Want to prepare for the big day in times of Covid-19? Lily Newton-Browne shares her experience about what to anticipate when planning a wedding in these unprecedented times.
German-themed Christmas market stalls, thousands of twinkling lights and towering fairground attractions draw us to London’s spectacular Hyde Park Winter Wonderland event in December 2018.
We frequently stop, soak up the festive atmosphere when I glance down to admire the brand-new diamond which sparkles on my left-hand, gifted to me a short time ago by my devoted partner and now fiancé, Neil.
That unforgettable feeling is one I will always cherish, and we are not alone in taking advantage of the Christmas spirit. According to wedding planning app Bridebook.co.uk, December is the most popular time of year to get engaged in the UK, and if you are reading this as a newly engaged couple, congratulations – you must feel like you are on cloud nine!
For those who have had their dream wedding set in stone since they were little, this may not be news to you. However, if you are sticking to a budget, not sure where to start and fancy planning ahead in these uncertain times, then read on.
Alongside the invaluable help of family, Neil and I’s wedding was planned in just three months by the autumn of 2020, during coronavirus guidelines and the beginning of tier restrictions in England.
Navigating the pandemic while finding a venue which is well-priced, has accommodation, great food, allows pets and has all the add-ons you need is no easy task, which made us quickly realise that flexibility is the key to planning a wedding in the next few years.
“Like a lot of people, we looked at wedding venues online and emailed choices we thought would suit the budget and time of year”, says my mum, Donna.
“After venues started getting back to us, we created a spreadsheet to assess wedding packages and costs at different venues across Somerset. After a quick reply, we decided to meet with The Oak House Hotel & Restaurant, in The Square in Axbridge, back in the summer.
“A lot of venues sell wedding packages like bronze, silver and gold. Everyone wants to afford the gold and platinum packages, but the Oak House works to tailor-make unique wedding days for couples.
“It felt personal. There was more flexibility in having this little venue in the heart of a growing town and it was especially reassuring to know they have robust Covid-secure measures in place.
“We felt in safe hands.”
So, why didn’t our wedding go ahead as planned last winter? 2020 scuppered our efforts at the last-minute with a second national lockdown.
Luckily, we had the foresight to factor this in and aside from a lack of consistency about when we heard back from venues, some may have had staff on furlough, others may have been closed altogether, this was the only pitfall to planning a wedding in a pandemic.
In our experience, The Oak House seemed to be ahead of the game. The hotel was the quickest venue to respond to our enquiry and their friendly, kind-hearted staff reassured us every step of the way throughout our planning.
Their prompt responses to our many queries over email, phone and (coronavirus restrictions-allowing) in person, as well as their guidance, gave us hope that we could get married during times of Covid.
Everything else, from buying a wedding dress, Neil’s suit, rings, organising hair and make-up, to food on the menu came fairly stress-free – although some of these may now not be possible due to the national lockdown.
“The positives to take from the situation is the pandemic has given couples the chance to revaluate what they really want from their wedding day,” says Brianna, The Oak House wedding planner.
“It’s about remembering that you have got engaged at this time for a reason. Nobody knows when things are going to go back to normal and venues are having to adapt and look at opportunities so couples can still have that amazing life experience.”
On January 4th, Boris Johnson announced England was to enter a new lockdown at midnight.
According to Government guidance, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to six people and these should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.
More details will be announced in the coming days and the new national lockdown is expected to be reviewed in six weeks.
“We have all worked together through these unprecedented times, and if in your heart of hearts, you want to get married this year when possible, just take the plunge, there are options we can go through to give you your special day”, Brianna adds.
Overall, I found planning my wedding in a pandemic a positive experience, despite the fact it got postponed, 10 months and counting. Couples planning their big day now have so many options and can opt for a smaller, more intimate wedding in 2021 to getting the deposit in, saving up and planning a bigger ceremony a few years down the line.
If it’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that 2020 has taught us to appreciate everything we have and hold dear. The future is full of hope for your wedding, just as it will be for ours, alongside the many couples across the world who are itching to tie the knot in the months and years to come.
Photo credit: Axbridge Photography