My partner James and I had been together for nearly 10 years when we got engaged in May 2019. Straight away we envisaged a big celebration in Oxford, which is where we first met and where we live together now. We were so excited – we wanted to plan a day that told the story of our relationship, with lots of personal touches and a great big dose of fun.

engaged couple by the pool

By the time coronavirus came around, we’d put a lot of thought and hard work into the plans and were getting down to the fine details. But as the outbreak spread, we slowly watched it all fall apart. By the end of May we’d realised our August 2020 wedding just wasn’t going to happen.

It’s been tough, but believe it or not, we’re feeling really positive. With the help of Mrs T Weddings, we organized a mini, COVID-secure family celebration on our original wedding date in August, and we’re now busy planning for the ‘real thing’ next year. From one COVID bride to another, I’m here to tell you that there is hope on the other side, that you have options, and that there is help at hand. Especially if you have Mrs T on your side!

Mrs T Weddings
Philippa James Photography
  1. It’s OK to mourn your wedding

If there’s a silver lining to global pandemics (bear with me here…) perhaps it’s the sense of perspective they can bring. In 2020, in the UK at least, we went from bickering over the status of Harry and Megan to literally experiencing the end of life as we knew it. And in wedding land, we went from fretting over fonts and cake decorations to wondering whether weddings would be possible at all – and then, of course, to remembering that a lot of people have much more than weddings to be worrying about right now. 

All this meant that at first I couldn’t give myself permission to grieve our beautifully planned wedding day – how could I be sad about a party at a time when there was a daily death rate being reported on the news? But on the other hand, if there’s one thing 2020 has taught me it’s that it’s OK not to be OK. I’m incredibly lucky in the COVID stakes – I have a garden, a live-in best friend (aka the groom!), and so far none of my family members has been seriously unwell. But I’m the first to admit that 2020 has been a real shitter. From our livelihoods to our mental health, we have all been touched in some way by this pandemic, and denying it isn’t getting us anywhere – in fact, it’s making it worse.

Besides, weddings are important! We measure our lives in milestones, and right now celebrating love, family and the good things in life feels more valuable than ever. Plus, I don’t know about you, but personally during the cabin fever and the anxious monotony of Lockdown 1.0, nothing seemed more tempting – or more impossible – than a really good knees-up.

All this to say, don’t feel ashamed for the disappointment you feel if you’ve had to postpone. In my experience, it was only once I’d allowed myself to really acknowledge it that I could begin to let go, move on, and re-think.

2. There are alternatives, and they’re just as lovely

Once we’d made the call that the wedding couldn’t go ahead as planned, we started to look at our options. For us, family and friends witnessing the ceremony itself felt important, so we postponed the ‘real thing’ until June 2021. At this moment in time (i.e. the train wreck that is December 2020 in the UK), what exactly that will look like is still unclear, but we’re actually feeling OK with the possibility that it might still be small, based on our experience of the brilliant mini-celebration that Mrs T helped us to organize this year. Micro (un-)weddings can be amazing!

Covid Bride and Groom
Philippa James Photography

We decided to go for a bijou, socially distant picnic tea for 30 people, at our Oxford college on our original wedding date. We really wanted to incorporate this venue as it’s where we first got together and very close to our hearts. And they’re the only supplier unable to accommodate us in 2021. It worked perfectly – the cloisters gave us rainy day cover, but they’re still outdoors and so it was that bit safer in the open air.

Micro Wedding
Philippa James Photography

The smaller scale of the event meant that we could afford to splurge a bit more and make the whole thing really shine. We went for vintage china and crystal champagne saucers from Vintage Flair, and some lovely treats in the hampers like Chambord and artisan bread (not forgetting the most tasteful hand-sanitizer I could lay my hands on). I also had more time to add personal touches: in a lockdown-inspired surge of creativity I made individual jars of jam with raspberries from our garden for each guest. Smaller events mean you can invest more time, money and thought than is realistically possible with large head counts, and make things that extra bit more personalized.

Luxury Hand Sanitiser
Philippa James Photography

Lots of aspects were ready to go: my in-laws had already bought enough champagne for 120 people, so we knew we’d be more than well-watered! I had a midi-length white dress from Whistles that I’d bought for dancing at the reception. I asked the hair and makeup artist I’d booked for the wedding, Ema Bridal, to do my trial in the morning.  Our florist Nong Smitinand Flowers agreed to do some table displays and a flower crown for me, and our amazing photographer Philippa James was offering free 30-minute shoots to COVID couples who’d had to cancel. We commissioned her for an extra hour and now we have some really lovely images to remember the day by.

Oxford Micro Wedding
Philippa James Photography

Other things were more challenging…most notably the government restrictions being extended by 10 days, at exactly T-10 days till the event! This meant that technically we were scheduled on the first day that 30-person celebrations were allowed, so we weren’t certain until the day before whether we’d be able to go ahead. Truth be told, this part was incredibly stressful, but the plus side is that we now consider ourselves zen-masters of dealing with uncertainty. Maybe it will come in handy in married life!

Wedding table plan
Philippa James Photography

In the end, we pulled it off by a hair’s breadth and we had the best day. In a way, the last-minute aspect made it all the more special because everyone pulled together. James’s mum made 60 scones in a day and guests came up trumps with spare picnic blankets and hampers. The whole experience was a great antidote to the pressure and perfectionism that sometimes comes with wedding planning, and in the end we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Wedding afternoon tea
Scones and Jam
Philippa James Photography

3. There can even be benefits to postponing!

Don’t get me wrong, we were frustrated – we’ve been together a decade and kept thinking, “Why didn’t we do this years ago?!” But, we were also surprised to find that postponing has its plus points. We’ve had more time to save, and it’s even possible we’ll spend a little less if the head count is reduced again next year. We’ve also had time to think more about what’s important to us; and had some really great conversations along the way. What’s more, our mini celebration was effectively a dress rehearsal for the real thing. We got to know our suppliers. We experimented with different styles. And we also got a feel for what a wedding day can be like (pro tip: skipping breakfast leads to a very tipsy bride!).

Wedding Cake topper
Philippa James Photography

4. And finally, get help from a professional!

…Not that kind of professional, although I’m sure we could all use some therapy that isn’t a bottomless tube of Pringles right now.

None of this would have been possible without Mrs T Weddings. I can’t recommend hiring a wedding planner enough. Especially in a post-COVID world where there is so much more uncertainty to contend with. Long before the pandemic, we already knew it was the best decision we’d made, and in response to COVID Mrs T went above and beyond to help us postpone smoothly AND find a way to celebrate in the here and now. Cheers to that, and good luck to all you COVID couples out there!

Oxford University Wedding
Philippa James Photography

This fabulous insight into the world of wedding planning as a Mrs T Covid bride was put together by the awesome Rosy. Thank you!!
Mrs T x