A message from Beth Stretton, of Carmarthenshire-based weddings and events team Megan and Claude
I am Beth Stretton. I live, travel and work in both my homeland of Wales and France (where my family have been based for 30 years).
I am the director of Marry Me in France, a business created from my own experience of marrying abroad in 2005.
Between 2005 and 2014 I developed a keen interest in the styling side of weddings and how simple things can really enhance a event. Megan and Claude was born out of this in 2014 when I returned to Wales to live in and wanted to put all the props and event decor items I had inherited to use.
The name reflects the two places in which we style weddings. One Welsh name and one French.
I started an event styling and prop rental business because, whilst I felt I had something to offer in Wales, I didn't want to go into full event planning. I wanted a more creative role. Combining the artistic elements I love and my experience of the logistics means I can be a very useful person to have at a wedding and I love the venues we have in Wales.
The business went through the same intense first five years that most businesses go through. It was an enormous investment, incredibly stressful and a true labour of love. The clients who found us and took us into the heart of their events became huge supporters and friends and so we knew we were doing something right.
In 2020 we won Event Decorators of the Year at the Welsh Wedding Awards. We had worked very hard for this and were thrilled. COVID hit just a few weeks after the awards. We were determined to survive despite the virus as I am (and have always been during my 15-year event career) devoted to the clients who have faith in me.
We postponed almost every event between March and August very quickly and any remaining brides and grooms continue to assess and adapt. I think it's unlikely we will have any events before at least winter 2020.
At some point the reality of paying the rent does hit and as things get postponed further and further you start to question what you will do. For a new business the costs are quite high at M and C. We went from renting just a small shoe box in 2014 to a very big storage unit in Carmarthenshire in 2017.
The fixed costs therefore eat quite a chunk of any income the business achieves and like most small businesses in their early years, any other money was being ploughed back into the stock and the business.
The whole industry was decimated by COVID and it's very hard for us to see what the future holds currently (as it will continue to be an industry affected for some time.) The reality was that we, like most wedding businesses were facing a very uncertain future.
I understand there are cracks in the system globally (I personally do not qualify for any help with my own income) but some of the help available really is working for normal people and their small businesses.
Were it not for the help of the team at Carmarthenshire council we would undoubtedly have struggled to survive. The grant available to us to help with our rent has been a lifeline and the team there were fantastic in guiding us through this.
Our case was complex and so it took some time for us to secure the help but I cannot thank those involved enough. Our business is a very good example of why schemes like this can make a very real difference. It means we can start to celebrate our event win and get excited about our up-coming events again. Thank you Carmarthenshire from us and I am sure our clients would say the same!
For more information about Megan and Claude, and what they offer, visit their website.
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