BY HANNAH SHORROCKS (GUEST WRITER)
Today’s guest post is from the lovely Hannah, sharing all about her 2020 lockdown wedding and what it was like to postpone & downscale. She is answering her most asked questions & telling us all about her big day.
This month marks 2 years since I got engaged to my now husband, Tom. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance, having met late September 2016, making it ‘official’ mid December and finding out that we were expecting a baby just before Valentine’s Day, 2017. What a surprise that was! Officially two months in, we weren’t living together and in fact, lived about 50 minutes apart – I had not long relocated to be closer to work. Quite funny really as very quickly, we realised that one of us had to relocate. Again.
The exciting part was knowing that despite only being two months into our relationship, we were both looking forward to becoming parents and it just felt right. It was meant to be… Only sadly, it wasn’t. About a week later, I was showing signs of an early miscarriage. As we both sat in A&E, I knew what was happening, even though I’d never experienced a pregnancy or loss before. I think a woman just knows. I was frightened. Not because of the physical side of losing a pregnancy, but because since finding out that we were expecting a baby, I had started to realise that I was going to be a mummy and now that was being taken away from me. We sat there for hours waiting to be seen and I told my husband how I felt. I knew that if we were losing it, I wanted to try again. It hadn’t been part of our plan just yet, but now all of a sudden it was. I was both pleasantly surprised and relieved when he said yes, we will, don’t worry…
Fast forward to September 2017. We had bought our first house in May. We knew that we wanted to buy a house together and spurred on by our first pregnancy we thought why wait!? So we spent much of the summer stripping wallpaper, but mostly painting anything and everything in sight. Oh, and sanding. It seemed never ending… So come September, I had returned to work as a teacher and after 6 months of trying for another baby without any luck, we decided to book a holiday to New York for the following May half term. I needed to stop focusing on falling pregnant and we both love to travel. So day one of the new term and our trip to NYC was booked, how exciting!
Again, the excitement lasted around a week. Only this time, it was replaced with a ‘I don’t care about that excitement any more, because I’m more excited about this!’ We were pregnant again! And you guessed it…due in May. Needless to say, the trip to New York didn’t happen and we still joke that our two year old daughter owes us a trip when she is making lots of money and taking care of her elderly parents one day!
Mollie arrived on 22nd May 2018. She was incredibly poorly with a Strep B infection and sepsis, but ended up perfectly healthy, thanks to the miracle of medicine and the wonderful NHS staff! She was and is a complete dream come true.
Eight months later, Tom proposed. We knew that we wanted to get married and in true ‘us’ style, we didn’t want to wait that long either. The plan was to get married before trying to have baby no2, but we knew that we didn’t want a big age gap between our children and we were very aware that falling pregnant could take time and that there was always the risk of miscarriage too.
We thought about getting married in December that year, but eventually booked our wedding for April 2020 – just under 15 months after getting engaged. We went to one venue that I already knew I loved, but Tom had never visited. He instantly fell in love with it too. It was a French inspired chateau on the edge of the Menai Straits in Anglesey, overlooking the Snowdonia mountain range. It was perfect for us, as we love a building with history and character, and even more importantly, we love a beautiful view.
I enjoyed wedding planning, but was pretty relaxed about it. I wanted a very chilled out feel to the day and a great party at night. I found my dream dress (after trying on many!), picked the cake, the photographer, booked a band, a DJ and picked out all the usual things that brides do. Come February, I went on my hen do to a beautiful barn conversion in the Cotswolds. My husband went to Munich on his stag do in early March, but by this point, I was packing him several tubs of sanitising hand gel and wondering whether he should be going at all…
Weeks later, on my birthday of all days, we went into a national lockdown and weddings had already been reduced to a maximum of 6 guests. To say we were disappointed is an understatement. We were so looking forward to having everyone we love in one place, to celebrate with us. We even had family coming over from Germany and they hadn’t been to visit for a good few years – I was yet to meet some of them! My brother-in-laws are also spread out between Liverpool, London and Dubai, so we were really looking forward to having all four brothers together in one place. My mother-in-law had already expressed how important it was to get some photographs of her four boys, on the rare occasion that they were not only together, but suited and booted. On top of all of that, and having both sides of the family come together, I was getting to marry my best friend and our little girl was going to be there with us. On perhaps a more vain note, I had worked extremely hard to reach a very happy, body confident place so that I felt at my absolute best. I suddenly felt that all the planning, the excitement, organisation, eating well, exercising so much for months and months in preparation had gone to waste… Just like that, it was off. I don’t think it really sunk in until the night before. I was pretty upset as I sat thinking about where I should be, what I should be doing and how I should be feeling. Instead I felt deflated, with no real solution in sight. More than any of this though, what really bothered us, was that our plan was always to try for baby no2 as soon as we got married. We had already been asked for a new date by our venue, to ensure they didn’t all fill up, so we’d selected a date one year later. We felt it was too short a time frame to squeeze a baby in, based on our experience with conceiving Mollie. Babies can’t be planned according to your social calendar, that’s for sure!
Fast forward to early August 2020. We should have been married a few months by now, but I’d come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be a Mrs when I returned to work as a teacher in September. Although I had really been looking forward to the magical day with all my extended friends and family, by this point, some of my desire for the ‘extras’ had melted away. I didn’t need a photo booth or a band and every single person related to me to dance into the early hours. Just the simple act of getting married would be a miracle after the year we had experienced so far. That’s when I heard an announcement on the radio whilst we were on a little family break in the Cotswolds. Weddings could be attended by 30 people in Wales now.
Oh. 30…that’s much higher than 6. Would that work for us? In my head I counted our parents, our siblings, their partners and children. We would even have space for grandparents and a few friends. We could probably make it work… I mentioned it to my fiance, but with no real intention of doing anything about it. We carried on our little family break, had a great time and I’d pretty much forgotten about it. Until we got home…
I thought about it again and realised that my brother-in-law to be was actually visiting from Dubai for three weeks, to plan his own 2021 wedding. We could actually do it…if we did it before he went home. This month. Next week! For the first time in months I was excited about our wedding again. It would be so spontaneous, I would go back to work as a Mrs after all, and we wouldn’t have to wait any longer to try and grow our little family of three.
On Friday 7th August, I called our venue on the way to meet some friends for a walk. I had expected there to be some sort of problem where it wouldn’t be possible, because it had to be before the 21st August. They’d probably be booked up, or our date wouldn’t be changeable… There was bound to be something. And if it wasn’t the venue, it would be the photographer or my dress or something! But before I knew it, it was full steam ahead for Sunday 16th August. All of our vendors were available due to all the cancellations, our family who don’t live nearby could make the last minute trip and luckily cases of corona virus were at an all time low, with less than 10 new cases a day in our local counties. It was beginning to feel safe again and things were easing a lot. As a result, we were able to have a sit down meal as restaurants across the country had reopened weeks earlier. I wasn’t even expecting a wedding breakfast when I booked if I’m honest, so that was a bonus. Everything just fell into place.
So what restrictions did we have?
The photographer didn’t come to my house to photograph us getting ready. He could have, but he could only take pictures of my household, which would have been me and my two year old daughter. I knew I at least wanted a friend with me, so we opted to take our own pictures getting ready and my dad took his SLR camera to my in laws’ house and he took pictures of the groomsmen in their suits outside, at a safe distance.
Chairs had to be spaced a little further apart than normal – the venue did a fantastic job and I don’t think it looked odd at all. We also sat with no more than 6 at a table during the sit down meal. Again, it looked just as beautiful as I’d first pictured.
Speeches were not to take place during the wedding breakfast. Speaking aloud at that point and playing music was classed as an unnecessary risk. It just meant that the speeches were delivered before we sat down to eat, when we were all mingling and enjoying drinks a while after the ceremony. It was very relaxed and a lovely atmosphere. It didn’t take away from the speeches at all for us and meant that those delivering them, could enjoy their meals without any pre speech nerves!
We didn’t have an evening ‘party’ with the band, DJ, photobooth and masses of alcohol that we had initially planned. We knew this going into it though and ultimately, it didn’t matter as much as getting married for us. We still want to celebrate with all our extended friends and family of course, so we still have our wedding party planned for summer 2022 at our venue. We will eventually hit that dance floor and get a bit tipsy!
Did it feel like a Covid wedding?
No – it felt like a relaxed, intimate wedding that many people opt for anyway. Our friends stayed until around 9pm and then my new husband and I went back to the bridal suite, opened our cards and gifts whilst drinking champagne and we also ordered room service. As parents to a toddler, a child free night away in a stunning hotel was an amazing treat in itself. It was perfect and we were so happy to finally be married!
The next day we travelled about an hour away and had one more night to ourselves. We had tea out, went shopping and used the hotel pool the next morning. It wasn’t the five day honeymoon to Croatia that we had planned, but again, at the time, it felt perfect and like a real treat.
The icing on the cake for us came twelve days later, when much to my surprise (and I don’t know what even made me check to be honest!), but I found out that I was pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I put it down to being so excited, happy and busy in this sudden wedding planning bubble and then the wedding day itself was so full of love – they do say it happens when you least expect it! Baby no2 is due in just under 16 weeks and I still can’t believe we’ve been blessed with this little boy, who will eventually attend our wedding party next year, along with his big sister, who will hopefully not sleep through the main event, like she did on the day!
So was it the right decision for us? Absolutely. Do I have any regrets? No… Obviously I wish the situation was different and that no bride or groom had to postpone and no family members had to miss out. But given the circumstances we were dealt, no I don’t regret going ahead. Our life would be so different right now and I’m so happy to be married to my best friend. That was the most important thing for me.
Would I recommend changing your wedding plans if you’re not sure what to do?
It totally depends on your circumstances. We knew that we wanted a small-ish age gap between our children and that was a big part of our decision making. For couples who haven’t yet had children, perhaps waiting is a better option if you really want your dream day. There are other things to consider if having children is on your wish list, like your age, or perhaps you have other big plans like a renovation or buying your dream house. It has to work for you! This is just my experience of down scaling to a small wedding, to keep our plans on track. It worked for us, but we still hope to dance the night away when it is safe to do so…
I hope if you’re in the position of postponing, you find a solution that is right for you. Whatever you choose, your day will be so happy and so full of love and that’s what matters the most.
Have you had a lockdown wedding? What was your experience like?