When you’re planning a wedding abroad, there are a whole host of things you need to consider: the travel arrangements (and backup plans if flights are cancelled or delayed), potential jet lag, visas – you name it, there’s normally a contingency plan in place. One thing you can’t prepare for, though, is a global pandemic.
This is exactly what happened to Lucy and Marc, who spent years planning their dream wedding in Barcelona, only to be forced to postpone it indefinitely due to COVID-19. Instead of completely cancelling their wedding a few months out, they went ahead with a small legal ceremony - here, Lucy shares their story.
Cancelling their dream wedding
We started planning our wedding pretty much straight after our engagement. A couple of months later, we hired a wedding planner (shout out to Holly at Wonderlust Events who was so great and supportive). It took such a long time to find all of our vendors, our photographer, videographer flowers but, after a lot of time and effort, our wedding was planned within an inch of its life. Then the pandemic happened, and everything changed.
We already had a small legal ceremony planned at Marylebone Town Hall before flying straight out to Barcelona and having our big celebration with friends and family there. But then both weddings obviously had to be cancelled because of COVID.
At the beginning, I was just in denial, I just could not fathom having to cancel my wedding due to COVID. We've never been through anything like this before so we had no way of knowing what the impact would be.
As the weeks went by and the news kept getting worse and worse, it just dawned on us that actually, we were going to seriously think about postponing it. We got quite a lot of questions from concerned friends and family, but it was really hard to give any answers because we just really didn't know what was going to happen.
It took us a fair while to make the decision because we had already been engaged for two years. The hardest bit was the disappointment of losing the dream wedding that we've spent so long planning.
We managed to reschedule our legal ceremony to September 2020, and our Barcelona wedding to May this year, but we've had to cancel that one too now because it doesn't look like that's going to be able to happen.
Switching to plan B
We were just so desperate to just get legally married and, at that point, the rules said we couldn't travel, meaning we weren’t able to have our Stag or Hen Dos. My friends had planned the most amazing long weekend in Paris, and my husband was going to go to Budapest.
It was such a shame that our pre-wedding celebrations couldn’t happen either. I had a bit of a virtual Hens on the day that I was supposed to be going to Paris, though, and it was actually really sweet, my grandpa was able to a little appearance because he lives with my parents.
A lot about our actual wedding day felt different to the original plan, so having an outfit to reflect that was almost like leaning into it and saying to ourselves, ‘okay, well, it's a change of plan, so why don't we just embrace this?’
I already had the big, fairly traditional wedding dress plan for the Barcelona wedding, which is why I went for something slightly different for the local ceremony. I definitely wanted to wear white, I just thought I’d try something quite modern, relaxed and also something I’d potentially wear again.
In the end, I opted for Roland Mouret trousers, a Zimmerman top and Manolo Blahnik pumps which I don't think I would have done if it had been the main wedding.
The (smaller) big day
The fact that we knew we were going to have another wedding after the legal ceremony kind of took the pressure off. We didn't even know until the day before that we were 100% able to go ahead with the town hall ceremony because the rules were changing so quickly.
We were able to keep our original legal wording ceremony plans pretty much the same – it was at Marylebone Town Hall, and really beautiful. I think our ceremony felt more special, and it was so great to get our families together as we'd been separated for so long.
After the ceremony, we jumped into a black cab and went to Ham Yard, where we met our family again, had some drinks on the gorgeous rooftop terrace, ate a meal together and bowled into the early hours of the morning. It was just really, really nice - the perfect celebration.
Advice to other couples
The one thing that I kind of regret is not hiring a professional photographer for the day. The legal wedding itself was supposed to be a really small affair (just the signing of the papers) and we were going to have our main wedding with the professional finish a few months later anyway. Looking back now at other people’s legal ceremonies and micro weddings with high-quality photographers, the photos are so lovely.
I'm really lucky that I had my sister-in-law there who’s pretty handy with her iPhone. She took some great photos and videos all throughout the day. But one thing I definitely wish I did was hire a professional photographer. At the time, I just wasn't really sure, but that's something I think is worth investing in. Even if you do plan on having your bigger wedding later down the line, get somebody down who can take a nice photo, just in case.
An unexpected silver lining
This experience really helped us assess what's important. And I think, for me, I really did get obsessed with the flowers, the clothes. I had about six different outfit changes across the wedding weekend and all of these things that I felt were really, really important. But actually, [COVID-19] made us reprioritise. All that kind of stuff didn't really matter.
At the end of the day, all we wanted to do was get married with our family there. That's been the biggest learning curve. It’s so easy to get lost in the detail, which is lovely, but the most important thing is that you have your day – that you love it, enjoy it, and leave with amazing memories. It's really about the people that you're with - that's been my biggest takeaway from this.
We've also just bought our new house, and that's been quite nice for feeling like we're still achieving something. What we were going to do is get married and then buy a house, but we've ended up doing it the other way around.
Will they still go ahead with the big wedding?
There's definitely more confidence now with the vaccine rolling out. We're going to just get this year out of the way and then reassess. COVID-19 may not necessarily be long gone, but hopefully, we'll be learning to live with it. One thing we didn't want to do is go ahead with this big event, pay all the money, and just not be able to have it as we wanted it.
We also want everybody to feel comfortable attending the big wedding because it's overseas and people are paying a lot of money to come out. So we wanted them to be able to relax and enjoy it too. For us, I think it was worth postponing our wedding to really have it exactly how we want it for us and all of our guests.
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