If you wanted to ensure a job was completed in a way that minimised health and safety risks, would you:
a. Do whatever you could to make sure that the people hired were the most experienced and skilled for the job with the right equipment;
b. Not do anything and allow Uncle Bob to do it, even though he’s got no previous experience or appropriate equipment?
The answer may seem obvious, but at the moment it seems the Scottish Government is firmly behind option b.
I’m talking about weddings (again)
This time, I’m talking about suppliers being included in the guest numbers. At present, guest numbers sit at 50 (including the couple) and that also includes any suppliers not employed by the venue or caterers. It’s including evening bands, bands who play music in the background (string quartets for example), it’s including Master of Ceremonies, DJs, and of course, your humble photographers and videographers.
For some reason there’s a logic that suppliers have to be included in the guest numbers to minimise risk of infection. I should point out that Scotland is alone in this logic – from my research, there isn’t another country in the world that shares this approach.
The downside is that couples are forced to choose: do they want a relative or friend that they haven’t seen in probably a year, or a wedding supplier attending your special day? It’s a tough scenario where professionals are pitted against an emotional bond, and inevitably losing out.
It can be a difficult decision, one often wrought with family pressure so many couples are choosing family and friends over suppliers. It’s having a detrimental impact on our economy. Every cancellation is another wedding supplier more reliant on financial support from the government, it’s another family a step closer to poverty. It’s also having a devastating impact on the mental health of suppliers.
In terms of Covid, it’s an own-goal from the Scottish Government that contributes to increasing the risks of covid infection.
“All businesses must undertake a risk assessment to determine what adjustments are required to operate safely. “
That’s the opening line in the Guidance for Wedding receptions and funeral wakes. But if a couple cancels their professional wedding photographer, and asks their guest Uncle Bob to fulfill the role when he isn’t a professional photographer and hasn’t photographed a wedding before, then that line becomes redundant. Uncle Bob is not going to be reading the guidance since he’s attending as a guest, not as a professional, and why should he? He has an invite, not a contract. He won’t be carrying out a risk assessment. If he’s never photographed a wedding before, he won’t know the pitfalls. Having been to a wedding with a camera in the past certainly doesn’t make him experienced as a wedding photographer.
Experience is everything when you want to operate in a covid safe manner. The best way of operating anything in a covid safe manner is to utilise the experience and knowledge of the experts in the field and that’s been accessed and applied across every sector – from education to retail.
It’s not just photographers and videographers. Musicians will know the guidance on noise levels – but will the groom’s cousin with his guitar and amp know not to play over 70dB? Every supplier will tell you the tale of their first wedding and the nerves they felt at the time to “get it right”. When you add that pressure on a guest who has no experience, with the opportunity for mingling and alcohol around friends and family, don’t expect professional guidelines to be adhered to.
Meanwhile, the experienced suppliers will be maintaining a safe distance, they won’t be drinking or enjoying canapes or mingling or eating at the meal with the guests, and they will be taking precautions to ensure they don’t leave working with a group of strangers carrying the virus back home to their family. They will have undertaken strategic steps to minimise infection. I know several suppliers who have pre-ordered lateral flow test kits in advance of work – I suspect most people aren’t undertaking an LFT for personal activities including attending weddings. Professional suppliers know exactly what the risks are so that they can carry out a sensible assessment and reduce risk and help manage infection control.
People behave differently when they’re operating in a professional capacity than they do in a familial environment. That’s the same for professional wedding suppliers as it will be for any other professional in any other line of work – presumably including Scottish Government staff.
To add to this is the simple fact that a lot of suppliers can work in other areas without this being an issue. For example, professional photographers can photograph people in a studio environment with a backdrop and props without being included in household numbers, while a photobooth company with a similar setup would be included in the guest numbers at a wedding.
So this is why it’s important to exclude wedding suppliers from wedding guest numbers.
By excluding suppliers from the numbers, this will:
Increase guidance being adhered to by professionals regarding their specific areas;
Ensure that experience and appropriate equipment are utilised to help minimise infection;
Help reduce the risk of infection as a result of professional assessments being carried out in advance;
Reduce the burden on the Scottish Government to support jobs long term;
Improve financial and mental health of thousands of Scottish wedding industry suppliers.
…. if the Scottish Government could deliver that, then it would be a win-win situation.