After three missed hen dos, one lost wedding dress and a guest list savagely trimmed by four fifths, Fiona Sharples and Chris Fisher tied the knot on Saturday in one of the UK’s first post-lockdown weddings.
Kissing outside St Kenelm church in Gloucestershire – unaccompanied by banned confetti – the happy couple said it had been a dream day. Albeit, said Sharples, if that dream was “surreal and exciting and set our heads spinning.”
While an estimated 75,000 UK weddings have been postponed in the last three months, dozens of couples across England decided to celebrate the end of lockdown with their nuptials. Ceremonies adhered to strict rules: no more than 30 attendees, including staff and the registrar, no food or drink unless it was essential for the ceremony and a soft ban on singing and instruments to limit the spread of the virus. Social distancing rather than tipsy flirting was the order of the day.
“We’ve winged it,” said Sharples over videocall, the night before the wedding. “All the things you thought were essentials have gone out of the window. Chris is getting married in jeans and Converse. I only just managed to buy my wedding shoes in Asda. Bridal underwear? Forget 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, over a Chinese takeaway in Watchet Harbour, Somerset, last summer. When they originally decided on a 4 July wedding – a date sandwiched between their two birthdays – they had envisaged a big sunny party with around 150 people, a picnic, a disco and massive marquee. In the end, they had four days to throw the event together.
“We had cancelled because of Covid obviously and then, as the rules were relaxed, [the vicar] called us on Tuesday and asked if we wanted to go ahead anyway,” said Fisher. Parents, apart from Fisher’s mum, were not able to attend because they were shielding; livestreaming the event was not allowed in the church because it required extra permissions. Flowers and a cake were donated by friends, and matching rings were sourced by Sharples’ mum.
It’s easy for couples to get caught up in the wedding whirlwind, but the Covid situation has made people really focus on stripping back to what is important to themAlice Higgins
A wedding dress had been dispatched but did not arrive on time. Sharples was beaming nonetheless: “I’m happy with my old faithful dress”. The day had been “hectic but lovely”. The couple were looking forward to settling down to a wedding tea served by the local chippy and a bottle of prosecco drunk over Zoom while chatting to family.
“People have been really wonderful, we’re lucky to have lots of loved ones helping us,” she said. “I very nearly lost my life in March to Sepsis, and sent my friends off to have my hen do in this big house in Devon without me. We tried to rearrange two different things since then but they got waylaid too.” Sharples shrugged.
“Basically, life’s too short,” said Fisher. “We didn’t have time to think too much about whether we should do the wedding this weekend – it will be more intimate but it’s been taken out of our hands.”
In the longer term, wedding planner Alice Higgins predicts that the industry will be adapting at pace: excess and frippery were out, she says, and a focus on low-key simplicity will become a more established norm in ceremonies to come.
“Weddings are wonderful occasions but they can get overwhelming and that is not how it should be,” she said. “It’s easy for couples to get caught up in the wedding whirlwind, but the Covid situation has made people really focus on stripping back to what is important to them and remembering the wedding is only the start of it – the marriage is what really matters.”
As for Mr and Mrs Fisher, their planned honeymoon was cancelled but an unromantic weekend with their children, Albert, 4, and two-year-old Mallory, in CBeebies Land beckoned. “So instead of going on our cruise and having two weeks of child-free romance in Croatia and Italy, we’ve got two nights booked in an Octonaughts-themed room instead,” said Fiona. The couple giggled. “There will probably be a comedown from all this,” said Chris, “but I don’t think anything will really change.”