Couples 'heartbroken and exhausted' as English weddings cancelled – again

By Lucy Campbell

They have had to reschedule the best day of their lives not once, twice or thrice – but four times. Now couples forced to alter their wedding plans repeatedly due to changing coronavirus measures have told of being left “heartbroken and exhausted”, amid a lack of government support for the wedding industry.

Under the regulations for England’s second national lockdown this week, weddings will not be permitted to take place except where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover. These ceremonies will be limited to six people, leaving thousands more couples scrambling to rearrange their nuptials.

“It’s just a farce now, I’ve stopped telling people the date,” said Shelley Watson. She and her fiance, Martin Love, spent close to three years planning their dream woodland wedding, which they have had to reschedule four times since March.

The spring lockdown nullified their May plan, then travel restrictions prevented Martin’s family from flying over for the new date in October. Giving up on 2020 altogether, they looked to May next year, though this didn’t work either due to an altered school holiday timetable.

“Our fourth and final date is 29 August next year,” Watson said. They considered eloping, “but we have to think about all the costs that have already gone out – we’ve got a three-tier cake, band, catering, venue. I’ve changed this four times, I definitely want to have it.”

It had been emotional and upsetting to have something years in the planning taken out of their hands, Watson said. “You feel guilty because there’s a lot worse going on in the world, but it’s been so frustrating.”

Hoping to marry in December after a “rollercoaster” of a year are Lara Marsden and her partner, who have also had to move their ceremony for the fourth time in less than seven months.

They twice cancelled and rearranged their wedding, panicked by the changing restrictions. Then, with the rule of six, local lockdowns and the tier system, “it felt like a mammoth, abstract thing we had no control over,” Marsden said. “It took the joy out of it. By that point we just wanted to be married; anything else would be a bonus.”

They stripped back to a small register office wedding and felt good about their decision – until the timing of the second lockdown led to this being postponed with 10 days to go, as their notice would not clear in time. They have now pushed back again to mid-December, when they hope to be back in tier 2.

“It’s all relative, but the constant feeling of being in limbo, completely at the mercy of a consistently incompetent government, and not being able to plan even the most bare bones way to marry the woman I love, is pretty demoralising and frustrating,” Marsden said.

“Whatever restrictions are in place in December, we’re just going with it. It feels unromantic but we just want it done now. We just want to get that bit of paper to get going with our lives.”

Annabel Abercrombie and her partner are having to reschedule their wedding for the third time since March. After moving their April wedding to October, the lack of certainty caused them to postpone again to August 2021. They were hoping it would be third time lucky, but their plans were thrown into turmoil again when their chosen venue – a 500-year-old, Grade I-listed country house – went into liquidation.

“We are totally heartbroken and exhausted,” Abercrombie said. But while losing three wedding days and a venue had left them reluctant to organise anything new, she stressed that this was bigger than just the couple being left in limbo and she was determined to book again for the sake of her suppliers.

Had her venue been supported a bit more, it might have made it through, she said. “I know they’ve got business for the future because we struggled to get another date. But weddings take so long to plan and people are postponing constantly, so they’ve got loads of money coming in, just not right now. So it’s really upsetting that the industry seems to have just been forgotten about when there are so many jobs and livelihoods involved.”