Curious to know what it’s really like to plan a pandemic wedding? Friend of The Elgin Avenue, Kate Turner shares her experience of getting married in 2020. Plus her emotional survival guide for fellow brides-to-be!
Getting Hitched in 2020 ~ My Experience
+ Advice for My Fellow Pandemic Brides
by Kate Turner
Juan Carlos and I got engaged in February 2019, and we quickly set a wedding date for September 2020 in Juan Carlos’ hometown of Cordoba, Spain.
The 18 month gap between our engagement and wedding was down to venue availability. Rather than a desire to wait to say “I do”. We’re both in our 30s and were keen to get married swiftly. Still, we chose to be patient and plan our dream wedding for 2020.
Like most couples getting hitched in 2020, we ended up planning a pandemic wedding. Two words we never anticipated lining up next to one another!
In March 2020 we entered our first lockdown here in Spain, where Juan Carlos and I live together. At that point we didn’t imagine that our September wedding (over 6 months away then) would be affected.
Our perspective shifted quickly as we realised that COVID-19 was here for the long haul . . .
We began to wonder if we would have to postpone our wedding?
Or change our plans completely?
Ultimately Juan Carlos and I wanted to get married this year. Age is a factor for us, and having made the big decision to get married, we just wanted to begin our married life!
So, we focused on planning a pandemic wedding! One that prioritised guest and supplier safety while still allowing everyone to have fun.
Goalposts shifted several times in the lead up to the wedding. Causing, as you can imagine, significant stress. And until the day before, I couldn’t actually relax. Let alone believe 100% that it would go ahead!
The amount of effort, stress and worry was incredible. But, there’s a happy ending! On the day everything came together beautifully. We were able to celebrate with our family and friends – masks and all.
Everything we had been through made the wedding SO much more emotional. And the sense of achievement, knowing that we had made it up the aisle in 2020, was just incredible.
Now that I’ve been through the gambit of planning a pandemic wedding, I want to lend a few words of advice for my fellow 2020 (or even 2021) brides.
I remember so clearly reading lots of advice on the details of a smaller wedding, but not so much about the emotional toll it all takes.
So here’s my spin on advice for fellow pandemic brides.
Here’s the emotions-centric survival guide I wish I had had. I hope that it’s helpful to you. Sending love and strength your way. You’ve got this!
A Bride’s Survival Guide to a Pandemic Wedding
There’s no two ways about it: 2020 is a tough time to be a bride.
Nobody banked on a global pandemic hitting. And throwing wedding plans worldwide into disarray.
If you’re anything like me, you long for the days of only having to worry about whether to invite second cousin Dave. While simultaneously fretting that getting het-up over your nuptials seems frivolous, in the circumstances.
But it isn’t: getting married is a huge life event. One charged with so much emotion and significance. It’s completely understandable that your nerves are feeling frayed.
Luckily, there’s lots of advice out there to aid engaged couples with their next step. Whether that’s a postponement, a micro wedding or both: ceremony first, party later? The practicalities are stressful to sort, but what about dealing with the emotional toll on you?
As a 2020 bride, I’ve experienced first-hand the tearful days. The frustrated calls to my mum. The desire to throw in the towel and the desperation that something so important to you is so out of your control. And the loneliness that being a bride-to-be during a pandemic can trigger.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, especially as government goalposts shift, I hope that these words and my first hand experience, will help you.
My Advice for Fellow 2020 Brides
Put Yourself First
Let this be your permission slip: be selfish. Yep, you read that right! When it comes to wedding planning, the word ‘should’ is one to avoid – now more so than ever.
Think about what’s important to you and your partner. Do not worry about pleasing others, or being judged. This is about you two.
My advice is to take a notepad each, and write down the three most important elements of your ideal wedding.
How many of these can you incorporate, maybe with adaptations, into your current plan?
And your plan B?
If you’re still trying to figure out whether you would prefer a micro-wedding or whether you’d rather wait, put family expectations aside and try to imagine a smaller event.
Does your mind immediately go to all of the cute details you’d plan? Or does it fill you with dread? Do you secretly feel like it would take some of the pressure off? Or can you just not contemplate saying ‘I do’ without a good old knees-up afterwards?
What’s important is what works for you and your partner, so figure that out first before sharing with a wider audience.
Remember that there is no right answer – only what’s right for you.
Choose Your Support Team Carefully
Given that your wedding plans are on your mind a LOT, it’s normal to want to discuss them with friends. However, a word of warning here. If you find that someone is not engaging with the topic, is being negative or is making (un)helpful suggestions – like, ‘why don’t you just postpone?’ – maybe they are not the right person to lean on.
Whether that’s because they aren’t sure what to say, or simply can’t relate. If you feel that every time you talk to ‘x’ friend about your wedding, you walk away feeling frustrated, it’s perhaps best to not raise the topic, unless they do.
Instead, turn to friends and family members who lend a non-judgmental ear. Or proactively offer their help.
You may find a source of support where you least expect it.
It also really helps to have fellow brides to connect with. That could be a friend or someone you’ve met through social media; there are several great Facebook groups for brides to be, including a supportive community created by Love my Dress.
If you’re reading this as a friend of a bride, and don’t know how best to support her, ask her. Would she like to talk about it? Is there anything you can help with?
Chances are, just knowing that you’re there and on her side will be a huge relief.
Take Back Control
For me, one of the most challenging aspects of wedding planning in 2020 was dealing with the uncertainty. I like to plan, so the constant changes in government regulations played havoc with my nerves.
There was a time during lockdown when we were getting a lot of questions about our September wedding plans from guests, so I took back control. I sent an email via our wedding website with next steps and a timeline of when we’d be making decisions and communicating them.
It made me feel like the ball was back in my court (and stopped the well-meaning WhatsApps asking ‘are you going ahead?’).
If you haven’t created a wedding website, they’re a great way to keep guests informed, without having to contact everyone individually, which can feel overwhelming. We used Joy, which also tracks your RSVPs.
Step back from social media
This advice is relevant to anyone living through a pandemic, but especially to brides.
If you feel that the constant comments about lockdowns, speculation about vaccines or even chat about the future of weddings is all a bit too much, log out of social media. Or even turn your phone off for a few days if that’s feasible for you. It will give you some valuable headspace and perspective. And prevent you receiving constant reminders of the situation.
I also found turning WhatsApp read receipts off to be a lifesaver – it removes the pressure to answer immediately (or at all, if it’s rumours about future lockdowns).
Channel your energy into some exercise instead – whether it’s a bit of kickboxing to get out your frustrations, or some yoga to help you chill out. Being able to focus on something else rather than the constant news cycle will do you the world of good.
It’s Not Personal (Although It Sometimes Feels Like It)
Some days, I found it hard to not feel envious of that friend – or even celebrity – who got married two years ago and had a perfectly ‘normal’ wedding.
As hard as it might sometimes be to acknowledge, restrictions are put in place to try and keep us safe. Rather than to screw up our wedding plans. Whether we agree with them personally or not.
It might not seem like it now (I know it didn’t to me), but when your day comes, no matter how different it is to what you’d had in mind, you will feel absolutely delighted to have finally made it up the aisle and to be saying ‘I do’ to the love of your life.
Traditional wedding vows feature the phrase ‘for better, for worse’: well, it doesn’t get much worse than a global pandemic! So you’ve already been through a huge test as a couple and can rest assured that your foundations are rock solid.
The sense of achievement and the emotion you’ll feel on your wedding day, knowing that all the stress is over and that you can finally begin married life together, is SO worth it.
You’ll be swapping those tears of frustration for tears of joy. And if you’re worried about the masks, ahem, masking all those feelings on your guests’ faces – they don’t.
Rather than seeing them as a flaw in our wedding photos, I see them as a badge of honour that we were lucky enough to be able get married despite the virus’s best efforts.
Photography by Rosseblanc
Originally from Lancashire, Kate Turner has lived in Madrid for 7 years. She works in publishing, and has previously contributed to publications including Rough Guides and The Manchester Evening News. You can find Kate on Instagram @OhHelloKate.
Catch up on Kate’s previous posts for The Elgin Avenue: How to Create a Routine When You’re In Isolation – A First Person Account