“Oh Jen you just look so amazing!”
“Lots of my brides had to deal with the stress of Covid and how it effected not only their day but also the planning of it all. Jen I can honestly say handled it all like a total trooper, as did most of my girls. But Jen just wanted to get married to her one, and she wasn’t going to let Covid stop her. I actually cried reading this blog, the words she writes and how strong she was at every step she really understands the meaning of marriage not just the big day. Also for me having the opportunity to see Jen walk down the aisle on Insta stories was so special. Crazy, strange unique times this year has been, but some really special moments too.”
Tom and I first met at a wedding, when I’d been single for nearly 9 years and had gone through my fair share of heartbreak and online dating disasters. Many of my friends were either married, engaged or popping out little ones, so I battled with the fear of being left behind and tired of hearing the words ‘you’ll find your man one day’. Despite always lending a shoulder to cry on when needed, my friends and sisters also had the amusement of hearing about my realities of dating, from dating a policeman who thought he was the next Christian Grey to the accountant that pretty much robbed me blind when he woke up, pocketed the change from my bedside table, then never messaged me again.
I finally settled on just being single and did what many people do when they believe they’re destined to be alone. I became a stripper! I’m joking. I bought a dog. And then I went skiing. It was quite honestly the best head space I’d ever been in and I can whole heartedly say, that at the age of 29, I’d finally become content with being single and had stopped looking for love. Tom and I had mutual friends so he ended up coming out to Les Gets where we were using a friends chalet. And that was the start of our adventure.
Admittedly it took me a long time to fully open up to Tom and embrace what we’d started. I’d spent my life hearing different people’s versions of how they fell in love and how they’d instantly connected with their other halves and to be honest, my expectations were extremely high- I also blame watching way too many rom coms. When I met Tom, we most certainly clicked, however I’d lost track of how I was meant to feel and no longer trusted what ’normal’ was. I was so guarded that I didn’t let myself fall quickly. I grew to love Tom, and eventually, couldn’t picture life without him. He makes me laugh, without doubt, every single day. He is home to me, it’s the only way I can describe my experience of love.
Skip forward 2 years and we were back in Lets Gets for a ski trip with friends. On one particular day, as I was enjoying my lunchtime croque-monsieur, I told the group it had turned a bit too cold so I planned on chilling for the rest of the day back at the apartment. The boys in the group pleaded with me to do one more run with them before I retired for the day and I eventually gave in. When I say I gave in, I went a bit moody and huffed as I hiked my skis up onto another gondola, pulled my neckscarf up, goggles down and didn’t really engage in conversation with anyone. We got to the top of Mont Chery and Tom asked if I could take a photo of him and his friends. Huffing and puffing I skied over, moaning about being an instagram wife. Tom then asked the boys to take a photo of him and I, to which I said ’no, I’m too cold’- I know, on reflection I was a miserable git. After more encouragement I skied over, refusing to take my skis, hat, goggles and gloves off and shouted a very sarcastic CHEESE at the camera. I turned to Tom and was about to tell him I needed to descend the mountain before my nipples got frost bite, when I noticed he was on one knee. Now, this boy has jokingly got down on his knee A LOT, so instantly I laughed and asked him what he was doing. It wasn’t until he pulled a little box out of his pocket before I realised what was happening. I called him a bellend, forgot to say yes, and accidentally dropped the ring in the snow as my hands were shaking so much – both with cold and shock. Genuinely. I was completely and utterly caught off guard but was over the moon. Our engagement video and photos are evidence of this, otherwise I would have taken off my helmet, removed my goggles earlier and attempted to get a glam ‘he put a ring on it’ kind of engagement pose.
We decided to get married the same year and were lucky as we already knew which venue we’d hoped to one day get married at. Our day was set, 7th November 2020. I know a lot of people say to give yourself a lot of breathing room for planning a wedding, however we managed just fine. This may be down to already knowing which suppliers we wanted for a majority of wedding elements- I’d been a bridesmaid 7 times so had a pretty hefty book of recommendations by this point.
The Bridal Boutique was somewhere many of my friends had got dresses from so was top of my list. I wish I could tell you that I was excited about dress shopping but I was so incredibly nervous. I wasn’t where I wanted to be weight wise, felt queasy at the thought of everyone looking at me and don’t get me started on the thought of stripping down to my undies in front of a stranger ! On entering the shop, nerves faded as we were welcome with Madi’s lovely welcoming smile. She looks genuinely excited about the prospect of helping you find the dress that’s right for you. I had absolutely no idea what style to go for, so tried on everything I could. Some suited, some didn’t but there’s always quite an intimate moment of it just being you, Madi and the dress for a minute, to establish whether this is the one for you before getting the ‘oohs and ahhhhs’ from your loved ones. It’s a very surreal feeling, but Madi was there for reassurance and for each and every dress she’d gently say ‘are you ready?’ before opening the curtains each time. It was almost sisterly and incredibly heartwarming. When I pulled up my dress, in that moment I had alone in the dressing room, I found myself doing that annoying Kiera Knightly moment from Love Actually where you stare at yourself and say ‘Oh…. I look quite pretty actually’.
COVID-19 had just started creeping into our lives as we sent out our Save the Dates. As time went on I witnessed friends go through the heartbreak of postponing weddings and reality hit that our day may not be as originally planned. The news then came that weddings were being reduced to 30 guests. We visited our venue a few months prior and naively I think I was hoping there may be some flexibility with numbers, as we’d managed to compress our original 180 down to just 36. Understandably the venue explained that it needed to be 30 with no negotiation and it was at that point that I began to cry. Tom wrapped me up in his arms then turned around, grabbed a piece of paper and wrote 15 names down. He turned back to me and said ‘done, that’s my 15, I just want to marry you Jen’.
Skip forward another couple of months and the heartbreaking news came that the numbers allowed for weddings were down to 15. This time it was Tom’s turn to wobble, so it was my turn to grab the paper and write my names down. The more the pandemic tried to push us the harder we wanted to push back and not let it take away our day. Inevitably, I just wanted Tom to be my husband.
We still planned to have our ceremony, and our reception was moved to a local pub down the road where we could enjoy bangers and mash with our reduced guest list.
My hen do took place with my two sisters, my sister-in-law and mum, where they whisked me off to the wonderful Sopwell House Spa for an overnight stay. On the second night, we returned home and I was greeted with all 18 of my original chicks due to attend my hen do, dialled into Zoom for my Mr & Mrs quiz. Tom’s very tame stag do took place with his two best men and one of his groomsmen where they spent a day hiking, one of Tom’s favourite hobbies.
We were then one week away. I went to sleep on the night of my hen do thinking this time next week we’ll finally be husband and wife. I woke to a text from Tom asking if I’d seen the news with a sad face emoji. It had been leaked that we’ would be thrown into another lockdown on the following Wednesday. I felt numb. I returned home to Tom and he just cuddled me as I cried. We were only 6 days out.
I’m sure many of you reading this will think, surely she just handed in the towel and pushed it back a year after this. I’m also aware there will be brides reading this who sympathise with the stress and anxiousness that totally consumes you in trying to plan around COVID. However, I once read a quote that said ‘When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible’. That’s the only reasoning and way to explain why we then decided to set a revised date of 19th December 2020. We figured we’d push it as close to Christmas as possible, knowing Boris’ original ambition was to lift restrictions over Christmas & New Years.
When we came out of lockdown we were placed in tiers and this meant we were no longer allowed a reception. Another hurdle but we continued with planning for our ceremony. Our Vicar was incredible and helped us plan Christmas Carol singing in the church grounds after our ceremony where he explained he could paint white circles on the ground for households to stand in. We worked with our wonderful florist ‘Fabulous Flowers’ to fill the church with as many flowers as possible. I used an independent company to print beautiful personalised face masks which acted as wedding favours- probably the most used wedding favours in history ! Everyone around us had been so incredibly supportive throughout this journey that we wanted to share the day with them from my arrival right through to the end of the ceremony. One of my bridesmaids was in charge of streaming it on Instagram live and the church also live streamed the ceremony via YouTube. We wanted everyone to feel as close to physically being there as possible.
The day finally came. My morning was every bit of what it would have been without COVID. My bridal prep was an incredibly special time and gave me a sense of normality. I was so nervous when we did the grand reveal of me wearing my dress to my dad, that for some reason I shouted the line ‘he’s a she! She’s a he!’ from Mrs Doubtfire. I have no idea why.
When I arrived at the church, I climbed out of the car and just saw a sea of faces. Writing this I feel myself getting emotional. Everyone had traveled, rightfully or wrongfully to wave me off into the church. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry throughout the day, and my throat actually felt strained from constantly gulping and holding back tears. It was a huge mix of emotions, from excitement of marrying my best friend, to being sad every person in the church grounds couldn’t follow me in.
Everyone watching via Instagram live caught every moment of me arriving before the ceremony. It was very raw and probably not something you usually see as a guest in normal circumstances sat in a church waiting for the bride to come in. Everyone will have seen my dad squeeze my arm in reassurance, my sister helping to straighten my veil and me calling my mum a pussy pants when she started to cry.
When I walked down the aisle, my focus wasn’t on the guests wearing masks or sat one pew a part. I was staring straight at Tom and his cheesy grin as musicians sang and my dad gracefully guided me down to the aisle to my husband to be. It felt exactly as it should and exactly how it would have been without this pandemic. COVID wasn’t with us in that church, we left it at the door and said our vows and signed our register with our friends and family watching from as close as the church grounds to those watching online as far as Australia.
Post ceremony, we exited the church and were overwhelmed by friends, family and people from the village stood in their little white spray painted circles singing carols. We managed to chat to most guests (socially distancing) before departing for further photographs. Our photos took place in our garden and my brother in law positioned his car close enough for us to hear our song Beyond by Leon Bridges over the speakers so we managed to get our first dance. We had an overnight stay at the beautiful Dormy House and on arrival I had time to have a long hot bath before my first dinner with my husband.
2020 truly helped us see what marriage meant to us and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The weight of the stress with re-arranging dates, communicating with guests and liaising with suppliers has been lifted. We have scheduled to do a big celebration on our one year anniversary at our original venue with all of our guests and our Vicar will join us to renew our vows. I will give huge credit to our suppliers who were incredible throughout the process. They were flexible, sympathetic and understanding at every stage.
My advice to any brides planning their day? Make sure you take time to cuddle your loved ones (Covid permitting). I didn’t hug my mum enough or kiss my dad on his cheek as many times as I wanted. It sounds like such a small thing but it’s the one and only thing that I would have changed as the day just went by incredibly quickly.
It’s so difficult to encourage brides to just go ahead with a smaller wedding, as I appreciate this is a huge sacrifice and everyone is very different. For those that are planning for reduced numbers, as reassurance, you will absolutely love your day. Yes, some elements will be different to how you imagined, but when your stood opposite your man in your beautiful dress, saying your vows, everything around you fades into insignificance and it is just about you and him.
In a world filled with people that have lost loved ones, jobs and livelihoods, we feel extremely fortunate and blessed to have had a day where love truly conquered all.
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