Lifestyle

Planning a Wedding During a Global Pandemic: Our Story

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently stumbled upon a draft blog post where I had relived the madness of trying to plan a wedding during the Covid pandemic. It was a crazy time and, although I am posting this a little late, I feel it would be a shame to not post it at all, as it really was a whirlwind. I would love for this to be a post on “how to survive planning a wedding in a global pandemic” but to be very honest with you, I barely made it through in one piece. Now, this is not a short story, but the only way to understand the scale of this rollercoaster is to relive it step-by-step. So, I encourage you to join me…

If you told me in August 2019, when we booked our wedding, that the following year would be spent with the nation forced to stay in their homes and not mix with anyone outside their households, I would have thought that you were mad. Never in a million years would I have anticipated that we would have to rearrange our wedding not once, but twice, and spend months worrying about how the day may be impacted by government lockdowns or restrictions on travel, guest numbers and face masks.

First of all, a quick disclaimer. I do not want this to come across as whining. The world was in a horrendous state throughout 2020 and 2021: my heart goes out to all the families who lost loved ones and key workers who worked through lockdowns while suffering abuse and disrespect from the public (Sal was a key worker, and the stories he came back with were awful). I know in the grand scheme of things that a wedding really isn’t worth getting upset over. But it was a hugely challenging time for me, from both a planning perspective and on an emotional level, and so I want to share my experience.

As we all remember, the UK went into lockdown mid-March 2020. Our wedding was booked for 4th September 2020. Because, at this stage, we were only 6 months out, the majority of planning had been completed; the invitations had been posted a week or so before lockdown was announced and so we were receiving a steady stream of RSVPs, we were booking hotel rooms for people, advising as to local transport links for those further away. As the whole nation did, we all thought that things would blow over in a matter of weeks and by the start of summer, everything would be back to normal: hotels and restaurants would be open again and weddings would be back on. This was simply a blip which would pass.

As early as the end of March, I started to hear stories of people postponing their July and August weddings to the following year. This was obviously alarming, and I reached out to our venue – just to see what their policy would be should we need to postpone. I was certainly in the mindset that this wouldn’t be necessary. They said they sincerely hoped our wedding would go ahead as planned and implied we would cross the postponement bridge as and when, or if, we needed to. Reassured, we continued planning as normal, including sending our translated invites to our Italian guests – we were so certain that they would be able to fly to the UK by September.

Furlough was useful in that I had plenty of time to create all the DIY centrepieces and décor I wanted to. I spent days at a time, listening to podcasts, eating banana bread and DIY-ing. Those first few weeks of lockdown went quite smoothly.

We had been advised by our venue that the majority of the team were furloughed and so emails were very rarely being checked. This was not such a worry at the start, but as time went on, the stress started to build when I needed to discuss plans with the team and really struggled to get hold of anyone. Having been furloughed from work as a hotel receptionist myself, I understood that this was beyond their control, but this did little to appease the stress I felt!

We were contacted early May by the wedding team to advise they would like us to pencil in a back-up date, simply as a pre-caution, should the wedding need to be postponed – in case the date you have isn’t suitable for various reasons that we do not yet know. i.e restrictions on numbers, flights for travelling guests, vulnerable guests to stay at home. They contacted us on the Thursday and needed to know our back-up date by 5pm on the Friday as the hotel was then closing and the team would not be contactable until the beginning of July.

It was a mad rush, but we managed to contact all our suppliers and thankfully we found a date that was suitable for everyone. We were able to confirm our back-up date of 9th April 2021 within the timeframe set.

Over the next two months, I was glued to the news, desperate for any new information on wedding ceremonies. By this time, all my wedding DIY was complete and although I tried to keep busy, it was getting increasingly difficult to distract myself. It didn’t help that I was alone all day – I was furloughed from March until the end of July, whereas Sal was a key worker in a supermarket and worked the whole way through lockdown.

Gradually, things started opening up and wedding ceremonies were allowed again, however, there were significant restrictions on number of people, social distancing requirements, face mask wearing etc. From memory, there was a government “roadmap” issued, which indicated how restrictions would change over time, dependant on the spread of Covid lessening. Off the back of this, we studied the guest list and spent hours trying to organise the names on the page into groups of 15, 30 and 50 people, more times than anyone should ever have to, attempting to cut the list down to fit within the different requirements. It was heart-breaking to have to pick and choose between our guests – everyone who had been invited was important to us and we wanted them all there. It was impossible to know at this time which restrictions we would be facing in September, but we wanted to have a plan for all eventualities. This was really tough – we are big family people in that not only was having our family at the wedding super important, we both also have large immediate families. The “15” number was especially tricky for us – it’s not one we were able to fit within (especially since this number had to include the vicar, photographer and the two of us).

Most of all, though, I struggled with the fact that everything was unknown. With the everchanging government restrictions, I knew that whatever we planned for, all could change as last minute as the night before the wedding which would require us to spend that final evening completely changing the plans again. This was a throwback, I suppose, to my sister’s wedding which was the weekend before the first lockdown was announced, when Covid was a new, emerging threat. She had to cope with so much uncertainty in the final run up  – there were rumours of restaurants, hotels and venues closing, the possibility of the registrar not coming (their attendance only confirmed 5:30pm the evening before) and lots of guests choosing not to go due to fears of this new and possibly deadly virus.

Ultimately, we made the decision to postpone to our April date. This decision was made at the start of July 2020. In my email to the hotel confirming the postponement, I wrote, “I am confident that by April [2021] all will be back to normal!” We contacted all our guests to advise them of the new date and reassured them we were confident that by April, Covid and lockdowns would be a thing of the past. Ah, how wrong we were.

The UK went in and out of lockdowns through October/November and well into the new year. As April got closer and closer, the same worries came back: would the nation be on lockdown in April? If not, what would the restrictions be? Even if there were no restrictions, would guests feel comfortable to come? Would we have to go ahead without the more vulnerable family members or those who live further afield?

It was looking increasingly unlikely that we would be able to go ahead in the April. Finally, the decision was made to postpone for a second time. In early February 2021, a time when our venue was open and the wedding team contactable, we moved the date again. This time to 3rd September 2021. A full year after our original date.

Time went by, and gradually restrictions started to lift and this time it seemed they were lifting for good. There was always an underlining worry that restrictions would come back, but at this stage, we were determined that whatever happened, we would be getting married. There was no way we were moving the date again.

On the final few weeks leading up to the day, I became obsessive again – we were so close now, it really looked like we would be going ahead with no social distancing restrictions at all. The next worry was – what if Sal or I were to catch Covid and not be able to get married because we were self-isolating? What if my dad catches it and can’t be there to give me away? I only went out in those final weeks if necessary. When out and about, I was extra careful with sanitising my hands and wearing a face mask. Sal and our immediate family were the same; we were all so desperate to jump the final hurdle and make it to the wedding day.

Finally, we made it. No restrictions. No social distancing. All our UK guests were able to attend. Unfortunately, our Italian guests were not able to make it, but we Facetimed several of them on the day and said we would go across to visit them when possible. And remarkably, no-one caught Covid as a result of the wedding. It really felt like a miracle that it was able to happen, almost exactly, as we had planned albeit a year later. It was such a special, memorable day that all the stress of planning was forgotten; we got to celebrate our love surrounded by (almost) all our friends and family and for that we are so grateful.

Photo credit to Mark Noall for header image. Check out his page: https://www.facebook.com/MarkNoall.Photographer

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