Wedding venues are a huge part of the Welsh economy and 2020 was devastating for them - as well as the couples hoping to get married in one of the many gorgeous settings, of course.

With multiple postponements and increasingly tough restrictions as the year progressed, some venues adapted to try and offer different experiences, a well as ensuring that those who did go ahead and tie the knot, had the best small wedding they could hope for.

Online wedding showcases and revamped outdoor spaces are just some of the initiatives taken by Welsh venues.

Oldwalls Collections, which includes venues Fairyhill and Oldwalls Gower, have used their 2020 experience to tackle 2021 head on.

Commercial Director, Shakira Obaid, said: "We’ve tried to adapt and overcome since Covid-19 took hold. Our experiences over the last year have allowed us to navigate more clearly to provide support and guidance to our existing couples and consider new ways in which we can attract newly-engaged ones."

The Oldwalls wedding department is currently working seven days a week liaising with clients, so there's no time to dwell on what can't happen. And as couples are unable to visit in person, a virtual wedding showcase has been created to ensure that they get as realistic an impression as possible of the venue.

"This allows newly-engaged couples the opportunity to explore our venues with a 360-degree tour and hold a date with a flexible deposit, they will not be required to confirm the booking until they get the opportunity to visit the venue in person which we hope will be by late February/March," Shakira added.

"Couples are loving the opportunity to escape from reality for an hour and immerse themselves in the magic of planning a wedding. The demand from newly-engaged couples wishing to kickstart their wedding plans and have a date in the future - 2022, 2023 - to look forward to has been huge, so all is not lost."

At Ty Newydd in Hirwaun, many of the couples booked in for 2021 originally had 2020 dates there, but despite the lockdowns and restrictions, the team hasn't been sitting around.

Ty Newydd Country House, Hirwaun, Aberdare
Ty Newydd Country House, Hirwaun, Aberdare

Their spokesperson said: "At the start of the year we had 64 special and hopeful couples booked to get married with us in 2021. Around 20 of those couples moved from 2020.

"Some couples have moved their date once, twice, even three times. Some are aiming to go ahead regardless of restrictions and some want to hold out to have the perfect day they always imagined. To be honest, either is fine with us. Its seeing the smiles on our couples' faces, after months and even years of planning that makes our jobs so rewarding."

At St Tewdrics House in Monmouthshire, most couples who had picked the 19th century Italianite villa for their celebrations in 2020 also postponed their big day and the venue's Director of Operations and Marketing, Caroline Sims, describes it as a "rollercoaster of a year".

She said: "We sadly had to postpone most of our 2020 weddings but we did see a few couples get married and celebrate their intimate weddings at St Tewdrics. We have felt very lucky to have been part of some wonderful intimate weddings over the last few months and it’s really made us feel grateful for each wedding we hold at the venue."

St Tewdrics House in Monmouthshire
Inside St Tewdrics House, which is owned by Geraint Thomas and his wife Sara

The venue, owned by Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and wife, Sara, employs a team of seven people full time and when the season's in full swing, provides up to 25 part time jobs.

"We’re feeling positive that by the summer, restrictions will have eased considerably and that weddings will look and feel much more ‘normal’," Caroline added. "We are, however, realistic that things could change. We’ve seen lots of changes over the last year so we know that nothing is certain and we’re taking each week and month as it comes."

There are currently 125 weddings booked in for 2021 so positive thinking is a must. Many are rearranged from 2020 and flexibility has been key for all venues when it comes to picking a date. But Caroline added that the team are "very lucky" to have understanding and supportive couples.

Find out what's happening in your area:

So, with all the new habits of being outdoors and social distancing, will al fresco celebrations become the norm?

Caroline, who revealed that the improvements made to St Tewdrics focused on the outdoor space with a new feature fountain and wildflower meadow, added: "We’re used to holding weddings outside at St Tewdrics but I think we’ll be seeing a lot more outdoor wedding celebrations in 2021.

"We have a license for outdoor ceremonies and usually hold most of our drinks receptions outside too. We’d love to hold our first wedding breakfast outside this year– our gardens are the perfect setting for a wedding."

And the four acres of greenery where the Ty Newydd venue is based will definitely lend to more outdoor celebrations in the summer. With the space for social distancing and staff and customers' safety a priority, the Ty Newydd team are staying positive.

The Ty Newydd spokesperson continued: "We have the prime location to be able to allow social distancing. We are ready for whatever the coming months throw at us and in regards to weddings are taking our lead from our couples and will adapt depending on what they want to do.

"[During lockdowns] our staff were extremely productive. The hotel rooms have benefited from an all-round renovation plan, whilst our grounds now have the perfect area to hold outdoor wedding ceremonies, should the weather allow. Watch this space for some virtual tours."

Shakira at Oldwalls echoed the sentiment of keeping busy and productive. She said: "During the past 12 months we haven’t stood still really, we’ve tried to remain positive and inspire our couples, team and our loyal industry friends (photographers and the like) that there is a future. We used the rarity of a summer with no weddings to focus on renovating both venues.

"Oldwalls Gower, which has been operating for more than a decade now, was given a complete facelift, new bar, renovated luxury accommodation, and beautifully-refurbished glamping pods. What’s more both venues now offer purpose-built outdoor ceremony spaces for up to 100 guests, overlooking the beautiful grounds and lakes.

"The government has hinted that alfresco will be the preferred environment for mass gatherings and our couples have been asking for outdoor ceremony areas even before the pandemic, so it felt like a no-brainer to develop our acres of grounds at both sites to offer something special."

Oldwalls in the Gower - their purpose-built outdoor wedding space

The venues are also feeling more positive with the roll out of a vaccine.

Ty Newydd's spokesman said: "Until the vaccination roll out it has felt extremely uncertain. Although we don’t anticipate everything going back to normal like a flick of a switch, It has now provided us and all other venues with a light at the end of the tunnel."

Shakira at Oldwalls added: "We remain hopeful that 2021 could be a good year for the wedding industry providing we all buckle down and weather the storm of the next month or two.

"The rapid vaccine roll out is a game changer and we hope that this will allow the gradual reopening of hospitality and a move towards delivering weddings by late spring. We are closely monitoring the progress to ensure that our coordinators can provide our couples with realistic goals and considerations reference the likelihood of what their special day in 2021 will look like.

"After all, love will never be beaten, love always wins."