What it Feels Like to be a Bride in the Midst of the Coronavirus Chaos
99 problems and a wedding is one
Emma Stevens and Luke Challis, both from Bournemouth, have been together for almost four years. “We became an item after catching each other’s eye during a work meeting and we got engaged in September 2018 after Luke proposed at the Rock of Gilbraltar.” says Emma, reminiscing with happy nostalgia. A time when the thought of a country in lockdown would be met with incredulity.
As I talk to Emma, I sense her heartbreak discussing the subject of weddings, but she wants to share her story with me in the hope it will help other couples in the same situation, and remind people that we’re all together in this.
Emma and Luke were due to get married on 27th June at Kingston Maurward, in Dorchester, Dorset.
“We booked our wedding six weeks after we got engaged in October 2018. I’ve been planning ever since really; some months doing a lot and the next not so much. I do love a wedding, having been to at least 30, and have so far loved every minute of planning ours,” says Emma.
When the news about COVID-19 first broke, Emma and Luke’s initial thoughts were not of worry. “I didn’t think it would have an effect on our wedding. I don’t think anyone did at the start.”
“I ordered my bridesmaid dresses online in February. I think they are made in China so I popped them a message as I wondered if the COVID-19 outbreak in China would hinder the dresses arriving in time.”
“A few weeks after checking in on my bridesmaid dresses, I checked on the lead time of my own wedding dress. At the time my wedding boutique told me that my dress was due to arrive within six weeks – this was literally two weeks ago. I can’t believe how much has changed since then,” explains Emma.
As the Prime Minister’s updates came thick and fast the severity of COVID-19 began to hit home.
Emma describes a ‘sliding doors’ moment when she emailed her wedding venue to organise access with her wedding photographers, so they could agree a shot list. Hours later she was told by her company that everyone would be working from home for the foreseeable future. As 5pm came, Boris Johnson’s next update had catastrophic effects not only to Emma and Luke, but to every couple about to get married or planning to in the near future.
“It was after Boris Johnson’s 5pm press conference that I started receiving emails from suppliers; in turn I started emailing every supplier I hadn’t heard from. This is when the panic started,” tells Emma.
“Some have been good, others have been fantastic! At the moment all of our wedding suppliers have said if we need to move our wedding then they will be more than accommodating and continue to offer their services at no extra cost.”
The difficulty for Emma and Luke, along with many other couples, is quite simply the cloud of uncertainty which is shrouding the world at the moment. A few days ago, there was a chance their wedding would take place but without the vulnerable and elderly in attendance. Something many couples ‘could’ get their heads around. This quickly progressed to all weddings potentially being postponed or cancelled throwing couples into mass panic. Couples I (personally) have spoken to, have gone through a series of emotions; a total roller-coaster of them, and that is an understatement. Will my venue decide to stay open? Do different rules apply to different venues – a public hotel compared to a local church or private manor house for example? That said if they do, am I putting the welfare of our family and friends at risk?
Then there’s the Financial Side and Understanding Your Rights. I ask Emma for her take on this;
“We as a couple can’t quite decide what to do at the moment. Postpone to later in the summer, is that enough time? Or do we postpone until next year? For this reason, we haven’t got back to our suppliers yet as we don’t want to mess them around,” says Emma.
Emma and Luke’s wedding venue, Kingston Maurward in Dorset, has been amazing despite the difficult circumstances for everyone. The venue’s wedding coordinator is now working from home and is part-time, yet she has been responding quickly to emails and has provided a range of new dates for summer 2021 when Emma and Luke will be able to get married.
“We will not be charged any extra if we move to an August date; despite that being a higher price bracket than June. Kingston Maurward have said that they will do everything they can to ensure we still have the day that we had been planning for.”
“Only one of our wedding suppliers seemed to be a bit taken aback when I emailed her asking for her policy on postponing/cancelling, however a few days later she put a post on her Instagram account saying how it had only just dawned upon her the levity of what was happening. To be fair, I was still seeing friends up until last week, so I think it has taken all of us a while.”
Has Emma experienced any less than favourable responses, I wondered:
“One supplier has said if they can’t make our new wedding date, we will lose our deposit, which is why we really need to make that decision sooner rather than later. I just wish we had a crystal ball at this moment to see when it’s best to rebook for this summer or wait.”
Amidst the Coronavirus chaos Emma’s fiancée Luke has had his stag-do to Amsterdam cancelled. The Best Man is fighting to get deposits back as you read this, but it’s tough. Emma’s sister and best friend are trying to do the same.
What’s most frustrating factor in all of this I ask?
“The fact that we have spent the last 18 months planning our dream wedding, only for all my plans to unravel in front of my eyes. I have loved every minute of wedding planning and it was amazing to see everything finally coming together. I feel like to let myself get excited again is dangerous, as I don’t want to be disappointed if it all gets cancelled again.”
The unknown is what is hitting couples the most. Everyone I have spoken to, including Emma, have had to devise contingency plans throughout this past week, which have continued to change and evolve.
“I have always wanted the big white wedding – I love a wedding, and in a world of so much negativity it’s great to be able to celebrate with friends and family the pure happiness of love. I just don’t know if I would feel like I had missed out on that day, which everyone always says is the best day of your life, just because I wasn’t patient enough to postpone. They do say love is patient, so maybe I should listen more to that saying!”
As our phone call starts to come to an end, I ask Emma what her advice is to other couples?
“I have cried. A lot. I know people are in far worse situations than I am, and it does feel selfish to feel sad at this time. However, I am completely heartbroken. Evbery last detail has been planned – I even have a Gantt chart for the jobs running up to the last two weeks before the wedding of who was doing what and when! I do feel genuinely devastated. I’m trying to tell myself that as long as I get to marry the love of my life, the man who makes me smile just by walking in the front door, my best friend, in front of all our friends, then it doesn’t matter if it’s in 14 weeks’ time, 20 weeks’ time or…. in 52+ weeks’ time,” concludes Emma.
Sending love to Emma and Luke, their entire family and to everyone who’s experiencing the same. You will have your day, even if it means waiting a little longer.
Love Suze, FRB x