On restrictions, resilience and the rise of the micro wedding

Socially distanced hugs with Stacie and Russell this summer, captured by www.jennyrutterford.com

I’ve just re-read the blog post I published back in March when we’d just started lockdown.

In it, I spoke reassuringly of the things that would change in order to keep going with ceremonies as far as possible – of the online meetings and the ability for couples to postpone their weddings until later in the year ‘or into 2021’.

At that time, I was in conversation with the couples whose ceremonies were planned for up to June to organise contingency plans. The weddings beyond that seemed safe enough – and my bonkers busy September was so far off that Covid was surely going to be a distant memory by then?? 

In hindsight, how naïve I was – how naïve we all were!

You know the next part of the story already of course. Week by week and month by month since then, restrictions have continued and changed regularly, wedding plans have been revised and revised again, and there has been much heartache and disappointment for the couples I work with (and couples all over the world of course). Now, as predicted, infection rates are rising sharply again and so we still don’t know what the heck is happening from week to week.

On restrictions, resilience and the rise of the micro wedding ~ Sussex celebrant Claire Bradford of Creating Ceremony
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Funerals have continued to happen, but with strict number limits, masks for everyone in the chapels, no chance of a wake and the occasional horror story of insensitive ‘policing’ of the guidelines. Gone are the huge celebrations of life with hundreds of people gathering together to pay their respects and share their memories together.

The wedding industry has been thrown under the bus by the UK government, who have declared many of the micro-businesses who work in this area ‘non-viable’ and therefore ineligible for financial support. These are the people who work tirelessly to make outfits, decorate venues, take photos… who all work together to help make couples’ big days magical.

I said it in the blog post in March and I’ll say it again: this sucks. Like, big time sucks.

And yet…

As time has gone on and everyone has realised that coronavirus is here to stay for a good while longer (as are the resulting restrictions on our lives), we have had to learn to be resilient.

We have learned that raging against the unfairness of it all won’t help much, and that better salvaging what we can out of the situation is much more productive. As the old proverb goes, it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

And so we’ve adapted. 

We’ve mourned at funerals where some people are in the chapel and others are joining in online. I’ve even held an online-only Zoom ceremony where the 8 attendees were in 3 different continents – and it worked.

We’ve got used to our work, social life and ceremony meetings being held through a screen. It’s not the same – of course it’s not – but it works and it’s contact.

Ceremony numbers have been cut back and cut back again and yet it turns out that a wedding in the woods with just your children and both sets of parents instead of 120 guests is unexpectedly exquisite. And we’ve learned that more intimate funerals sometimes relieve the pressure of having to be ‘on display’ in grief.

Some couples have come up with creative ways to celebrate their love with all their friends and family whilst still sticking to the rules, such as Roma and Vinal’s recent ‘drive-in’ wedding with 200 guests.

Grieving people who can’t attend a funeral have found creative ways to come together and mourn. And those who couldn’t hold a wake in a venue have found ways to do it online instead.

Wedding suppliers have diversified, either supplementing their income with other jobs entirely or turning their dressmaking skills into PPE making skills, offering their photography services in a different setting or making ‘we’ve changed the date (again!)’ stationery that makes people see the bright side. 

And what we have learned through all of this is that it’s horrible but we adapt and survive.

What we have learned through all of this is that contact – actual, physical contact – with the people we love is the thing we most crave, most miss and have taken the most for granted. And that is the thing that will take centre stage as soon as all of this is over. 

It won’t be the favours, it won’t be the colour scheme. It won’t be the slavishly following traditions. It won’t be the outfits, or the fad diets to look fabulous. All of these things might still be important (well, hopefully not the fad diets) but they will revolve around what’s most important – the relationships that the ceremony is about.

On restrictions, resilience and the rise of the micro wedding ~ Sussex celebrant Claire Bradford of Creating Ceremony
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Whether it all looks good on Instagram is now very much secondary (as it always should have been of course, but let’s not kid ourselves that many people had lost sight of that until coronavirus made them refocus).

At the time of writing this post (October 2020), restrictions in England and Wales mean that up to 30 people can attend a funeral and unfortunately the rule of six applies to independent celebrant led weddings because apparently registrars, vicars and humanists all have magical coronavirus repelling powers that we independents don’t… (Grrrr! Don’t get me started!) 

All of this does make the good old days of packed chapels and post-wedding late-night dancing sessions seem like decades rather than months ago, but it also means that you can reframe what’s important. Some people might decide to hold off longer for the big shindig wedding and that is, of course, brilliant if it’s the right choice for them. 

Yet I predict that, just as we have seen with funerals, more and more people will be drawn to the intimacy, simplicity and more budget-friendly idea of the pared-down micro wedding with up to 50 guests, not 100s. Of the bespoke, personal ceremony it centres around. Of being surrounded with their closest, carefully chosen loved ones only and not the ones they felt duty-bound to invite. Of being able properly to spend time with all their guests and each other as well. Of their love being the centre of the occasion rather than a good excuse for a party.

These still won’t be able to happen for some time of course. But when we are blinking in the bright new dawn of a post Covid world, I believe the lessons we’ll have learned will show themselves in the ways that we celebrate rites of passage such as funerals, weddings and namings. And that could be a beautiful thing indeed.

On restrictions, resilience and the rise of the micro wedding ~ Sussex celebrant Claire Bradford of Creating Ceremony
Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash