After three bachelorette parties, a lost wedding dress and a wildly cut four-fifths guest list, Fiona Sharples and Chris Fisher got married on Saturday in one of the UK’s first post-lockdown weddings.
Kisses outside St Kenelm church in Gloucestershire – not accompanied by forbidden confetti – the happy couple said it had been a dream day. Even if, said Sharples, if that dream was “surreal and exciting and made us dizzy.”
While some 75,000 UK weddings have been postponed in the past three months, dozens of couples across England have decided to celebrate the end of the blockade with their wedding. The ceremonies adhered to strict rules: no more than 30 participants, including staff and registrars, no food or drink unless it was essential for the ceremony and a slight ban on singing and tools to limit the spread of the virus. Social departure rather than tipsy flirtation was on the agenda.
“We winged it,” Sharples said during the video call the night before the wedding. “All the things you thought were essential went out the window. Chris is married in jeans and Converse. I just managed to buy my wedding shoes in Asda. Wedding underwear? Forget about it.”
The couple, both 34, met on a dating site eight years ago and have two children together. Fisher, a chef, proposed to Sharples, who works as a community nurse, during a Chinese takeaway in Watchet Harbor, Somerset, last summer. When they initially decided to celebrate a wedding on July 4th – an appointment between their two birthdays – they had planned a big sunny party with around 150 people, a picnic, a disco and a huge tent. In the end, they had four days to organize the event.
“We had canceled due to Covid obviously and then, since the rules had been reduced, [the vicar] she called us on Tuesday and asked if we wanted to go ahead anyway, “said Fisher. Parents, apart from Fisher’s mom, were unable to attend because they were protecting; live the event was not allowed in church because it required permits extra: flowers and a cake were donated by friends and the matching rings were purchased from Sharples’ mom.
A wedding dress had been sent but had not arrived in time. Sharples was still beaming: “I’m happy with my old faithful dress.” The day had been “hectic but adorable”. The couple couldn’t wait to settle down for a bridal tea served by the local chippy and a bottle of prosecco drunk on Zoom while chatting with the family.
“People have been really wonderful, we are lucky to have a lot of loved ones helping us,” he said. “I almost lost my life in Sepsis in March and sent my friends to make the hen in this big house in Devon without me. Since then we have tried to rearrange two different things, but they too have been beaten. “Sharples shrugged.
“Basically, life is too short,” said Fisher. “We didn’t have time to think too much about the fact that we should celebrate the wedding this weekend – it will be more intimate but it has been taken out of our hands.”
In the longer term, wedding planner Alice Higgins predicts that the industry will adapt to the pace: excess and flicker were out, she says, and a focus on essential simplicity will become a more established norm in upcoming ceremonies.
“Weddings are wonderful occasions but they can get overwhelming and that’s not how it should be,” he said. “It’s easy for couples to get involved in the swirl of marriage, but Covid’s situation has made people really focus on stripping off what’s important to them and remembering that marriage is just the beginning of it – the marriage is what really matters. “
As for Mr and Mrs Fisher, their planned honeymoon has been canceled but a non-romantic weekend with their children, Albert, 4 years old, and two-year-old Mallory in the Land of the CBeebies nodded. “So instead of going on a cruise and having two weeks of childless romance in Croatia and Italy, we instead booked two nights in an Octonaughts-themed room,” said Fiona. The couple chuckled. “There will probably be a defeat from all of this,” said Chris, “but I don’t think anything will really change.”