Andrew and I got married in December 2020.
He had always been on the fence (at best) about getting married. His main beef was having a day with lots of people, where he is the centre of attention (although I assured him I would be). When COVID came along and only small weddings were allowed, plus I was pregnant, and we had already agreed to spend the rest of our lives together, it seemed like a good time.
Early one Wednesday morning in September, when I had just taken a pregnancy test, we agreed to get married.
We decided to do it in the Lake District, as my parents live there and it’s beautiful. We thought we’d do it sooner rather than later, to get it in before restrictions lifted, and also so I wouldn’t be too pregnant yet.
We went to look at wedding venues a few weeks later (although by then I was having a miscarriage, but that’s another story) and chose a lovely hotel on the edge of a lake.
There were a lot of things we weren’t allowed, with COVID, or that we were opting out of by having a small wedding, but there were some things we did want, if possible:
- hair and makeup.
I had kind of imagined I’d get married in a church. I grew up going to church and my parents and brothers rang the church bells.
Most Saturdays in the summer, they would be ringing for a wedding and I would be the ‘runner’. My job was to stand at the back of the church, and then run up the stone, spiral staircase to the ringing chamber, to tell them to start ringing, when the bride and groom started walking down the aisle.
I was fine with not getting married in a church, (Andrew is not religious and I’m kind of agnostic now) but I wanted the room in the hotel to look beautiful. Also, frankly, I’d been watching a lot of Married at First Sight Australia and got a bit obsessed with the idea of having an arch of flowers.
My mum was a wedding photographer and I wanted decent photos of the day. The fact it was a tiny wedding made me want it to be properly recorded even more, not less. We booked a photographer friend of my Mum, who also did my brother’s wedding.
I used to be really into makeup, in my twenties, especially as I had not-great skin. When I was a bridesmaid at my brother’s wedding, the makeup artist was brilliant and made me look the best I’d ever looked. I wanted to look like that for my own wedding.
Initially, we were allowed 30 guests at a wedding in the UK. We decided only to have our immediate family there – parents and siblings – even though we would’ve been able to have a few friends as well. Rather than having one clear best friend, we both have quite a few people we’re close to, and we would easily be up to the 30 before we’d invited really important friends.
We also predicted restrictions would tighten and the numbers allowed might decrease, and we didn’t want to bump people off the list and reveal to them that they ranked lower in our affections than other friends. (We were right, as by our wedding it was down to 15 people.)
A couple we are good friends with got married at the start of December. When I spoke to the bride afterwards, she said it was the best day of her life, and that her friends really made the day.
They got married in a church as they are actually religious. Staff weren’t included in the 15 guests, they were able to have quite a few friends from their church there, as they found jobs for them to do.
When she said her friends made the day, it made me regret that we weren’t having friends at ours. I thought about it and managed to convince Andrew that, because he has twice as many siblings as me (his Mum is Catholic) and one of mine lives in Australia, I should be able to invite my friend Tess, who is kind of family as I’ve known her since she was a baby.
She was delighted to be asked, even though it was last minute, and I’m really glad she was there.
I couldn’t go wedding dress shopping due to COVID so I ordered five dresses online, and a friend came round and we had glasses of prosecco while I tried each one on. (I actually did this twice, once with each of my two closest friends, and didn’t mention to either of them that I had done it with the other one).
I wanted something a bit different from a standard wedding dress, but with a wedding/very special occasion vibe, so the dresses were very glittery.
These are the dresses, in order of preference (with our coats and kitchen bin in the background):
I bought a tiara and white, furry stole, and these were my shoes:
I wanted my hair like this
And makeup as a toned down version of this:
We went shopping for a suit for Andrew the Saturday the November lockdown was announced. (It was announced that evening, but some Tory kept leaking things to the press so we knew it was on the cards during the day, which gave everything a nice, relaxing sense of urgency. At that point our wedding was due to be just a day or two after lockdown was lifted.
We went to Oxford Street together. We went to Moss Bros first, then a few hundred other suit shops, and ended up going back to buy the first suit he’d tried on, just before the shop shut. He had a nice, charcoal grey suit. I was worried you could see the outline of his penis through the trousers but the man in the shop assured us the fit was OK. (One of the first texts I got as a married woman was from one of our friends, who I’d mentioned this to, who had watched it on Zoom. She said “Congratulations! And I couldn’t see Andrew’s penis at all.”)
He still didn’t have shoes or a wedding ring when we went into lockdown.
The wedding got rescheduled twice because of COVID. First, it was due to be at the start of December, then when the UK went into lockdown in November, the venue said we should reschedule it to January.
Then, at the start of December, the venue contacted us to say they were going to be closed throughout January as COVID had affected hotels so badly, so we had to reschedule again.
There were a few days when we didn’t know what was going to happen; they didn’t know if they’d reopen in February but there was a date just before Christmas in December which they had free, but we had to wait to see if the registrar could do it.
That worked out, which was great! I loved the guy from the registry office who I had several phone conversations with, who finally broke the good news.
Then we had to see if the photographer and florist could move dates. There were a few days when the photographer seemed to have disappeared and no one could reach him. It turned out his phone lines and internet were down, but he was happy to do the new date, even though it meant travelling a long way right before Christmas.
We weren’t allowed readings during the ceremony, and my Dad wasn’t allowed to give me away, but we were allowed music.
Music is a big part of my life and I had always thought a lot about what songs I would have at my wedding. During the dark times after Balthazar died, it shifted for a while to thinking about what I’d have at my funeral.
When it seemed more likely that we would get married, I spent more and more time listening to tunes and trying to imagine walking down the aisle to them. Andrew is, by his own admission, more of a Radio 4 person, so I was mainly responsible for the music.
I chose Here, There and Everywhere by the Beatles to walk down the aisle to. During the signing of the register, we had You got the Love by Candi Staton and You Showed Me by the Lightning Seeds, which was the only one Andrew chose. We had Don’t Falter by Lauren Laverne and Mint Royale to walk out to.
Although we couldn’t have readings (not sure why the virus would hold off on spreading during the vows but then hear that bit from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and think “Great! Now I can get replicating!”) we decided to have the ones we would’ve had at the reception, during the speeches, instead.
I chose a section from Everything I Know about Love which I mentioned in this blog post.
Andrew chose a poem by Wendy Cope, without knowing she is one of my favourite poets!
A few weeks before our wedding, we were watching Love Actually and I convinced Andrew we should also have the bit Hugh Grant says at the start, about love being all around at Heathrow. (That has always meant a lot to my family because my brother emigrated to Australia when that film had just come out so the bit about tearful goodbyes and reuions at airports is very near the knuckle.)
The week leading up to my wedding, I was very stressed. My brother tested positive for COVID exactly two weeks before. Initially, he had no symptoms, so we thought he might still be able to come, as his self-isolation period would just about end in time, but as the week progressed, he started to develop symptoms.
Once we realised he couldn’t come, as well as me being sad, there was an extra stress as his girlfriend was making the cake and driving it up with them the other side of the country.
She had got COVID first, and even though it was a few weeks later by our wedding, she struggled with very low energy for some time. She sent a few enigmatic texts as the wedding approached, saying she would do her best but the cake wouldn’t be as she originally planned, and she would send it in the post and hope for the best.
My parents had been quite relaxed about COVID throughout the pandemic – following the rules and taking it seriously but not worrying too much. However, shortly before the wedding, a friend’s husband died of COVID and wrote them a really graphic email about his death, and they got really worried about it.
London went into Tier 3 a few days before the wedding, and we had no idea if this affected the wedding. The only official guidance we could find said guests could travel from a Tier 3 area to Tier 2 for a wedding, as long as they stayed for the whole ceremony, which we thought suggested it could go ahead. However, there was also guidance saying if you travel to an area in a lower tier, you had to follow the rules of the higher tier, and I think weddings were banned in Tier 3 (I can’t even remember now – the tier 3 system was such a shambles).
We didn’t want to ask the venue out right, as we didn’t want to draw their attention to it if our wedding should be cancelled but they hadn’t realised.
I had been communicating with the wedding co-ordinator by email, so every time I checked my emails I was terrified there would be a message about cancelling it.
(Eventually Andrew’s Mum asked them about the Tier 3 issue, not knowing about our ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and they said they didn’t mind what tier people were travelling from as they knew they were following strict social distancing measures in the hotel.)
Around this time, I got a few phonecalls from my parents, kind of suggesting they might not want to come to the wedding, as they were worried about COVID, but they were being really indirect so I just wasn’t sure what they wanted.
I was trying to get everything at work all wrapped up before my wedding/Christmas/honeymoon annual leave started while taking these phone calls. I remember eventually calling my brother and getting him to talk to them, saying I understood if they didn’t come but I just wanted them to be clear about it.
It was all OK in the end, but it did mean I didn’t join in with my work’s Christmas Zoom party because at that exact moment I was having a mental breakdown with all the stress.
We finally set off to the Lake District, two days before the wedding.
We delayed setting off because we were waiting for Andrew’s wedding ring to be delivered. He had ordered one and they sent the wrong size, earlier that week. A courier was supposed to be sending the correct ring the morning we were leaving London.
Andrew was tracking the item as he packed and saw the dot move across the map, down the streets towards our flat, and then disappear. We waited a few more hours but the ring didn’t materialise and he couldn’t get in touch with anyone to find out what was happening.
Eventually, as it got to mid-afternoon, we couldn’t wait any longer. The drive to the lakes is at least six hours. We planned to find a jewellers up there and find any old ring to use on the day.
When we arrived at the hotel, late that evening, Andrew got a text from one of his sisters, saying she had just tested positive for COVID so she couldn’t come.
One good thing that happened was our hotel room got upgraded to a ‘suite’, as they’d had a cancellation, so our room was about the size of Andrew’s whole flat, in London. We had a dressing room and living room as well as bedroom.
The following morning we had a nice breakfast in the hotel, and then called around local jewellers to see if they had a wedding ring in Andrew’s size.
We found one that did, and were driving there, thinking Phew! when Andrew suddenly said “Shit!”.
“What?” I asked.
“I’ve forgotten my waistcoat.”
When we’d left Oxford Street with Andrew’s suit, he didn’t have the waistcoat, because it needed to be altered. That got sent on to him a few days later, and for some reason he hadn’t put it in the suit carrier with his suit but just hung it up loose in the wardrobe. When he’d been packing, he had picked up the suit but not the waistcoat.
We continued on to the jewellers and did successfully get a ring for him.
When we got back to the car, he tried calling a few different members of his family to see if they could go their nearest branch of Moss Bros to get another waistcoat on their way to the lakes. (There aren’t really any Moss Bros shops anywhere near Cumbria.
To be honest, I was surprised by unhelpful they were. His parents said they didn’t feel comfortable going into a shop because of COVID, and his brother ‘wanted to get on with the journey’.
His younger sister was the only one who said yes, but it turned out her local branch of Moss Bros didn’t have the waistcoat.
I called Tess but she was already on her way and had gone past the last branch of Moss Bros on the way.
Andrew was talking about going back to London to get the waistcoat in his wardrobe but I talked him out of doing a 12 hour round trip. I said it wasn’t the end of the world if he didn’t have the waistcoat. He tried on the suit without it and I tried to convince him it was fine without, but he wasn’t buying it.
He phoned various Moss Bros stores to see which ones even had it in stock. The nearest one that had it was in a retail park in Cheshire, 2-3 hours’ drive away. He decided to go for that one.
I was a bit anxious about him driving safely there as he was tired and stressed and it was foggy, but glad we had a solution. After his 4-5 hour round trip, he did safely get back with his waistcoat.
I was five and a half weeks pregnant at our wedding. I had the second miscarriage at 39 days, so we knew if I got to 40 days, that would the furthest I’d got. I was very anxious around this time about having another miscarriage, and knew as we got to day 39, I’d be even more nervously looking for blood every time I went to the toilet.
We tried to avoid this, and even held off on trying for a baby in October, but with all the rescheduling, our wedding ended up being on day 39 of this pregnancy.
The day before the wedding, while I was having my makeup trial, I had a bad pain on one side and was convinced it was another miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, but tried to ignore it.
The night before the wedding, I was staying in our room on my own. We had booked an extra room for him so we could get ready separately, the next day.
I was putting the final touches to the playlist for our wedding breakfast, when Andrew phoned me. The phone reception wasn’t very good there, and we couldn’t hear each other.
He then tried to phone me via Whatsapp, but the Wifi wasn’t very strong in our room, so that also didn’t work.
Why is he trying to phone me?! I wondered, panicked.
A week or so earlier, I had been looking at videos on Tiktok and saw a clip of the Sex and the City film, where Big is trying to contact Carrie the night before their wedding, to talk about the fact he was having doubts, but he can’t get through to her, and she ultimately gets jilted.
He tried to call again, this time on the landline in our hotel room.
“Hello?” I answered, my heart pounding.
He was worried about his speech and just wanted reassurance.