When, on a cloudy overcast day, the sun suddenly breaks through it gives us a lift and brightens up our lives. Ceremonies, even in lockdown, can be like that. This week we got an enquiry, a request for help. Like many couples who had planned their wedding and found it could not take place, this couple were frustrated and uncertain what they could and should do. The date they had planned for was still significant and in this case was approaching fast as only tomorrow can. The bride had been struggling with how it should be marked, tears seemed the most likely option, until she heard about someone who had had a virtual wedding ceremony.
Hope and a growing excitement quickly replaced despair while she began her search for a celebrant who could perform a symbolic act like handfasting, to mark the day and recognise their commitment to each other. The couple were clear they did not want anything that was going to be part of their wedding such as the exchange of rings and vows, this was not to be a make-do but a celebration that, like their engagement, would always be special to them as a marker on their journey to married life.
I jumped at the opportunity to get involved and draft scripts were soon bouncing back and forth between Shropshire and South Africa. Yes, our couple were locked down in South Africa, but their wedding would have taken place at the magnificent Davenport House in Shropshire.
We decided to use Zoom as the video platform and with less than 12 hours to go the guests were invited but not told what they were invited to. When I joined the ‘meeting’ there were already quite a few guests chatting amongst themselves, which was great but I was amazed that they had dressed for the occasion. The guests would not have looked out of place at Lady’s Day at Ascot with some stunning outfits and hats on display. There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air and when a guest tuned in and saw the dress code she immediately left the meeting returning with her own hat!
It took a few moments to help the guests to master the Zoom controls, setting their microphones to mute and closing down their cameras so that the ceremony could begin. When the couple appeared on their terrace against a late afternoon, South African sky it was immediately clear there were not going to be any tears of sadness or regret. Here was a couple who looked fantastic and their body language said ‘this is our day, this is for us’.
The ceremony was full of fun, joy and love and when the couple kissed the guests unmuted their microphone and loud applause and cheering spread around the world taking in Britain, France, Canada and South Africa. At the conclusion of the ceremony the guests stayed online to continue the party.
In less than 48 hours a lovely, magical event had evolved from a half idea to a fantastic, uplifting and memorable occasion. A memory I, as well as the couple and their guests will always treasure.