Going to the chapel (finally!): Eight London couples on the return of 30-person weddings

·12-min read
 (ES composite)
(ES composite)

It’s been a cataclysmic year for the wedding industry, but after multiple false starts, the worst of the logistical storm clouds appear to be clearing. As of this week, 30-person weddings are back on and couples across the capital have finally (finally!) been allowed to say their vows in front of a small but ever-so-slightly more generous sprinkling of family and friends.

For many, it’s been a last-minute scramble. Leading wedding planning platform Hitched says it’s seen sign-ups rocket 48 per cent every week since the roadmap was announced in March and the final rules for ceremonies and receptions were only released last week. With just days to go, ministers announced couples will be allowed a first dance (but other dancing is advised against), cake cutting can take place and speeches are officially back on again - as long as they’re given outside or in well-ventilated areas. Best men, prepare to get a little soggy this weekend.

From the couples hoping for a third time lucky this weekend to the lockdown lovers forced to plan a wedding with three weeks’ notice, meet London’s newest brides and grooms.

“Our wedding was cancelled with two days to go”

Rebeka Verissimo David de Almeida Lucena and Abner Moises Pinto de Lima Lucena

The couple married at the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard on Tuesday (Rebeka Verissimo David de Almeida Lucena)
The couple married at the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard on Tuesday (Rebeka Verissimo David de Almeida Lucena)

Ages: 29 and 27

Jobs: Missionary and shop supervisor, and guitar player and music teacher

From: Wimbledon

Engaged: Feb 15, 2020

Original wedding date: Nov 22, 2020

New wedding date: May 18, 2021

Venue: Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard

Our wedding was supposed to take place in November, but it’s been postponed twice now. The second date was December 17 and it was cancelled two days before, when all my family had flown over from Brazil. I couldn’t tell them at first I was so shocked. They had to stay in the UK for a month because their flights kept getting cancelled.

Thankfully, it was third time lucky and it was completely worth the wait. It’s hard to put into words how perfect our day was. We had just eight guests in the end and relatives around the world were watching on a livestream. It felt exclusive and really special and I didn’t feel any of the pressure everybody talks about on a wedding day. Abner and I have known each other since we were three. He’s my first boyfriend, my first kiss and now my husband. I’m just so happy to be married.

“Our grannies were our bridesmaids”

Ellie Trevellion and Danny O’Leary

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Ages: 31 and 29

Jobs: Primary school teacher and electrician

From: Kew

Engaged: January 2018

Original wedding date: May 8, 2019

New wedding date: May 19, 2021

Venue: Kew Gardens

We were meant to get married two years ago, before Covid, but sadly Danny’s dad passed away suddenly two days before the wedding, so we had to cancel. We booked our rescheduled wedding over lockdown and picked Kew Gardens because we knew they were doing micro weddings and it’s somewhere I love to regularly take our sons as we live nearby.

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

It ended up being sunny for the wedding, which was amazing given this week’s weather, and it felt really intimate with our sons there and all our closest family. Our two remaining grandparents, our grannies on both sides, were our bridesmaids - they’ve both been double jabbed, so it felt really special. Our friends came down to Kew Green after the ceremony for the confetti throwing and said it’s made them want to have small weddings, too.

“Our whole relationship has taken place in lockdown”

Ellie Williams and Chris McPherson

 (Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

Ages: 26 and 30

Jobs: Hospitality manager and surveyor, both currently unemployed

From: Barnes

Engaged: October 2020

Original wedding date: Jan 2021

New wedding date: May 20, 2021

Venue: Bingham Riverhouse, Richmond

We’ve only been together for a year so ours is a real lockdown love story. We were friends before but it became romantic at the start of the pandemic when we started talking on the phone and meeting up for socially distanced walks and coffees on the same bench by the river next to Bishop’s Park. I was living with my parents in Barnes and Chris moved in in September. We just knew it felt right. The following month Chris took me to our bench one evening and got down on one knee, so we’ve essentially had a whole relationship from one bench.

 (Ellie Williams)
(Ellie Williams)

I got Covid in November last year and have been suffering with Long Covid-induced heart and lung damage ever since, so we’ve already been through such highs and lows together. Because of my health, we weren’t even sure if I would have made it down the aisle if the wedding had gone ahead in January. On top of that, Chris’ mum flew over from Australia for the wedding in January and it was meant to be a really special date - it’s my parents’ wedding anniversary and Chris’ grandparents’ wedding anniversary.

When the wedding was postponed, Chris’ mum had to apply for special leave to remain from the Australian government to stay. She’s been living with us and my parents ever since and she only got the go-ahead last month, so we were only able to confirm the wedding three weeks ago. The whole process has been frustrating and involved a lot of paperwork but the result - having 30 people including Chris’ mum at our original venue - is better than we anticipated. We couldn’t care less if it rains. If we can get through this year, we can get through anything.

“Covid has made us appreciate the true meaning of marriage”

Georgina and James

Ages: 28 and 29

Jobs: Project manager and lawyer

From: Clapham

Engaged: March 2018

Original wedding date: June 2020

New wedding date: May 20, 2021

Venue: Old Marylebone Town Hall, then Carousel

We got engaged in New York three years ago and had a big wedding planned for last summer in the south of France. When lockdown hit, we postponed the legal ceremony to New Year’s Eve with just our families, but a week before the day we went into tier 4 and another full lockdown, so we moved it to March, on the three-year anniversary of our engagement. Now we’ve had to push it to May, with a midday ceremony at Old Marylebone Town Hall followed by a long, four-course lunch at Carousel, who have been incredible.

Next week’s wedding will be our fourth attempt at getting married and it’s really strange how our mindset has shifted over the last year. We’ve had to stop ourselves getting excited about each wedding in case we have to cancel, so we haven’t had the normal exciting six-month run-up. But I’ve been part of such a supportive bridal advice group on Facebook and the last year has definitely put things into perspective. It’s made us realise how important our relationship is and what’s important in terms of a marriage. We’ll still plan a big party one day, but we are just so ready to be married now. We don’t need a cake, we just want to say our vows. It’ll also be the first time we’ll be with our families together since the pandemic, which in itself is so special. It’s made us really appreciate what marriage means.

“We decided not to change our date - we’ll have a big party next year”

Sophie Whitehall and Rory O’Connor

 (Sophie Whitehall)
(Sophie Whitehall)

Ages: 26 and 29

Jobs: Banker and strategy consultant

From: Ealing

Engaged: December 2019

Original wedding date: May 22, 2021

New wedding date: May 22, 2021

Venue: Ealing Abbey, then dinner at the RAC on Pall Mall

It’s not be as disastrous for us as some people as we haven’t had to reschedule our wedding date. We started planning it in March just as Covid was starting to kick off, so we booked Syon Park for May this year thinking it would all be fine by now. When it transpired the pandemic was lasting longer than we expected, we decided against the stress of rearranging so we kept our original wedding date for 30 people and have booked to have a big party on the same date next year.

Choosing 30 people has been hard, but we’ve tried to keep it to close family and a few very close friends, although Rory is Irish so sadly many of his family members can’t come. We have two young children ourselves, so they’ll be at the ceremony with us wearing little suits. We’ll be live-streaming the service for everyone else. The good thing about having a wedding this year is you can’t be a perfectionist, so if it rains, it doesn’t matter. We just want to get married now so our lives no longer feel on pause.

“I’ve got so many grey hairs and we’ve only had to reschedule our wedding once”

Lauren Holliday and Jide Awonusi

Ages: 29 and 30

Jobs: Executive assistant and freight manager

From: Bedfordshire

Engaged: February 2020

Original wedding date: March 27, 2021

New wedding date: May 21, 2021

Venue: A church in Camberwell, then The May Fair

I really empathise with those who’ve had to reschedule their wedding more than once. I’ve got so many grey hairs and we’ve only had to do change ours the one time. It feels like Covid has really robbed us of the joy of the planning period. We had 230 guests originally. Now we’ve had to tell family members their partners can’t attend, and we’ve lost flower girls and page boys who’d been practicing walking down the aisle. We’d even bought their dresses.

Now we’re going ahead with just 30 people. It’s been exhausting, but after a year when so many people haven’t survived, we’re just so appreciative we’re able to go ahead with our nearest and dearest. It’s also taking place at the church I’d always dreamed about getting married in - it’s the family church for my dad’s side and we had both my grandparents’ funerals there. Jide and I have been together for 12 years so we’ve been waiting for this day for so long.

“I’ve always wanted to plan a wedding, but I never expected to plan three”

Marie Jeng and Abass Kabba

 (Marie Jeng)
(Marie Jeng)

Ages: 30 and 32

Jobs: Account manager and business development manager

From: Ealing

Engaged: December 2018

Original wedding date: August 29, 2020

New wedding date: May 22, 2021

Venue: Core Clapton

I’ve always been that little girl that planned her wedding, but I never expected to have to plan three. We’re both first generation Africans here in London and both have huge families so the original wedding was planned for 200 guests - even that was me giving my mum a limit on numbers. When lockdown hit, we decided to cancel the wedding pretty early on, then in September we went full steam ahead planning a new, 100-person wedding for March 6 this year.

At Christmas things didn’t look so good and at one point we even considered eloping, but when the roadmap was announced we thought we’d get in there early before Boris changes his mind. I’m so over planning the wedding now - we just want to move on with our lives - but we are happy we get to go ahead with our mums and dads and some of our best friends. We couldn’t have done 15 people, it’s been hard enough telling aunts and uncles they can’t come.

 (Marie Jeng)
(Marie Jeng)

Luckily, we’re able to go ahead in the same venue, a former parish hall called Core Clapton. There’s a chicken and chip shop down the road, which suits our personalities because we’re both inner city kids, but once you step inside, it’s beautiful and white and we can have a lovely dinner there with our loved ones after the ceremony. I like to have a little boogie when I hear music even when I’m shopping, so it’s going to be difficult not to dance, but we are just grateful to be healthy and have each other and our loved ones after this year - many people have not been so lucky.

It’s been a rollercoaster and thought we’d have killed each other over lockdown, but we’ve actually done really well and the last year has shown us how well we get on. Oh, and Abass is a triplet so I get three of them to love.

“We never wanted a big wedding anyway”

Emma Sheerman and Jonathan Mitchell

Ages: 29 and 31

Jobs: Hairdresser and warehouse manager

From: Croydon

Engaged: December 2019

Original wedding date: December 2020

New wedding date: May 22, 2021

Venue: Shangri-La at The Shard

We never actually wanted a big wedding, so when the pandemic hit, it worked for us. We got engaged in December 2019 and spent the first few months researching the idea of a small wedding in Las Vegas that summer, but then lockdown hit. In July, we started planning a wedding at the Shangri-La at the Shard for December - things were starting to open up and we didn’t even think there would be a second lockdown. We wanted a cosy, romantic Christmas feel - the ceremony was meant to take place at 4pm just as the sun was going down.

It’ll now be broad daylight when we get married but we’re lucky we’ll still be getting married at the same venue and we haven’t had to un-invite people. We’ve chosen to have just 22 guests as we hope it’ll feel more intimate and we don’t have to spend the day worrying about other people. There’s a lot of pressure with a big wedding, I’m not sure I could have coped with one anyway.

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