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  • Writer's pictureReet O'Reilly

Coping with Covid - Tara & Michael (5 Person Rule)

Tara and Michael started planning their wedding back in 2019. They booked their venue, Gledswood Homestead & Winery at Catherine Field and their wedding vendors for their big day being Sunday, 5 April 2020 and at the time, they had no idea their plans would end up completely changing.

Tara & Michael

It was in the early days of the Corona Virus coming to our Australian shores and from late January 2020 we were being told to exercise social distancing by keeping at least 1.5 meters away from each other, to wear masks in public places, to regularly sanitize, to sneeze into our elbows and definitely not shake hands with anybody. It was clear that no-one really knew what this virus was capable of and that we all had to exercise great caution.

By around 23 March 2020 the Australian Government were making rules based on the public health orders which would see facilities such as nursing homes locked down. The events and wedding industry also came to a crushing halt. Weddings could only take place under the 5 person rule which is the minimum number of people required for a legal wedding ceremony in Australia.

On 24 March 2020 I received an email from Tara saying: "Wow what a crazy few days! Our wedding is post phoned for the moment, I was wondering if we are still able to have a legal wedding or is that prohibited by the government?" I replied: "Hi Tara, We can absolutely do a legal wedding but there can only be 5 people. You two, me and two witnesses. Let’s get you guys hitched." With that, plans were made for their intimate ceremony to take place at Michael's father's private property.

Tara and Michael were the first couple I married in 2020 while the '5 person rule' was in place and we did it on their original wedding date. 14 days out from their big day they undoubtedly went through some major heartache as they made decisions that would completely change their wedding day. When weddings are allowed again in New South Wales, the 5 person rule will, mostly likely be, reintroduced so I thought it would be good to hear from a couple who have experienced this before.

What was most important to you, when you were first planning your wedding day?

Through the planning and wedding process we weren’t living in Sydney, so we were just hoping for an easy day where we didn’t have to organize anything. We ended up booking at Gledswood Homestead & Winery, which was fantastic because they were able to include a DJ, cake, decorations etc… then they recommended you Rita as our Celebrant and Bless Photography so we knew everything would run smoothly.

As it became clear that the restrictions would 100% impact your your wedding day, what was your initial reaction?

Because my family are from New Zealand and we also had a lot of guests coming internationally, we had a lot of guests drop out fairly early and by the time Australia started talking about restrictions we only had about 30 guests attending. There were a few days of disappointment for the missing guests and also disappointment at the thought of going on without them.
Eventually we decided if we’re going to do it, we may as well have fun. So we made plans for the reception to be more of a party, than a traditional reception with Coronas as the beer and spirits alongside the traditional free beer and wine.

What were your concerns going forward?

When the wedding was still going ahead, despite trying to stay positive by planning a party, uncertainty kept creeping in. We started to question if going ahead was the right move, Corona was becoming more and more serious and we started to see a lot of articles coming out of the States about weddings where multiple guests caught Covid.
By the time Sydney limited weddings to five people which included us, we had already accepted that our wedding ceremony was going to go ahead and we both felt an overwhelming sense of relief!

What actions did you take?

When we were still planning on getting married at Gledswood, we had discussed cleaning protocols and had the standard plans for hand sanitizer at all entrances and in the bathrooms. We also made plans for the reception, to serve Corona beer. I had also planned to change out of my wedding dress because I wanted a less formal vibe.
The venue also worked with us. The minimum charge was for 50 guests but as we only had about 30 attending they said we could put what we paid for the remaining 20 guests on the bar. We were happy about that because initially we had joked that if we had to pay for 50 guests then most people would be required to eat two meals.

Why did you decide to go ahead with your original wedding?

We were pretty sure things weren’t going to go back to normal anytime soon and we didn’t want to keep trying to reschedule a wedding. We had an honest conversation and realised we were both on the same page.
We were disappointed that our guests couldn’t attend but we just wanted to be married! We also wanted to start trying for a baby and the idea of trying to reschedule a wedding around a pregnancy wasn’t very appealing to either to us.

How did you include people who were now not able to attend your wedding?

We had our ceremony live-streamed via Zoom, which ended up being such a cool experience. Some of our guests dressed in their wedding outfits with glasses of sparkling and others who (due to the time difference) were in their pjs up in the middle of the night to join us.

How did the changes ultimately alter your experience on your day?

We had such a stress free day! We both agreed that if we had to plan a wedding again, under normal circumstances, we would do the exact same thing (but with my Mum being able to attend). We have absolutely no regrets and loved having an intimate wedding.

How did your wedding suppliers respond to the changes and were they supportive?

Our wedding vendors were lovely! I felt awful for them because, obviously, you’ve spent all this money and you don’t want it to go to waste but on the other hand they’re small businesses and refunds just are not an option.
They were happy to work with us in rescheduling and they really reassured us that if we did go ahead (before restrictions were in place) they would work really hard to make sure we had a great day.
A socially distanced selfie
The venue and photographer both offered to push forward the final payment due date. The only one issue we had was with the car hire company who just stopped emailing us back!
I remember chatting with Rita, a week before our wedding saying we wanted to go ahead and Rita was so enthusiastic and excited for us which really helped us realize we were making the right choice.

Were there any positive take aways from this experience?

Oportos the celebration lunch of choice.
Michael's parents were so supportive and they organised some gorgeous surprises to make the day amazing. They made as making a wedding arch, they sourced a cake and bouquets with only 4 days notice.
Having a casual wedding lunch of takeaway Oporto!
We were able to walk each other down the aisle and got to have a moment, just the two of us, saying ‘Let’s do this’ before walking down.

What do you remember most about your wedding day?

Getting ready together and running to the supermarket in full wedding attire to buy some flowers for a DIY flower crown and feeling really surrounded by love and positivity and so much support.

What has life been like since the day you were married?

Our beautiful daughter, Freya, was born in April this year. We had hoped she might be born on our first wedding anniversary but she had other plans, haha.

What words of advice could you give to other couples facing these decisions now?

At the end of the day it’s the couple's decision, don’t let anybody pressure you into doing something you don’t want.
There are a few people who would have preferred we reschedule but we knew that wasn’t what we wanted. We were honest with each other and ourselves and are happy to say we have no regrets!!!
Also, before we started wedding planning I watched the show Brooklyn 99 and wedding insurance was mentioned. I had never heard of wedding insurance before and Michael and I purchased it on a whim. It turned out to be the best $200 we have ever spent, as after some back and forth, we ended up getting refunded all of deposits through our insurance. I doubt it covers Corona related delays now, but I still recommend getting it and reading the fine print.

No regrets from Tara and Michael...

In such a short time Michael and Tara's wedding plans were completely altered and even though they didn't get married with their family and friends present, one thing is for certain, they were married and they had a great time. The best thing is that they have no regrets and if they had to do it all again, they would chose a small elopement ceremony with just their parents by their side.

Thank you Tara and Michael for sharing your story. Congratulations on becoming a family and for choosing your marriage over a wedding. I have no doubt that your words will assist other couples experiencing yet another lock down.

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