Planning a wedding is an exciting, yet testing, time for many couples. Venues booked months in advance, countless dress fittings, mass invitation send-outs, and figuring out a seating plan for the big day – it can be a logistical nightmare. But this year, thousands of couples tying the knot have had to contend with the added stress of a pandemic that no-one could’ve seen coming.
For months, coronavirus halted weddings and civil partnerships across the country, with plans postponed or cancelled altogether. Current guidelines now allow up to 30 people to gather indoors for a ceremony and reception if social distancing can be maintained.
Even though it may not have been the wedding they’d originally planned, many brides and grooms across the UK decided not to delay their special day any longer. With reduced guest lists, receptions in the back garden, and live stream Zoom video calls walking down the aisle, we asked people to share photos of their Covid weddings in a post-lockdown world.
‘We were able to make it a more intimate day that was incredibly personal to us’
Kelly Wainhouse, 30, and Andrew Parkes, 31, based in Lewisham, London, got married in September at Southwark Registry Office. It was followed by a small celebration at a few bars in Peckham with eight guests. They’d originally planned a big outdoor woodland ceremony in Kent with 150 people.
“With a small group, we were able to walk through and celebrate in areas of south east London that were significant in our relationship,” Wainhouse tells HuffPost UK, “including cutting our wedding cake in the venue where we met and walking by our first flat.
“Although the changes were difficult, we feel very lucky we were still able to get married as we know many people still haven’t been able to tie the knot. I had originally bought a big wedding dress but it didn’t feel right walking around Peckham in that, but I fell in love with this suit in the end!”
‘We had our dogs as best men and maid of honour’
Ruby Winchester, 26, and her wife Kristen Winchester, 27, from North Carolina, US, originally planned to get married on June 6 with a venue at the park they met – a typical wedding.
“Once the pandemic hit, we were going to move it to next year but with things growing increasingly difficult with moving plans back for another year, we decided to just leave a date in the door until we knew when the pandemic was going to be over,” they tell HuffPost UK.
“Until spontaneously my wife and I decided to have a small quick get together with the two of us, our dogs as best men and maid of honour, two witnesses and our officiant, who was a mutual friend and my wife’s coworker. Masks and social distancing all happened during the short, 15-minute ceremony. And that’s about it. The officiant read what they had to read, we said ‘I do’ and then we were married!”
‘Having a micro wedding meant we really focused on the marriage itself’
Matheus Matioli and Naomi Richardson, both 29, originally planned to have a London church wedding with 180 guests, followed by dinner and dancing. Instead, they got married at a tiny chapel in the Sussex countryside where Naomi grew up.
“We decided to still get married because it didn’t feel right not getting married, as simple as that sounds,” says Richardson. “With the world so uncertain at the moment, we didn’t want to postpone everything in case a second wave of Covid stopped us getting married again!
“We had nine people and, after taking some photos on the South Downs, we had fish and chips in my parents’ garden! Sadly, my husband’s parents flew all the way from Brazil for the wedding, but were on day 11 of their quarantine on the day of the wedding. They Zoomed into the wedding from Vauxhall, which was pretty devastating for us all that they were so close but couldn’t be there.”
‘We weren’t able to get married in the church, so the priest came to us!’
Anna Kennedy, 29, and Giovanni Malatesta, 31, chose to get married in their living room in Qatar. “Of course, we were disheartened that we weren’t able to get our dream wedding in Scotland,” says Kennedy.
“However, not knowing how long Covid-19 was going to last for, we decided to get married anyway. We weren’t able to get married in the church, so the priest came to us! Living abroad meant our friends and family couldn’t join us, so we did a Zoom call instead. We had two witnesses (three including our dog Betty!) and it was a lovely afternoon.”
‘Becoming husband and wife was the most important thing, it’s an incredible feeling’
La Braya Richmond, 25, and Daniel Richmond, 27, from London had their big ceremony with 200 guests scrapped due to Covid – and their original venue even closed down completely due to the detrimental effects of the pandemic.
Instead, they decided to get married in their local church with just a few guests. “It was a really devastating experience and took me a while to process that something we had worked so hard towards had been taken just like that,” Richmond tells HuffPost UK.
“But eventually I realised our union was the most important thing and we could not let this stop us becoming husband and wife. Marriage is a beautiful covenant and we knew we didn’t want to wait any longer to share that union with each other. ”
‘It was a pure elopement and no one knew beforehand’
Matthew Mee and Gema Bate, both 31, from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, were due to get married on their fifth anniversary of being together at Central Park in New York City. They’d originally planned to get married on their joint hen and stag do at Slam Dunk Festival in Leeds on May 23 – but unfortunately, everything got cancelled.
“It didn’t feel right waiting, so we talked about eloping,” Bate tells HuffPost UK. “We drove to Leeds, walked over to the registry office, and did the deed. We had Ryan (our photographer) and his girlfriend as our witnesses, then went for a bottomless brunch at an NYC-themed restaurant, dressed in our wedding gear.
“We wandered around Leeds Museum and finished up at Five Guys. We had an amazing day celebrating just us and were amazed we managed to get it all together and aligned so well and so quickly.”
‘Our wedding day was still so happy and special’
Sabrina Nordlund, 24, and Angus Gibson, 27, got married in Edinburgh, and had to cut their guest list right down, as well as change the venue.
“We made a lot of sacrifices to what a ‘normal’ wedding would look like, but our wedding day was still so happy and so special,” Nordlund explains. “It was the first time we saw any family after lockdown, and was truly just a beacon of happiness that brought us through the end of lockdown. It already feels like it was a lifetime ago! Definitely not a day we could ever recreate, and I love that.”
‘After two months of lockdown, it felt like such a treat to say I do’
Gina Rooke-Rendell and James Rooke-Rendell, both 33, got married at Cardiff Registry Office. Originally, they were due to get married on May 9 and had planned a humanist ceremony in a small seaside town in south Wales, with 80 of their closest friends and family.
“After two months of lockdown, it felt like such a treat saying our ‘I dos’,” says Gina. “We are still planning to have the our wedding in 2022 but we wanted to get legally married as soon as possible. As everything else we’d planned wasn’t able to go ahead, such as our honeymoon, we just wanted to be able to celebrate something this year.”
‘When we found out we could have an intimate wedding, we just felt sheer joy’
Emily Smith, 29, and Ben Watts, 35, got married at the Ash Barton Estate in north Devon. “Ben and I had come to the conclusion that our wedding wasn’t going to happen,” says Smith, “so, when we found out that we could have an intimate wedding with 30 guests or less, we just felt sheer joy.
“Knowing that our original date [July 4] could happen, and we could make that commitment to one another was an amazing feeling. As we were confined to our homes for so long, it was extra special to see our closest friends and family again. Knowing we couldn’t give our family hugs on the big day was difficult. It’s all those small details that we take for granted.”
‘It was the most romantic fairytale setting ever’
Domini Hooper, 50, and her partner Peter Hooper, 50, from Bath, got married at Manvers St Baptist Church. “There were no guests, no extended family, just the bride, groom, our three children, the Baptist Minister and someone to film it all,” says Hooper.
“The church was going to be very empty and slightly eerie without a congregation or guests to fill the pews. So, as a complete surprise, my partner filled the sanctuary with the most beautiful blossom trees, flowers, and luscious plants, transforming the sanctuary into the most romantic fairytale setting ever!
“When it looked like the ceremony might be possible with major changes, we realised it felt right to go ahead”
Deya Dasgupta, 36, and Sam Leigh, 31, from south London had their wedding in August at Battersea Park bandstand, followed by a socially-distanced picnic with 20 guests.
“When it looked like the ceremony might be possible with major changes, we realised it felt right to go ahead,” says Dasgupta. “We did consider postponing the entire event, but given how unpredictable the pandemic has been, any future date also carries some degree of uncertainty.
“We were lucky in many ways: our siblings and close friends have been healthy and live nearby. We are still hoping for a delayed reception celebration with all the other important people in our lives who couldn’t be there next spring, but until then, we’re happy we’ve had our ceremony.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.