The pandemic has forced so many new and unusual terms into our vocabulary – the dictionary business must be booming! “Lockdown wedding” is one that has become all too familiar in the last 12 months, and on the surface it conjures up the image of a humourless and dreary affair behind giant iron bars – not exactly the fairytale picture!
When we got engaged in early February 2020, the virus didn’t appear to be threatening a wedding date 8 months down the line. Little did we know that the turbulent and exciting journey of engagement we embarked upon would lead to our very own lockdown wedding.
But our wedding was far from the miserable image painted above – in fact, once we stopped treating our limitations as hindrances we discovered the true beauty of a scaled-down and humble beginning to married life.
As we began to plan our big day we were cautiously optimistic, hoping it’d ‘all be over by October’ (hindsight is a wonderful thing). At no point did we consider deferring to a later date – we understand why other couples chose to do this, but we couldn’t wait to start married life. So we sent our invites containing the all important caveat “this will go ahead if government guidelines allow”. Our dream was to be married in a church lined with hundreds of our friends and family followed by a big reception with food, speeches, music and dancing, but above all else we were determined to be married on 10th October, no matter what the wedding might look like.
With optimism in hand, we started to plan. A master spreadsheet was created and slowly we plugged in all the expected costs for our big day. We were aware of the cost associated with the dress and the venue, but all of these other, smaller costs started to pile up and it became clear that to have anything ‘bridal’ you’d have to add another zero to your price tag. We were so excited to put our own ‘stamp’ on the day, but it became so clear that the budget would dry up long before those stamps could be implemented. Sure we could find a village hall that was cheaper than other reception venues, but that would then create a dilemma choosing between plastic bucket chairs and the £500+ to hire nice chairs! We had perhaps approached this naively, but they don’t teach you this stuff in school! It seemed to be an impossible balancing act to have an affordable wedding full of personality that wasn’t just a bit naff.
Some say that the best place to plan your wedding is at someone else’s wedding. A few months before the virus shut down the nation, we travelled up to Glasgow for Kat’s mum’s wedding. The reception was not in a purpose-built reception venue, rather the clubhouse of a golf club on the outskirts of the city. There was no strict theme, no elaborate decorations, no bouncy castle, photo-booth etc. and yet, it was one of the most enjoyable receptions either of us had been to! For us this was an encouragement – it didn’t need catering fit for the Ritz or marble pillars to be a terrific celebration, so we wiped the slate clean and moved forward with the sole intention of wanting a day of simple joy!
We kept planning, and the day was moving ever closer… but restrictions were tightening, we started to consider contingency plans, having several ‘what if’ conversations and trying to plan for every eventuality. Then Boris announced weddings would be limited to 30 people with no receptions – reality hit – we wouldn’t even be able to have the ‘scaled down’ version of the wedding we were planning. And then to top it all off… one week before the wedding, the numbers were cut down to 15. Disaster!
We had to grieve the fact that we would be having the sort of socially-distant, restricted wedding that no-one dreams about. But all the obstacles and drawbacks were just secondary to our excitement to become husband and wife!
The day itself was so surprising. We thought that walking into the church, with only the first 3 rows taken up by the odd couple of people socially distanced, would feel really empty and different. But, somehow, it really didn’t. There was an atmosphere of fullness and joy, that through all of this hardship we had made it, we were here with our absolute nearest and dearest. We were so incredibly fortunate to have our parents, siblings, best man and maid of honour there with us – they were amazing and we can’t thank each one of them enough for their love and support on the day.
We were able to set up a livestream via YouTube, with the camera perched at the altar of the church looking back towards the congregation. In other words, front row seats to the wedding. This was probably the best planning decision of the whole wedding, it meant that hundreds of people could watch the wedding – 350 more than we would have been able to invite! It meant that family in care homes could still be part of the day. It meant that people in other countries could join us and it now means that we have an intimate recording of our wedding, to enjoy for many many years to come.
We had such an incredible day and we honestly wouldn’t change it. We were so surprised at how enjoyable a small wedding was. You hear so many stories of brides and grooms saying they couldn’t speak to all their guests on the day or only managed a very short hello, but we were able to spend quality time celebrating with every one of our guests!
From a cost perspective too, boy does it change things up having a small wedding! A big learning curve for us was that you don’t have to have every corner of the church decorated to your style for it to have your creative stamp. We had small flower arrangements running down the aisle and then a large canopy known as a chuppah dressed and decorated as our centrepiece decoration, which we built ourselves.
It can be really daunting to think of all the things that might go wrong planning a wedding or all of the costs racking up, but ultimately we believe that marriage is about committing yourself to your partner in a covenant with God until death. And if this is true, no matter how much goes wrong, no matter how much you strip back to save money, no matter how many people are allowed to come because of pandemics, at the end of the day you will be married and that is just the beginning.