If I were getting married in England today, I could have 30 guests. That’s double the number that has been allowed up until now. And yet, it’s still 100 fewer than our original guestlist for our original wedding, which was due to take place last September in a beautiful Cornish manor house.
The pandemic put paid to those plans, as it did for so many affianced couples, but instead of postponing until summer 2021 to retain a big day (21 June is marked in the diary as the date that coronavirus restrictions could lift entirely), we decided to cancel in favour of a small, 20-people affair in the west of Scotland. Disinviting 90 per cent of our guests wasn’t much fun, but next week, my fiancé, Hugh, and I will get married in a way far different from how we planned, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Back in April 2020, after a few naïve weeks of assuming things would be OK by the time our wedding swung around, it quickly became clear that our day as we had planned it was not going to happen. Like many loved-up couples due to get married last year, we postponed our wedding for more than 365 days.
Luckily, we’d only paid a few deposits, unlike the numerous couples whose weddings were cancelled with just days or weeks to go, and lost thousands. An estimated 264,000 would-be-newlyweds postponed or cancelled their big days in 2020, according to the Wedding Task Force, which is representing the industry during the pandemic – 80 per cent of the number of people who were married in 2019.
Our venue, near to the town I grew up in, had just five available dates remaining in 2021. We needed to align our suppliers, so that meant there was just one date that worked: 25 September. We booked it and, though disappointed, let out a sigh of relief.
I watched on, tears rolling down my face, thinking that it should have been us
We celebrated our original wedding date with a family weekend in Bath. Despite having our new date locked down, I spent the day begrudging the beautiful weather. All I could think was: “We should have just gone ahead with it.” Later that day we saw a small wedding party file out of a church, confetti flying in the air, and the beaming couple posing for photos. I watched on, tears rolling down my face, thinking that it should have been us.
By winter, we were three lockdowns deep and had now been engaged for two years – almost half of our relationship. The idea of a big wedding began to feel less important. Did we really want to spend all that money on just one day? Did we really want all those people coming? (Anyone who has organised a wedding knows the answer to this one.) Did our desire for a big party come before our simple desire to be married? The answer was no. It all boiled down to Hugh and I just wanting to be married.
Coming up with a list of just 20 people was hard. In the end, we drew the line at immediate family, ushers and bridesmaids, but there remain people we’re very sad are not able to come to what’s one of the most important days of our lives. And telling them was no easy task either, especially when we couldn’t even see them in person.
The not knowing what would be allowed – the slightest chance of people having to wear masks and sit two metres apart, or not being able to hug – really solidified our decision. With another cancellation on the cards, it was time to start thinking of our ideal small scenario. We booked in our May 2021 micro wedding.
When Boris Johnson announced England’s roadmap in February, announcing that by 21 June life could possibly return to normal, my heart sank. I considered calling the venue to uncancel our date. But the thought of the endless admin and turmoil of going through it again, with a strong possibility of a big wedding being moved for the fourth time made the decision final.
Still, Scotland lagged without any sort of plan. When the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, finally provided some information about weddings, it was patchy at best. Could my family drive up to Scotland? Could we hug? Could we sit next to each other for dinner? Did we have to wear masks? None of it sounded like much of a celebration to me. Even in March, the uncertainty of our fast-approaching date loomed.
I’m looking forward to getting married. But if I’m honest, I might be most looking forward to not having to think about it anymore. I can’t wait to no longer talk about it each evening. Not to spend hours online buying things for it. Not to exchange endless emails about it. Not to worry about whether it will go ahead or not. I’m sure many couples in the same situation feel the same – the fun has long been drained out of planning our big day.
It all boiled down to us just wanting to be married
It’s not just couples who have borne the brunt of the endless wedding rule changes. The wedding industry, which contributes a staggering £14.7bn to the economy each year and provides around 400,000 jobs – from caterers and photographers to make-up artists and hairdressers – have all been thrown into limbo for the best part of a year. For some, such as Scottish make-up artists, it’s still ongoing, with little guidance on when they’ll be able to restart their businesses.
But here we are, a week away. After only really planning this latest (and third) wedding properly for a month, we’re set for a super relaxed, intimate day with an outside ceremony – keep your fingers crossed for us, it is Scotland after all. There will be canapés, champagne, garden games, DIY cocktails and dancing – one of the pros of going small is being able to splash out.
Will I regret not having a big wedding? I’ll be less worried about other people having fun, that’s for sure. And it will cost a lot less. And another silver lining? Funnily enough, thanks to watching Monarch of the Glen circa 2000, I’d always wanted to get married in Scotland. Turns out 11-year-old me is getting what she wished for – in a roundabout way, that is.