It's one thing for couples getting married in the next three weeks to see 40,000 football fans fill up Wembley stadium, singing and dancing to their heart's content (both activities are "strongly advised against" at weddings). It's another thing entirely to watch a video, shared by the Prime Minister himself, depicting a standing drinks reception taking place behind him. Because standing drinks receptions are currently illegal at weddings, remember.
Maybe I'm biased, considering I'm getting married later this year myself, but it seems to me that weddings have been unfairly targeted throughout the pandemic. Despite being one of the most important (and expensive, let's not forget) occasions of a person's life, weddings have consistently been subject to more stringent rules than so many other events and industries.
While stage three of the roadmap out of lockdown allowed for crowds of up to 1,000 indoors at certain performances and sporting events, the maximum attendees at a wedding remained at 30. While beer gardens have been open since April 12, inviting crowds of drinkers to socialise freely, you still cannot sip a drink standing up while at a wedding - even if you're outside.
The rules seem, to me, to be riddled with inconsistencies - and that’s only been further reinforced following the scenes on Boris Johnson's Instagram Story yesterday. Last night, as England triumphed over Germany in the last 16 round of the Euros, the Prime Minister uploaded a celebratory video on Instagram. Boris is seen in the clip raising his arms in celebration as Harry Kane scores England's second goal, but what's caused uproar is the scene going on behind him. Another man in attendance at the marquee event is seen standing in front of what looks to be a buffet table, drinking a glass of wine.
With standing drinks receptions being categorically banned at weddings, the sight has naturally triggered outrage from couples who have been forced to abandon their own drinks receptions, with calls of hypocrisy and grossly unfair double standards.
"Why are people stood up with drinks in their hand when it's not allowed at a wedding?" one person commented on Boris' Instagram post showing a photograph from the same event. "Watch the video on Boris' stories, people standing up drinking," wrote another, adding: "We have been told on multiple occasions this cannot happen and we have our wedding next Friday 9th July. How can this be done in front of our faces. It's a joke."
As 30-year-old bride-to-be Steph points out to Cosmopolitan, this isn't the first time Boris Johnson has been seen enjoying the sorts of activities he has banned at for weddings. "The standing drinks reception of leaders at the G7, Wembley stadium packed out with crowds of strangers, and Boris’ own wedding, with that enticing ‘help yourself’ drinks table in the garden of Number 10. We thought the hypocrisy couldn’t get any worse," she says. "But this latest video on Boris’s Instagram story is even more of a kick in the teeth for us and thousands of other couples due to get married in the next three weeks, who are just missing out on delayed 'freedom day' - for us, by just a mere 9 days."
The video leaves a particularly sour taste because it has come less than 24 hours after the government tightened restrictions on standing drinks receptions, which stated that the ban also applies to weddings taking place on private property as well as at COVID-secure venues. "We’ve now spent thousands of pounds on outdoor furniture to needlessly seat all our guests at our wedding, and even then our plan is not weather proof," adds Steph. "It is absolutely shameful that Boris doesn’t have to do the same for his guests."
"This just proves beyond doubt that it’s one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us," she tells Cosmopolitan.
Couples due to marry over the next three weeks are, of course, delighted that the 30-person rule has been lifted in time for their own big days. Guest lists no longer have to be harshly cut, and most of the people they love can now witness their special day in real life, as opposed to over Zoom. That's wonderful. But what cannot be dismissed is quite how much of a dampener the remaining restrictions are on couples’ wedding days. Dance floors are strictly banned. Music can be played, but only at a "low volume." A father must wear a mask as he walks his daughter down the aisle, his beaming smile hidden from view. Guests cannot stand to cheers the brides and/or grooms as they make their way into the reception.
It feels for many as though the essence and spontaneity of the day will be removed, and there are substantial fears hanging overhead about what may happen if anyone breaks the rules. For all this to be going on, and then for couples to see that the rules clearly do not apply to those in government, or to events that are not weddings, is at best unfair. At worst, it’s insulting. In fact, it totally discredits the need for the restrictions in the first place.
So, what say you, Boris Johnson?
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