According to Rukminder Makin, the newly appointed business development manager at the County Council’s registration service, boosting the wedding industry in Bucks offers a huge opportunity to grow the local economy.
Ruki (pictured above) is hoping to see more licensed wedding venues in the county and an improved offering to disabled and same-sex couples to encourage them to get married locally.
She said: ‘Couples spend an average of more than £30,000 on their big day and Bucks’ registrars alone conducted around 1,600 weddings last year – so you can get an idea of just how big a contribution the industry makes to the county.
It’s not just Bucks’ fantastic venues that benefit, but all of the local suppliers from catering, florists, photographers and wedding dress makers, who all offer a brilliant service to couples getting married.
One of my key aims is to grow the links between venues and local suppliers so that even more local businesses can benefit.‘
Currently there are 75 licensed venues across Buckinghamshire where couples can legally marry, ranging from pubs to stately homes where A-list stars have previously tied the knot.
Ruki said becoming a wedding venue presented a fantastic business opportunity. Obtaining a licence from the council is quick and simple and costs £2,000 for three years.
Of the service to same-sex and disabled couples, she said: ‘Weddings are still too often presented as being exclusively about bride and grooms. The feedback we’ve had from same-sex couples is that nationally the industry needs to wake up to this.
And as the birthplace of the Paralympics, I want venues and suppliers in Bucks to be at the forefront of disabled access.
It’s not just about providing a ramp – for example, it’s about being able to provide wedding dresses that are suitable for wheelchair users and ensuring that all their personal needs can be met to make their big day perfect.‘
She also wants the registration service to be as flexible as possible to fit in with busy lives.
For the first time this year, registrars were available on Easter bank holidays and up to 7.00pm on Fridays and Saturdays. There are plans to provide more flexible digital services, with preliminary wedding meetings available by video conference allowing couples to ‘meet’ their registrar before the big day.
Ruki started in the newly created role earlier in August 2016 having joined the County Council nine years ago as an office manager and registrar.
She said: ‘During this time I’ve managed a team of registrars in Beaconsfield, project managed the integration of births and death appointments through the County Council’s contact centre and website, and conducted many marriages in our wonderful venues and offices.‘
Ruki originally hails from Birmingham. She studied International Business of Leisure and Tourism at the University of Central Lancashire and as part of this worked in Florida for a year. Previous jobs include graduate manager at Marriott Hotels and project manager for the Learning and Skills Council.
Weddings bring in around £1.2m a year to the council through the fees charged for registrars and venue licences. This helps offset the cost of other parts of the registration service which are heavily subsidised, such as the statutory services of registering and issuing certificates for births and deaths.
Martin Phillips, cabinet member for community engagement, said: ‘The wedding industry in Bucks is a win-win for both businesses and the County Council, which earns much needed income from the customer-focussed, flexible services it provides.
This newly created position of business development manager is indicative of the direction the council wants to take as a business-friendly, commercially-minded authority.‘