Helen Miller spent two years saving for an extravagant four-day wedding in May, which she now has to reschedule. But, as she tells Stylist, she’s determined to get married this summer, despite the uncertainty around the future of social distance gatherings. Here’s why she’s considering losing £10,000 and half her guests to tie the knot in the next three months.
Like many brides, I had a very specific image of my big day. To me, the perfect trifecta was the dream venue, a big band that my fiancé and I love and a florist I’d had my eye on for ages – and I waited two years for availabilities to match up so I could have them all on 31 May 2020.
As well as intense planning (or plotting as my fiancé calls it), I’ve been painstakingly saving a quarter of my salary for nearly three years, while my partner has put aside the same amount, as well as each and every bonus he’s been paid.
Yes, the money we’ve saved could go towards buying a house, but we chose instead to treasure the experience of bringing together so many loved ones. So, when lockdown was announced it came as a pretty big blow.
Still, we thought this would all be over by May, a distant memory and something that would make the celebration feel all the more special.
We were proven wrong; the virus wasn’t going anywhere. We tried to remain positive and friends of ours encouraged us to get in touch with suppliers to check availability for a later date, “just as a backup”. The general consensus was that any supplier would understand we were in the midst of a global pandemic; they’d do whatever they could to help us, surely?
Again, we were left disappointed and our venue actually made life very difficult for us. We’d paid for a Thursday to Sunday wedding, but they had decided not to offer couples (who had originally booked a weekend) in 2020 any weekend dates next year. Instead they tried pressuring us into getting married on a Monday (which we not only didn’t want to do, but couldn’t due to all of my bridesmaids being teachers), and said that even at this they were going above and beyond the call of duty.
Many fraught emails and calls later and we were getting nowhere. They insisted we’d be liable to pay the full £10000 as, if we cancelled it would be our decision to do so, not theirs. They argued that technically my fiancé and I could get married there, alone, without family and friends.
People are losing loved ones to coronavirus, so I wouldn’t for a second say that my wedding problems are anything in comparison to the heartbreak thousands are going through – but relative to my world, losing our savings and our wedding was really, really upsetting.
In the aftermath of realising our dream day wouldn’t be going ahead, it felt like someone had just popped a big balloon – and with it something inside me snapped.
I had put a lot on this year. It might sound arbitrary, but we’d always planned to get married in 2020, it felt like the right time to move our relationship to the next step. Just because normal life has had to cease doesn’t mean our relationship has and we don’t want our world to stop because of coronavirus. We still want the house in the countryside and the kids (and maybe some chickens?!). We want to get on with our lives as an officially partnered up team.
So, we decided ‘fuck it’ – if there’s any way we can possibly get safely married this summer, let’s just do it. This decision has been a huge moment for us. It means re-planning the whole event from scratch, losing the majority of our wedding fund on the last venue and starting again, as well as cutting down the guest list considerably to take a punt that small gatherings might be okayed by the government in a few months time.
It’s been a difficult time and there’s been a fair few tears, along with snappiness, along the way as we re-imagine something that we’re both happy with. There’s also been pressure from family members, which only exaggerates the anxiety surrounding the whole thing. My partner’s parents said they definitely wouldn’t come if we held it in the summer, while my parents were pushing for us to go ahead this year.
We know this will all depend on lockdown ending, which as this is something we can’t predict makes it all the more stressful. Not only would we not want to risk anyone’s health, but we wouldn’t disobey the safety guidelines that currently see any social interaction outside of households pretty much banned.
But, we also want to do what’s right for us and although we understand that some people may still feel uncomfortable attending a wedding even if the restrictions are loosened, if it’s possible to go ahead we will. Everyone is a free agent and we expect some of our friends and family to say no to coming – and we wouldn’t want them there if they felt they’d been summoned under duress.
The million dollar question is when will it be safe to reorganise this for? The truth is, nobody knows, but this also can’t go on forever so we’re going to plough on with our ideal situation of the end of the summer and hope for the best. We’ve had to accept that some of our family from Australia and American probably won’t come, and that restrictions may still be in place that will impact the overall guest list, but as long as our immediate family members are there – and the two of us – we’ll be happy.
I thought it might be hard to get suppliers on board but actually everyone – aside from our venue – have been surprisingly accommodating. I think it’s easy to underestimate how devastating a loss this is for most wedding industry players but they’re looking at having to wipe out an entire year’s income. While most couples are postponing to 2021, we’ve heard from our suppliers that it’s helpful to have some couples willing to take a punt on later this year, so that they might have a few weekends left next year to generate new income from.
We know we won’t be able to have the initially planned ‘perfect’ day – scrambling for venues available and open for weddings in such a short space of time combined with losing nearly all of our savings is a pretty rough deal. But we know that wherever and whatever it ends up being will be perfect anyway – with or without a big cake and a band. Hell, we’ll revert to Spotify playlists if everything goes tits up, while our caterers have said they’ll do takeaway style boxes for people if full sit down dinners still aren’t doable.
Sometimes it feels like an insurmountable task to put together a whole new wedding in just a few months (a task that previously took me two years to build up to), but if you catch me in other moments I think “oh it’s only a party, people plan this in weeks all the time”.
Ultimately, I think the stress and pressure of it all will be worth it when we’re finally standing at the alter saying our vows. And hey, we hope to throw an even bigger party for our first anniversary, and invite everyone and their dog!