemic.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Tuan Le and Linh Tran at Islington Town Hall descending the steps as a married couple
Wedding joy. Tuan Le and Linh Tran at Islington Town Hall 9 August 2023. Photo: Julia Gregory/LDRS

At the height of wedding season, from April to September, Islington Council is celebrating business as normal after the pandemic forced couples to put plans on hold.

Heather Dsenisi, Islington’s business development manager and registration officer, said numbers got back to normal last financial year when registrars performed 1,904 weddings and civil partnerships, up on the 1,867 in 2019.

Between this April and the start of August they have helped 1,037 couples celebrate their big day.

Ms Dsenisi said staff have noticed a post-pandemic trend of smaller, more intimate weddings.

“The cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic has got people thinking. They want something more intimate, and people are choosing to have fewer guests.”

Another move is towards what are known as “elopement weddings.”

Instead of Gretna Green, think Islington Town Hall, or another venue away from home.

Ms Dsensi said: “A lot of couples want small ceremonies, especially in London, which is an elopement destination.”

She explained that just as people say they went to Las Vegas or New York to get married, now some people get married in London and a lot of couples who pick Islington Town Hall do not live in the borough.

The trend started pre pandemic and sees couples mainly from the south of England, picking the 1930s venue for a smaller wedding, with perhaps a bigger celebration elsewhere.

It may mean they spend more on outfits, flowers and photographers if they have a more intimate ceremony.

The service saw a huge dip in 2020 – the first year of the pandemic when weddings and civil cermonies had to cease when the first lockdown was announced in March.

Staff had to call every couple to tell them weddings were on hold and discuss their options with them.

They resumed in August with restrictions on the numbers of guests and services had to be kept as brief as possible to limit the time people spent together.

“We moved weddings to the biggest rooms we had and we had air quality monitors,” Ms Dsenisi recalled.

Overall Islington Council registrars performed 722 ceremonies in 2020, including several ceremonies at home visits for very sick people.

Staff asked for photos of the room where the ceremony would take place so they could do a risk assessment and everyone was asked to wear masks, even the wedding couple. Everyone had to take covid tests and have a negative result too.

Staff took daily covid tests but “it was really lovely” when they could welcome couples back.

“We were very glad to be getting back to work to something so joyful. It was not easy having weddings with restrictions and we knew that was not the ceremony they had planned.”

“We try to cultivate a reputation for being friendly and approachable and transparent. Having people together – that was a big thing to see.”

The following year numbers of weddings had bounced back, with couples who had to delay because of covid finally tying the knot.

Ms Dsenisi said some couples had seen their weddings cancelled three or four times.

Now in 2023 the service is busy, with couples picking from a range of rooms for intimate weddings, with the newly decorated Canonbury Suite accommodating just two guests, to the council chamber which can fit 55 guests in the week, and 85 people at the weekend.

The Mayor’s Parlour is one of the other options for those who want a more intimate setting.

It is available on Fridays and Saturdays but because it is small “we did not use it for an entire year, it was not deemed suitable for weddings in the pandemic,” said Ms Dsenisi.

It has space for four guests, a photographer and two registrars.

“We have weddings here for couples who do not want a big fuss or want an intimate wedding, it’s often a ceremony with the couple’s parents. They might have a bigger ceremony elsewhere or abroad.”

Couples can also opt to use the new Angel Suite before their ceremony, perhaps as a space for the couple or for bridesmaids to put finishing touches to their make up and relax before the ceremony.

It has been given an art deco look and was one of the lockdown projects, when rules allowed. As the building on Upper Street was closed to visitors work could get underway without disturbing weddings.

Newlyweds Laura and William Biggs opted for the 99 Suite for a ceremony for nine people and said they picked the venue as “we heard it’s really lovely”. They were planning another celebration elsewhere.

Another couple who tied the knot this week were Tuan Le and Linh Tran from Haringey. They had 35 guests who took delight in showering them with confetti and letting off bubbles to celebrate their big day.

“It’s nice here,” said Mr Le from Haringey as the couple posed for more pictures.

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