Covid: Wedding cancelled as venue becomes vaccination centre

By Lola Mayor
BBC News

media captionSimon Jones and Jenna Roberts said the second cancellation was "ten times worse"

A couple say they are "heartbroken" at having their wedding cancelled for a second time in six months by Covid-19.

Jenna Roberts and Simon Jones were due to tie the knot in July but the wedding was cancelled due to lockdown.

Now their "dream" has been shattered again after the venue at Margam Park, Port Talbot, was confirmed as a Covid-19 vaccination centre.

They want compensation from Neath Port Talbot (NPT), claiming they have been left £2,000 out of pocket.

Simon and Jenna, from Porth, Rhonda Cynon Taff, had waited almost three years for their wedding at The Orangery, after booking in 2017, but said they understood the reasons for cancelling first time, during lockdown.

They postponed the special day to July next year, only to be informed on Friday it can no longer go ahead.

The venue is to be used as a vaccination centre for up to 12 months from 13 December.

NPT council said the venue was "absolutely necessary" and would play a "crucial role" in the Covid-19 vaccination programme for local people.

The venue has cancelled 64 weddings, which can be rearranged for a later date in 2022 when the venue is due to reopen - or a full deposit offered.

"The worst part was I had to get off the phone and tell my partner we had to cancel our wedding again. She just burst into tears," said Simon, 38.

"We've had no communication about this at all, so it just came out of the blue. Had we known, we wouldn't have booked suppliers again."

image captionThe couple say they have to find another £2000 to make up for lost costs

Jenna, 34, said: "The first time was hard enough, the second time was ten times worse. There were a lot of tears.

"We have elderly relatives that might not be able to make our wedding in two years' time. It's just terrible."

While they are able to set a new date or get most of their deposit back, they will not get refunds for stationery, such as invites, the videographer and their children's bridesmaids dresses and suits.

Simon estimates the total cost to rearrange again will be about £2,000.

"In no way do we blame them for any of this, but we are truly heartbroken and devastated at the fact Neath Port Talbot Council have had no thoughts on the implications it has caused by taking over a wedding venue," he said.

image captionSimon and Jenna have one child together, alongside two Jenna has from a previous relationship.

The Margam Orangery is among 12 sites being used as a vaccination centre by NPT and Swansea councils, due to its size, location and available car parking.

A NPT council spokesperson said it was aware of the disappointment but plan to deliver 500 vaccinations every day, seven days a week, to "safeguard the health of local residents as quickly as possible".

The venue said continuing to hold weddings would have reduced the building's capacity for vaccinating by 1,500 per wedding.

Councillor Peter Rees said: "We sincerely apologise but the venue will play pivotal role in saving lives.

"We ask that couples and their families understand that we would not take this action unless it was absolutely necessary and in the interests of public safety.

"We will honour our 2020 prices for any of couples who chose an alternative date in 2022, and will offer them first refusal to move back to their original date, should the vaccination programme be completed earlier than next December."

What is a Covid vaccination centre?

On Wednesday, the Pfizer vaccine was judged safe for use in UK next week. Preparations will be made for the rollout of the vaccine as early as next week.

Each health board will get its share and vaccines will go across Wales at the same time. Mass vaccination centres will be set up - particularly for the mRNA vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70 degrees.

Officials say each site will have tight security and the vaccines will be guarded "like a VIP", as well as cyber and IT security measures being taken.

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