Love Wins – Multi-national couple re-write and celebrate their big wedding day despite Covid 19 restrictions!
When Covid-19 wedding restrictions forced Alba and Steve to postpone their wedding day for 100 Spanish, English and German guests, it was a devastating blow. However, with a positive attitude and a lot of ideas, support and technology, they held the original legal ceremony with 2 witnesses, tied the knot with an intimate outdoor humanist wedding ceremony for 17 guests and enjoyed a small reception in a Covid-secure venue. With their big wedding (or vow renewal) day put on hold until 2022, their 2020 wedding day featured seventeen guests, a live video feed and the inclusion of the bride’s Spanish family via Zoom.
Step One – The first alterations
Steve and Alba had originally planned to have a humanist ceremony for their big, multi-cultural wedding in the late summer of 2020. As government marriage laws in England currently dictate, this means that the legal aspect of the marriage has to be carried out separately with a Registrar. When they were forced to postpone their big wedding to 2022 so that Alba’s Spanish family and all their friends could attend, they decided that they would keep the original date for the legal registration of the marriage in place, and hold a small but perfectly formed wedding day this year as well!
A new venue was chosen so that the humanist ceremony could happen on the same day as their legal ceremony, and a new, smaller guest list was selected that would include a few of the bride’s Spanish family and Steve’s step-mum from Germany. Flights were booked for Alba’s mum, brother and two of her cousins to fly over from Granada, and for Steve’s step-mum to fly over from Hanover. A bespoke wedding ceremony script was written to reflect the fact that the intimate wedding would be Part One of a two-part wedding celebration that would span two years! Alba’s mum was due to walk her daughter down the aisle, and take part in a handfasting ceremony, following the couple’s vows and ring exchange.
Step Two – The second blow
Ten days before the wedding date, Alba and Steve received more bad news. Due to an update in government legislation on the isolation of those coming from Spain, it had become impossible for Alba’s side of the family to fly over for the wedding at all, leaving the bride with no immediate family to support her on her wedding day.
Step Three – The solution!
Steve and Alba were straight on the phone to me and I came up with an idea to include Alba’s family as best I could. My husband, Simon is a professional photographer and video producer (as was I before I became a full-time celebrant). I altered the script slightly to reflect the fact that the Spanish contingency could not be present, and Simon was drafted in to photograph the wedding and also film it with a live feed to YouTube that could be watched by family members unable to travel and be with their loved ones.
With buy-in from the guests, who were delighted to help out, Steve’s brother was enlisted as a roving videographer with one of Simon’s video cameras while two other video cameras were set up on tripods, attached to Simon’s 4G from different angles. Alba’s mum, brother and two cousins were drafted into the ceremony via professional Zoom on my MacBook Pro, attached to the best man’s 4G, and Steve’s nan and grandad were patched in on FaceTime, using Steve’s brother’s laptop and phone 4G.
While seventeen guests watched in person, Steve’s best man, Alex and his fiancé Grace sat centrally and held on their knees the two laptops directly in front of the couple’s action so Alba’s mum, step-dad, brother and cousins and Steve’s nan and grandad had the perfect view.
An inclusive handfasting via Zoom!
To represent the Spanish contingency, and to give the bride’s mother the experience of being part of the ceremony and with her daughter on her wedding day, I'd arranged for Alba’s mum to speak to Alba from the laptop in Spanish during the handfasting ceremony. Alex came and stood (at the required distance) from the bride and groom so they could see each other, and I then read out the bride’s mum’s words which had been translated into English and sent to me by Alba’s brother some days before the wedding. I had also sent Alba’s brother the English script so he could translate it into Spanish ahead of the wedding day for Alba’s mum to follow during the ceremony.
To represent other family members who were unable to attend, Steve’s sister read out some secret words of advice for a long and happy marriage that I had written after a phone call with Steve’s nan the week before. And to represent the friends who were unable to attend, Alba’s and Steve’s friend read out some more secret words that had been sent to me by email from Alba’s friend in Canada.
At the end of the handfasting ceremony, Steve and Alba ‘tied the knot’ using red, white, yellow, blue and black handfasting ribbons that represented not only the colours of the Spanish, British and German flags but also colour values such as understanding, patience, truth, passion, authority, support, loyalty, optimism and peace.
Audio logistics for outdoor ceremonies and recordings!
To ensure that guests who were present in the garden and guests who were tuning in via the internet could hear the proceedings perfectly over the ambient wind and traffic noise, I took along my professional, outdoor PA system. The Sennheiser hand-held mic and speaker were used to amplify our voices to the socially distanced guests outdoors and on the laptops, to amplify the sound from the laptop when Alba’s mother spoke to her in Spanish. The PA system was also wired up to a specially created, downloaded Spotify wedding playlist on my phone for the couple’s entrance and exit music.
All the feels!
It was a total team effort getting the technology right before the arrival of the bride and groom, and I used all my skills and experience as a celebrant, event manager and video producer to create a ceremony that would be as inclusive as possible. Everyone’s efforts paid off and the experience of patching in Alba’s family and Steve’s grandparents via the laptops was so touching. We had a few tears of emotion as well as a lot of laughter and it was all so joyful in amongst the serious business of love and commitment.
Although it’s never going to be easy not having your family with you on your wedding day, using laptops and the live video link was the next best thing, and the secret words and handfasting ribbons made for an inclusive addition to the international ceremony for those who were there, and those who were virtually there via the internet.
Even though all the guests were seated in small bubbles, the ceremony area was beautifully laid out with bunting and flowers and everyone felt close to the action and involved. We even had a moment where Alba, Steve and the other contributors splashed the hand sanitizer. It made it into a really unique, memorable lockdown ceremony that will no doubt go down in history as one of my most technically accomplished, collaborative and wonderfully creative weddings yet!
The couple’s thoughts on the intimate ceremony
Alba and Steve said, ““We cannot thank you enough for all of the hard work that you put into our wedding, both in the weeks and months leading up to the date, and especially on the day. Having you lead our personal ceremony was an incredible honour. The script that you wrote for us was personal, moving, hilarious, and perfectly encapsulated our story and feelings for each other. Having a personal connection to both you, Simon and the rest of their family made the whole experience even more special and touching.”
It was such a privilege to conduct Alba’s and Steve’s first wedding ceremony and I can’t wait to write their re-wedding humanist ceremony in 2022. The beauty of a humanist ceremony is that no two are the same – that’s why I love being a celebrant. So the second ceremony script will reflect on this first wedding day as well as including their love story, their vow renewals and other symbolic acts, and it will be really poignant because their love will have deepened through living together as husband and wife for two years. In 2022, all of their family and friends will be able to celebrate as they would have wanted this time round and I will definitely be raising a few glasses with them on that night.”
PHOTOS BY SIRASTUDIO