COVID-19

The year that weddings forgot

As Boris deals betrothed couples yet another blow, Georgina Littlejohn talks about her own experience and asks if weddings will ever be the same again.

It was in early February this year when, after six months of preparation, my fiancé and I could finally relax and look forward to our wedding…

RSVPs had been returned, our rings had been ordered, my dress was paid for and waiting in the boutique for my final fitting. The flowers, cake, photographer, lights, dance floor and music equipment had been booked and we were good to go to get hitched in early June.

Then Covid-19 hit and on March 23, the UK went into lockdown throwing life into disarray and scuppering well-laid plans.

Everything shut down and under the new lockdown rules, weddings were banned, affecting tens of thousands of ceremonies, religious and civil, across the UK.

So to say this put us in a bit of a dilemma was a bit of an understatement. Would things be back to normal by June? Should we hold on and wait and see?

Too much was at stake and we knew we had to make a decision – and fast. So, after calls to our venue, registrar and everyone else involved in preparations – all of who were very accommodating – we moved it to October.

Then, in June, it was announced that weddings would be allowed to go ahead from July 1st and we breathed a huge sigh of relief.

It seemed we were out of the woods. Life would get back to normal, especially as the shops, bars and restaurants were all opening again on July 4th with hairdressers and beauty salons soon following suit.

But then we read the small print and our joy that we would be husband and wife in three months time was soon quashed.

The conditions set out by the government for weddings meant my dad wouldn’t have been allowed to walk me down the aisle, and we wouldn’t have been able to have more than 30 people there – and that figure included us, the two registrars and the photographer. That would have meant telling 60 of our 85 guests they were no longer invited, a situation we should not have been forced to make. It was tough enough deciding who to invite when we first started preparing for our wedding.

The guests we did invite would be required to wear masks, strictly obey the one metre rule and no one would be able to hug or kiss unless they were from the same household.

So that meant no sit down dinner, no speeches and no music or dancing. Laughably, me and my fiancé would have been expected to sanitise our hands before exchanging rings, despite the fact we live together.

So once again, we found ourselves rescheduling the wedding for the second time. And with things the way they were, we decided the best thing to do was to move the entire event forward to 2021, and almost a year to the day we should have been wed.

Apart from losing our photographer along with half the deposit we paid her, we were able to reschedule everything with no money lost.

And it also meant no quick draconian exercise regime to lose the lockdown weight. So every cloud and all that.

But in all seriousness, we are the lucky ones, and thank goodness we had the foresight to reschedule it again.

Because this week, the government issued new restrictions to the nation which would have seriously affected us if we had decided to go ahead in October.

From Monday September 28th, wedding ceremonies and sit-down receptions in England will be cut from 30 people to 15.

As before, this includes the bride and groom, the registrars and the photographer (thankfully we have found and secured another), but that means couples can only invite 10 guests, 5 each.

But I can’t even begin to imagine the angst the couples that haven’t been able to reschedule must be going through. Not only will they have to uninvite 15 people but a decision that big could lead to arguments and tension between them and their family and friends.

These new rules also mean that pubs and restaurants and other venues are now being forced to close at 10pm, another decision that would have affected me and my fiancé. Our venue is a high-end restaurant in the City where we will have the ceremony, the dinner and then party until last orders at 2am. So again, foresight was on our side.

Of course, it’s all down to personal choice. Some couples might not have wanted a big wedding anyway, some may have chosen to elope, some might not have a big family or a lot of friends and a small ceremony with a handful of guests might have suited them down to the ground.

But while many small weddings and elopements took place this year regardless, according to a study by Hello-safe.co.uk, 127,000 nuptials were cancelled this year and the wedding industry lost an estimated £4.8bn.

80% of weddings have been rescheduled for next year, and 160,000 more ceremonies than usual will be taking place in 2021.

Many couples have also lost a small fortune after wedding insurers refused to pay out and some venues refused to refund them, despite the unprecedented circumstances.

As I said before, me and my fiancé are the lucky ones. And we are trying to stay positive that next June will happen and we can have the wedding we planned. But in these uncertain times, we are still a little apprehensive.

Preparing for a wedding can be stressful at the best of times but this year has just added to that tenfold.

So we’ll just have to wait and see what next spring brings. And if worse comes to the worse, I hear Gretna Green can be very nice at that time of year.

Photo credit: Hitched.co.uk

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Georgina Littlejohn

Georgina Littlejohn is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience specialising in general and London news, entertainment and music. She cut her teeth in TV writing for news, sport and showbiz programmes before moving into print, starting at Associated Newspapers where she worked across the board from the Metro to the Standard to the London Lite before ending at MailOnline, where she was one of the senior showbiz reporters. After going freelance and working stints at the Mirror, the Sun, Music Week and Closer magazine, she took a career break in 2014 to work for theatre impresario Bill Kenwright as his Head of Communications. After a year as Senior Homepage Editor for MSN, she is now back freelancing and currently working for the i newspaper and its award-winning website. Georgina also volunteers as a kennel assistant for the Mayhew and as a befriender for Age UK.

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