Charlotte & Ben’s Covid-affected Portsmouth Wedding

Southsea-based Charlotte and Ben were the models for our boat shed shoot back in March. Their big wedding plans were affected by Covid this year so we caught up with them to find out how they adapted…

Q. When did you get engaged? And when did you start planning your wedding? 

A. We got engaged in 2019 in Yosemite, California when I was working in San Francisco. Ben flew out to join me for a week. He proposed in the coolest of yurts in a forest, complete with hummingbirds and wild deer. We got engaged over refried potatoes and a can of Stag Chilli after a days hiking. I started planning straight away, i’m a stickler for a spread sheet and a Pinterest board. As soon as we found a venue Ben started drawing plans up in CAD so we could set out the space. This is what happens when two architects get married!

Q. What date was your wedding? 

A. Our pre-Covid planned wedding was meant to be in May 2020, but with Covid we ended up postponing the big celebration and had an intimate wedding ceremony in July, just after restrictions on wedding ceremonies was eased.  We were allowed 30 guests but with no formal reception.

Q. What were your pre-Covid wedding plans? 

A. We were due to get married in Portsmouth and have the reception in West Sussex, with 180 guests; lots of music and a big party vibe. On the morning of our pre-Covid planned wedding, to cheer us up we prepped a ‘Stay at Home Spa Day’ with products from Southsea Bathing Hut and food from Southsea Deli. We were so overwhelmed by a few friends and our vicar that morning who turned up in the street (socially distanced of course) to sing us a guitar-accompanied worship song and give us a blessing on our doorstep.

It’s what we now call our ‘doorstep wedding’

We were brought to tears and so overwhelmed by people’s generosity and kindness. We received flowers all day. Covid really did make people rally together. The day we were supposed to get married we actually also found out we were expecting a baby. We decided to start trying at the start of 2020, especially when lockdown happened and we knew the wedding would be affected. We were so blessed to conceive so quickly, and what a day to find out, the morning of our would be wedding!

Q. What did you think when we went into lockdown? Did you think about postponing the whole thing? 

A. Every week in the lead up to our pre-Covid wedding date we could see the restrictions get tighter. When ceremonies got limited to five people we didn’t realise that number included us, the vicar and only one witness each, which wasn’t even enough for both of our parents. For us, we just wanted to get married so were disappointed when weddings were banned entirely, but we totally understood. Everyone’s health and jobs were at risk so we knew what the bigger picture was. It doesn’t stop you grieving for a day though, we went through anger, sadness, acceptance.  We imagine that is normal after you’ve spent every evening for a year hand-making everything, from the favours to personlised children’s activity books.

Q. How did your plans have to be altered? 

A. In July rules were relaxed to allow ceremonies of 30 people with no receptions. We had to select about 25 of our nearest and dearest to attend our intimate ceremony, but the date obviously also came before the end of shielding for some of our more vulnerable family. We had to accept some grandparents etc couldn’t attend. For us it was more important that they see us married, than attend a smaller ceremony, as there would always be next year to celebrate. They loved seeing the photos and receiving a video of our vows. If we had to be in the 15 guest allowance (i.e. the current rule), I think we still would have gone ahead. After all, the wedding really is about our choice to commit to each other and a future celebration wont lose out on anything just because we had a separate smaller event.

Q. How easy was it to postpone/change things around with the suppliers you’d booked? 

A. All our suppliers were so supportive, which was amazing as their livelihoods were also threatened. When we deferred by a year or so, we didn’t want suppliers to loose out or have to close their business so we offered to pay a few of them a larger amount upfront to help with their cash flow. Our jobs were also at risk so we took the decision to help where we could but also keep some savings back just in case. Fortunately we had wedding insurance that covered Covid but luckily didn’t have to use it. Out came the spread sheet of when everyone was free and we quickly found another date. Our venue were due to have a large refurb next year but they shifted it. We were so grateful! Without them doing this all couples would have had to find alternate venues. Obviously our future date could still be affected but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Noone knows what’s going to happen in six months or a year. We just have to hope.

Q. Are you still planning to have your original celebration at a later date? If so have you set the date? And how are you feeling about it now?

A. We are both really looking forward to a future celebration but we are nervous.  We stand to lose money, but hopefully something should work out. The old expectations of what weddings have to look like is certainly a thing of the past. People are realising what a wedding is about. If we can get people in one place, even if we have to celebrate socially distanced, it will be just as wonderful, just different. All the decorations can still be used and we will still need our suppliers.

Q. For you, what were the pros and cons of having to change your wedding plans? 

A. The con was the heart ache, but the pro was definitely being able to have the most spectacular intimate wedding ceremony and being able to concentrate on why were were there without having to please all the guests.  It felt way more personal than I think a big day would feel. Looking back I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Q. Tell us about the day and the measures you put in place to adhere to Covid guidelines. 

A. We chose to have an evening candlelit ceremony to make it entirely different to our pre-Covid planned wedding. We got ready together at home in outfits we had chosen together over lockdown. These weren’t our original wedding outfits or wedding dress, we’re saving those for next year. I had my hair done by Hannah Hair UK and she arrived with full PPE, face sheilds etc. We were careful with everything. We originally met Hannah on The Boat Shed wedding shoot that we did as models with Margot’s Wedding. After getting ready together we got an Uber at 19.30pm to church, obviously wearing our facemasks, and arrived at the seafront by Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to meet our guests. We decided we didn’t want to do the church entrance, we will do that next year. Everyone was stood waiting for us in front of the Warrior ship. We had organised people take away fish and chips to keep guests going for the evening, but it wasn’t a sit down meal so people could be further apart and safer. Our videographer Bride and Zoom (another supplier we met on the wedding shoot) and Adela Photography were amazing at capturing the evening and difficult low light. We managed to get some great low tide photos of us which are our official couple pictures, but ironically this was before the vows took place!  From the seafront we walked with our wedding guests to church.

We strung fairy lights and dried flowers all around the church

Small details like individual confetti bags kept it Covid secure so people weren’t touching buckets of the stuff. We sat everyone socially distanced but in the round to make it feel more intimate. The service was short and sweet and we walked down the aisle to a guitar cover of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters and Tear Drop by Massive Attack.  After the ceremony we gave guests a cheeky gin and tonic under the night sky and festoons and we had sparklers before everyone headed home with homemade cake. For the locals who didn’t have to drive home we booked a small table of six at Becketts in Southsea.

Q. What was your favourite memory of the day?

A. We both agree that the best part of the day for us was the walk to church and the five minutes we had alone before the ceremony… we got to calm down, everything was organised and we could just look back on what a triumph it was to finally be married. We walked down the aisle together with our new baby cooking away, it seemed the right thing to do.

Q. How did Covid restrictions affect your honeymoon? 

A. We were meant to be travelling to Skye for our honeymoon. We had booked a remote off-grid building with access to a private beach and kayak. We obviously could not travel and at next year’s celebration, we will now have a new born baby, so our plans will change. We are sure though we will get a chance to do something, our priorities will just be changed.

Suppliers:

Dress: www.stories.com

Bride’s Hairpiece: www.unbibipourmoi.ch

Bouquet and buttonhole: Hand collected and made by bride.

Hair: www.hannahhairuk.com

Bride’s Shoes: www.trufflecollection.co.in

Groom’s Shoes: www.hudsonshoes.com

Groom’s Jacket: www.reiss.com

Venue: www.harbourchurchportsmouth.org

Photographer: www.adelaphotography.co.uk

Videographer: www.brideandzoom.co.uk

Rings: www.laurabennettjewellery.co.uk

Cake: www.craftcompany.co.uk

Wine: seachangewine.com

Fish & Chips: www.britanniafishandchips.co.uk

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