How to plan a COVID wedding

My husband and I got married in 2021 and we almost had a normal wedding. Almost. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I can’t tell you how to successfully account for the pandemic in your wedding prep. What I can share is the step-by-step of how our wedding caught COVID and how it all unfolded.

Step 1: Get engaged when everyone is starting to forget about lockdown

It was a glorious March day when we decided to get married. We went for a hike at the Royal National Park and the ring fit just right. Since we were driving past it anyway, we scouted out Audley Dance Hall, which ended up being the venue we chose for our reception. Then, in a coincidence completely unorchestrated by my new fiancé, my mum and dad happened to be visiting Sydney that day, so we were able to celebrate our engagement together with my parents and his, at a dinner that we’d previously arranged for no other reason than that my folks were in town.

Gee, it started off so perfectly.

The day was so perfect we forgot to take photos of our engagement – this is about as close as we got.

Step 2: Give yourself a hard time finding the right wedding dress

Finding a wedding dress caused me more stress than I expected and than my pride could handle. This was the ideal way to train myself to be stressed over things I’d never normally care about and trigger those bridezilla hormones.

More on that here.

Step 3: Make and unmake honeymoon reservations

Photo credits: Rayu Maldives (left) and The Paris Photographer (right).

Forget Paris or the Maldives. International travel was still not an option, so Queensland seemed a pretty straightforward and safe bet.

Then, domestic borders started closing one after another the Wednesday before our wedding as four local government areas in Sydney became red zones. My fiancé lived in one of them. And so we spent a whole morning cancelling flights and hotel reservations instead of relaxing ahead of our big day. Fortunately he had the foresight to insist on booking only refundable or transferrable options so we didn’t lose any money on our honeymoon reservations.

Still, cancelling our plans was not a fun activity. And the worst was yet to come.

Step 4: Make guestlists for both the 2 sqm and the 4 sqm rules – then uninvite everyone anyway

The only other COVID precaution we took was to always have the possibility of the 4 sqm rule coming back into force. We drew up two guest lists but I was quietly confident we wouldn’t have to go to the reduced guest list.

And then people started pulling out. After cancelling our honeymoon plans, we started receiving one message after another with apologies from family and friends. Every time the phone rang I knew how the conversation would go.

I didn’t blame them at all, but I was not prepared for how painful it would be. It’s devastating just remembering that even now as I write this.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the reception with so many loved ones absent. Thankfully the venue was gracious in allowing us to postpone our event.

With our guest list in tatters and red zones spreading like wildfire through Greater Sydney, we didn’t want to encourage people to travel and mingle when the official advice was to stay home. So on Friday, the day before we were to be married, we uninvited everyone except our immediate families from the ceremony, too.

Step 5: Watch your Twitter feed like a hawk

We actually weren’t even sure we were legally allowed to get married. My fiancé was in a red zone and not supposed to leave his home at all. While he was willing to cop a fine to marry me, our pastor had his church’s reputation at stake and was rightly nervous about marrying us. We canvassed a few alternatives, like bringing the ceremony forward to that evening. I cancelled my hair and make-up artist and told the musicians to stay home.

We knew a city-wide lockdown would begin at 6pm on our wedding day. It wasn’t clear from the official government website, though, how the new measures affected wedding ceremonies during the day itself. And then my fiancé saw a tweet:

The state’s health minister said weddings (and community sport!) that weekend were exempt from the restrictions. Turns out he was much faster at updating the masses than the official government COVID site, which didn’t confirm this till after 11pm that night.

I still get a laugh thinking Twitter saved our wedding.

Step 6: Still end up feeling very, very grateful

We did get married, on the Saturday as planned. It was the final weekend and opportunity before a four-and-a-half-month lockdown.

The day was beautiful and sunny, warm for winter. Our parents, siblings, nieces and nephew, and my husband’s grandmothers, were there. We ran a livestream so other guests could watch.

Photo credit: Dyno from T-One Image & Photography.

After bridal photos with our families, we ducked into a local restaurant for a late lunch which morphed into a mini reception: with lockdown looming just a few hours away, the managers closed the venue to other customers, shouted us a bottle of wine, put on a random song and insisted we take to the floor for our “first dance”.

Unofficial first dance.

Then, five months later, we held our twice-postponed reception – just before everyone started getting nervous about Omicron and case numbers exploded. We dodged a bullet there, for sure. It was a lovely evening where my husband I were able to be more present and relaxed, less tired than if we’d come straight from a ceremony and photos.

Our honeymoon is still pending. We might just rebook all those reservations for our first anniversary.

And that, my friends, is the story of our COVID wedding. It’s just one of many disrupted by the pandemic. If you have a COVID wedding story, I’d love to hear it – please share it in the comments!


Header image: cottonbro.

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