'I don't know if my dad can walk me down the aisle': what it's like to plan a Covid-secure wedding

Imogen Bull
Imogen and Nik

People who think planning a wedding is stressful should try planning one during a pandemic. The constantly changing restrictions over the past three months mean our mid-July wedding has been postponed, then cancelled, then reorganised as a small, rule-following affair on the same date. I’m now keeping my fingers and toes crossed that it goes ahead.

Our original plan was for me and my fiancé Nik, 27, to get legally married in a registry office, then to have a symbolic ceremony and reception a month later for 150 guests in my parents’ Kent garden. By February, we had everything sorted: the flowers were booked, the dress ordered and the food picked.

But in March, we started to get an inkling that not everything would go to plan. Islington Town Hall, where we were going to do the legal service, called to say we had to postpone. Then, in May, they cancelled our service altogether. We were told we could rebook for a later date, but because of the backlog it would be on a weekday. We decided to hold off until restrictions were lifted. 

It became clear our big wedding party wouldn’t be feasible, either. Even if restrictions were lifted, we wouldn’t be able to hug anyone, and friends and family from overseas would struggle to be there. Realising that we couldn’t have the celebration we wanted was gutting. Again, we bit the bullet and postponed – this time until next year. Fortunately, all our suppliers agreed to carry our bookings over so we didn’t lose money.

Even though the party was off, we kept an eye on the changing guidelines around legal ceremonies. Next year, Nik and I will be living apart: he’s going to be working in Hull as an NHS doctor, I’ll be in London where I work as a lawyer. We’re desperate to be married before this next stage in our lives. 

A few weeks ago we started hearing rumours that small weddings might be allowed again. The town hall wasn’t going to work, so we decided to have a small church wedding instead. Not ideal, as Nik’s family is Hindu, but it would allow us to get legally married this year, even if the party had to wait. 

Imogen and Nik

We called our local priest and he advised us to pencil in three dates, then wait and see how the rules changed. We decided on a guest list of around 20 – immediate family, bridesmaids and groomsmen – and kept checking the news for updates.

Last week, I was watching the Prime Minister announce that small weddings could go ahead  when the priest called to congratulate us. We’re going ahead with July 18 for the ceremony – it’s the date we originally had for our big wedding, and it’s already engraved on the inside of Nik’s wedding ring.

Doing the new ceremony isn’t straightforward. Everyone who is signing the marriage certificate has to bring their own pen to reduce contamination. There will be face masks at the door, and guests will be spread out in the church. As for the photographer, we’ve found someone who has been doing doorstop portraits throughout lockdown, so he is well-versed in staying within the guidelines. 

There are still some aspects that we’re waiting for guidance on. We don’t yet know if my dad will be able to walk me down the aisle. He’s from another household, so we may have to stay two metres apart.

The legal side is different too. Usually in an Anglican wedding, the banns would be read for three consecutive weeks before the service. But there are no church services at the moment, so instead we’ve signed an affidavit swearing we’re allowed to get married.

We’re having a very small reception afterwards for our guests, which is within the regulations. It will be outside, with each household having their own table to sit on. At least I’m spared the stress of doing the table plan. 

In some ways, it’s worked out for the best. Our small wedding will focus on us as a couple, and the time to celebrate with our extended family will come later on. Plus, a lot of people talk about getting “wedding blues” once all the excitement of the big day is over, but I’m sure I won’t get that: we get to do it all again next summer. 

As told to Helen Chandler-Wilde