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Having trimmed their guest list from 180 people to four, Jessica and Jonny Chope were one of the first couples to get married on Monday when restrictions in England eased to allow weddings to take place again.
They tied the knot at Alton register office in Hampshire in front of their parents while a registrar read the vows from behind a plastic screen. It was a world away from the big wedding they had originally planned for summer 2020, but for Jessica the intimate ceremony could not have been more perfect.
“I can’t believe it happened, I’m still on a high,” said the 28-year-old, who lives in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, with Jonny, 31. “People always say how quick your wedding day goes, and how you don’t get time to spend time with people because you’re so busy chatting to everybody.
“But there were no interruptions, we didn’t feel guilty about not talking to anybody. It was just amazing and I hope other couples do the same.”
From 29 March, weddings can go ahead with up to six attendees, including the bride and groom, and no longer just in exceptional circumstances as was the case during lockdown.
The numbers will increase as the government works through its roadmap for reopening – from 12 April up to 15 guests are allowed, and from 17 May it is 30. According to the government’s plan, all restrictions could be lifted from 21 June, allowing for a bumper summer of big weddings, but some couples are choosing the smaller option under current restrictions.
Lana Anongu, 42, is marrying her fiance, Marc Shackleton, 36, at Winchester register office on 10 April, and said that after postponing the event from May last year they could not bear to wait any longer.
“We were going to move the wedding to September but we didn’t want to wait and things could change. We might go into another lockdown,” said Anongu, who will be saying her vows in front of her 25-year-old son, Shackleton’s two young daughters and a friend. “Plus, the girls are growing up so their dresses won’t fit them much longer because we’ve already had them since last year.
“I am excited with it really being just us and our children. I think it will be nice for us to just enjoy the time together. I did have eight bridesmaids and I feel guilty for family members that can’t come, but it is what it is.”
Like the Chopes, she hopes to organise a bigger celebration later in the year but for next week’s event she has arranged for hampers filled with food and drink to be delivered to close family and friends at home who can watch the proceedings on a live stream.
“You have to make it as magical and special as you can and there are ways around it, you just have to be creative,” said Jessica, who had to push her wedding back by one day when it was originally rearranged for 28 March, the day before lockdown lifted.
Their wedding was livestreamed to family and friends across the world, they had champagne and speeches on picnic benches now that up to six people can meet outdoors and they cut their cake at home while their guests watched through the glass doors. “We put in a cheeky fake tier to make it look bigger than it is because we didn’t need all the cake for just the six of us,” Jessica said.
The couple were keen to support small businesses after a tough year for the wedding industry, which has been derailed by lockdown restrictions. Most wedding venues in England are still largely empty until later in summer when larger events are permitted, with few couples choosing to marry under current rules.
“Some people have taken advantage of the opportunity to have a small wedding but many couples have just been wedged into a situation where they’ve delayed four or five times and they just want to get married,” said Jessie Westwood, the co-founder of the What About Weddings campaign group. “And for most of the supply chain, it’s just not viable to trade when guests are restricted to 15 and 30.”
Baddow Park House in Chelmsford has few wedding bookings until 25 June and said couples had been struggling with some of the restrictions required before then. “Covid really does affect everything. My couples have had to get their head around the fact that dad possibly won’t be able to walk you down the aisle arm in arm,” said Kelly Sinnott, the head of weddings at the venue.
But for many couples, the importance of marrying their loved one outweighs the impact of the restrictions. “It’s being able to move on with our lives,” said Anongu. “Whatever happens now, at least we’ll be married and that’s the most important thing.”
Source: The Guardian
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