My Wedding Story: Getting married under Covid-19 restrictions in 2020

In years to come when I tell people I got married in 2020 they will either be full of sympathy or laugh. Three years and two days after we got engaged we managed to tie the knot. The wedding we had certainly wasn’t the wedding we expected or had hoped for, but it was still a joyful day and there will hopefully be a time when we can have a bigger celebration in the future. But what was it like? And what should you do if you’re in limbo around wedding planning currently as restrictions continue to change?

The original wedding plan

We were originally due to get married in June 2020; a small ceremony with immediate family at the registry office followed by a celebration in a village hall the following day. It was going to be a pretty informal affair with a Ceilidh and hog roast, but with 100 of our nearest and dearest to celebrate. We were working to a budget but knew we’d have a great time with the people around us.

I remember getting a message from a friend in mid-March who was having to curtail their travel plans due to Covid-19 and wondered if we’d still have space for them to attend the wedding. Of course! At that point we hadn’t started thinking we might have to cancel or postpone. However the further into lockdown we got, the more inevitable it became. We still held out hope we might be able to have the registry office ceremony and at least be legally married – but the Monday of the same week it should have been our hopes were dashed.

We could, and with hindsight (that wonderful thing) probably should have just booked a date in the future but we still didn’t know what would be happening with Covid-19 and after such a disappointment just couldn’t really bring ourselves to think about it. So we rebooked everything for the following year because everything would be fine by then.

Wedding attempt 2

We spent a lot of the summer thinking about it and decided it was looking more and more likely that plans even for next year wouldn’t be able to go the way we wanted. The celebration became the bottom of our priority and we just wanted to be married. So we decided we’d proceed with the ceremony this year and worry about everything else later.

It sounds straight forward but it took a while to secure a date, largely due to availability and the number of other people rescheduling or who had been booked in originally. And our notice of marriage ran out. We’d been organised the previous year and ‘ticked it off’ early, but that meant we needed to give it again before we could confirm a new date. And those appointments were booked up too! Eventually we got everything in order and booked 5 November.

We knew we wouldn’t be celebrating the way we’d hoped but we booked a small afternoon tea, fancy hotel for the wedding night and something fun to do at the weekend. Then Saturday 31 October a new lockdown was announced, starting the day we were due to be married and there was nothing we could do. We had to wait until Monday to hear from the Registry Office and weren’t able to reschedule for earlier in the week (we’d hoped there might be a slim chance). Everything was rescheduled for a date we pulled out of thin air when I panicked on the phone and was asked for our new date. We put our efforts into hoping the lockdown wouldn’t be extended.

Third time lucky…

And it wasn’t! Although Bristol did enter tier 3 restrictions so the hotel and afternoon tea were out. This was strictly a ceremony and ceremony only. But it happened and despite the fact it was nothing like I expected my wedding day would be, we were able to say our vows, celebrate our love and start our lives as a married couple. We were actually able to spend much more time together than I imagine we would have done for a more ‘usual’ wedding and that helped to make it feel special. At some point we’ll get a proper celebration (and I hope I’ll still fit into my dress!) but for now we’re just delighted we were able to go ahead. We no longer have a caterer for our booked celebration next year, we don’t know how many people will be able to attend and haven’t even bothered asking for rsvps yet but none of that matters right now.

Sound familiar?

I know we’re far from alone in the strange journey our wedding story has taken. We’ve got friends wearing rings engraved with the wrong date, friends who had to keep halving their guest list at every new announcement and I know a number of people who feel in a constant state of flux about their plans next year. It’s not pleasant. What should be a joyful occasion is being marred by stress and uncertainty, but here are my tips for coping with it…

Tips for Coping with Covid-19 wedding insecurity

  • Work out what matters most for you. If getting married is more important than the celebration then just do it. If you want your day the way you planned with the celebration then consider postponing till there’s some certainty rather than having to keep changing plans.
  • Talk to your suppliers regularly. We had booked mainly small and local businesses who have all been incredibly helpful and understanding throughout. It really took some of the stress and pressure off knowing how adaptable they were being.
  • If it gets cancelled, make other plans. It’s tempting to cancel your time booked off work and not to do anything, but both our cancelled wedding weekends were really nice. We spent quality time together doing things we enjoy (long walks and eating good food) and it still felt special. I was worried I’d spend the whole time moping but it was actually really beneficial to have some plans and take some time away from other people and things.
  • Don’t lose sight of what matters. I won’t lie, there were days where I wanted to shout at anyone who suggested it didn’t matter in the long run and that our love for each other was more important. At the time I received them the comments weren’t helpful, but they are true and sometimes you do need a reminder.
  • Keep talking to people. Be open about what you’re going through and how you’re feeling. But most importantly, keep talking to each other about it.
  • Don’t obsess over the details. In a world where you can’t plan and flexibility is key there’s little point sweating the small stuff. I love to plan so if I’m throwing it out of the window then you may as well. It’s unfortunately probably a better use of time to work out who would be invited to a different sized wedding (so you’re ready to scale up or down) and making sure you have a good way to communicate with everyone on your list.

In a way I think I was lucky. I didn’t have a dream day that I’d had planned since childhood. We didn’t have to make difficult decisions by keeping the ceremony as immediate family only as that had always been the plan and it’s something people understand. It was a strange day but it was still our day and we were really really happy. Roll on whenever we can celebrate properly – just don’t ask me about our plans!

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