Last March, thousands of couples were preparing the final pieces for their wedding day.
The venue was booked, the outfits sorted and the guests all had invites stuck to the fridge.
But then the pandemic changed everything these couples had been planning for months or even years.
As large events were banned, weddings were put on hold and in the year that followed, restrictions have changed frequently, but no one has been able to have a big day with more than 30 people since.
Many rearranged their wedding for a few months later, or for the same date the following year, but ended up having to move it for a second time as the pandemic dragged on for much longer than any of us anticipated. While some people went ahead with smaller ceremonies, according to a survey by Confetti and the National Wedding Show, 98% of the 4,500 people they asked decided to postpone.
While we’ve all faced loss during the pandemic, missing out on a wedding day may seem frivolous to some – but for these couples it’s heartbreaking.
In the same survey, 97% of those who changed their plans said they had experienced anxiety because of it.
Many faced losing money, changing their plans and putting their life on hold until after the wedding day.
Now, with the government’s roadmap aiming for all restrictions on social gatherings to be lifted on June 21, many couples are finally able to plan.
But has the last year changed how they feel about what they want from a wedding day?
Putting life on hold
Getting married was often part of a longer term plan for couples. Of course, society is much more open to having children before marriage these days but many still factor in starting trying to conceive around the time of or soon after the wedding to avoid being heavily pregnant on the day.
Author and mental health campaigner Hope Virgo has had to rearrange her original wedding in October 2020 and then again in April 2021.
She explains: ‘I was devastated at first. I wanted to start moving forward in my life and it was hard to know who to talk to about it. No one knew what was going to happen.
‘I think this whole year has been putting life on hold. I always worry about being able to have children and so we wanted to start as soon as possible but wanted to wait until we were married.’
Georgia Kirsch and her partner were due to get married on June 21 last year – a significant date as it was her mum’s birthday and Father’s Day, so felt like a tribute to her dad who had passed away in 2010.
Sadly, they had to move from the ‘perfect date’ and scheduled it for May 2021 instead.
Now, with restrictions still in place for that date this year, they hope they will finally be able to get married in October.
Delaying the wedding over and over again has been tough, particularly as Georgia set up her wedding styling business GYLES just before the pandemic.
For now, she is in limbo, both professionally and personally until weddings start again.
She says: ‘Starting a family is something we have been thinking about and was something, if this hadn’t happened, we would have been hopefully on our way with.’
Alexandra Logan and her partner were one of the first couples who had to postpone, as their wedding was meant to be on March 20 2020. They realised it wasn’t possible just four days before the wedding was supposed to take place.
She says: ‘I think that I cried for that entire week – my sister had to fly home to Australia, my wedding dress was hanging ready to be worn, honeymoon cancelled and my house was full of wedding paraphernalia. We were only days way from the day that should have been.’
The couple moved it until March 28 this year – but sadly at Christmas, they realised that wasn’t going to be possible either and moved it again to September 25, 2021.
At that point, they decided they didn’t want to wait any longer to try for children as they’d always planned to try straight after their original wedding date.
Alexandra says: ‘We put it on hold until we had to postpone for a second time. We are now expecting a little boy and he is due only six weeks before our third attempt at a wedding. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to fit into my wedding dress.
‘We have also delayed buying a new house as we didn’t want any extra stress, and we have delayed our honeymoon (which is not going to be the same with a newborn).’
Reassessing the big day
Having this time has allowed some couples to take a step back and think again about what they want from a big day.
For some, this just reaffirmed their desire for a huge party but others have decided to scale things back. Hope explains: ‘We weren’t getting married for the big party but when it became clear that we were not going to be able to have those people closest to us there we didn’t feel we had a choice other than to move it.
‘We have really stripped back what we are doing – it has put stuff into perspective and made us realise we don’t want to spend loads of money on a day when there are so many who have struggled financially during Covid.
‘I am just excited to get married. I think so often when we are planning a wedding, we do what we are “supposed” to do. I felt so much pressure and that comparison with others. It has made me feel that anything goes nowadays. This summer will be just fun to have everyone together and being able to sit together, laugh and eat.’
Lianne Syke and her fiance Damien, who run gym The Lean Body Project together, agree that even when smaller weddings were allowed last summer, the thought of not having everyone they loved there meant it wasn’t an option.
They were due to get married in Ibiza in September last year and are unsure when that will be possible because of travel restrictions.
But for them it’s showed what they really did want what they’d always planned – a big party.
Lianne says: ‘It’s made me confidently say that the important part of our wedding is spending time with all our favourite people, so the thought of not being able to do that would be non negotiable.
‘A lot of our friends have been waiting years for our Ibiza wedding! As we are getting married abroad we have to think about not only restrictions in this country but also in Ibiza. Many of our guests are from other countries so we are having to take into consideration lockdown and travel rules from far and wide. Many of my family live in Australia and I would want them there on our big day.
‘I still want a big wedding! For us it’s a celebration of our life so far and everyone who’s played their part, along with a toast to the future. It will be bigger and better than originally planned.’
Georgia managed to get legally married in a small ceremony in September last year but is still determined to have the big day they’ve already planned.
She says: ‘We were so close to it that it’s very hard to change what has been booked and dreamt of for so many years. If anything, it has made me want what we had planned more than ever.
‘I was always the girl that loved attending the weddings of my friends. Dancing around all night, eating amazing food and socialising to the max. I have always loved the idea of a large wedding filled with all of our friends and family from far and wide.
‘As we managed to legally get married in those four weeks of freedom in September, we had something super intimate and beautiful with our closest friends. I can see the attraction to a smaller more intimate wedding, but it’s hard to change what you’d always planned.’
Some couples do feel that while the past year has been stressful and disappointing, it has given them time and space without the usual wedding pressures.
Hope explains: ‘The positive for me with it being moved was that I am in recovery from anorexia and it has given me space to strive further to a full recovery before my wedding day.’
Alexandra adds that it’s given the couple a chance to save more, easing some of the financial worries.
She says: ‘We have kept much the same, however, on a positive note we have upgraded the food the night before, and spent extra on some entertainment as we have had an extra 18 months to pay for it.
‘We did consider having a smaller wedding and having a celebration later on, but as we had paid for the big wedding in full, the prospect of losing all the money that we had spent was haunting.’
And for all the brides we spoke to, despite the strains of being coronavirus brides and grooms, this year didn’t weaken their relationships.
Georgia says: ‘To be honest, without sounding cringe, it really brought us closer.
‘Ronnie is the logical pragmatic one in our relationship and I the sensitive one. It worked for us. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without him.’
Despite the government roadmap allowing restrictions to be lifted on June 21 at the earliest, many couples still fear getting too set on a plan this year.
Liz Taylor, CEO of wedding planners the Taylor Lynn Corporation, explains that she is seeing a real split in terms of trends as the industry prepares to reopen: ‘Wedding couples fall into two categories at the moment, those desperate to be married as soon as possible, and so happy to choose a smaller wedding day, and those who are determined to have a grand big day and so waiting until 2022.
‘Neither is wrong. A small, stylish wedding this year can be followed by a larger party on the first anniversary, something many of my clients are choosing. And a smaller wedding can still be gorgeous and many are also taking these outside.
‘Still keen to follow the “outdoor is best” mantra of last year, they want lovely summer picnic weddings, rustic open sided barns and simple, English garden wedding ceremonies. As long as the couple focus on including small, personal details throughout, the day can be hugely special.
‘And for couples who really can’t or don’t want to shrink the guest list, I am advising they look at Spring 2022. Not just because we want to be sure that the restrictions are fully lifted, and not likely to make a return this autumn, but that they will have a wider choice of venues.
‘Many of the top venues already have restricted availability on key dates for the summer and autumn, so taking some extra time now can mean securing the venue you really want.’
Alexandra says that although they have set a date for September this year, the stress of the last 12 months means they continue to have worried about it.
She says: ‘We feel less excited about a “big wedding” than we did before Covid and we are anxious that it could still not go ahead, however we still want to celebrate with all of our friends and family and that hasn’t changed. When it does happen, it will be the party to rival all parties.’
Hazel Parsons, founder of Out of the Ordinary Weddings, predicts the feelings from the last year will continue to impact the choices couples make for years to come.