By Digital Content Producer Kat Clementine
The UK's lockdown has been a tough time for the weddings industry and couples hoping to tie the knot, with some loved-up pairs being forced to postpone as many as five times.
Many grooms and brides-to-be in England waited with bated breath for Boris Johnson to confirm June 21's planned 'Freedom Day'.
Instead, the prime minister announced that most Covid-19 restrictions in England would remain in place for another four weeks, delaying the country's unlocking until July 19.
The limit on the number of guests allowed to attend a wedding was lifted - but with social distancing, no dancefloors and masks required during indoor ceremonies.
ITV News caught up with couples due to make their vows to find out how the announcement changed their plans.
'It's one rule for myself and another rule for Wimbledon'
A couple both working in the NHS throughout the pandemic shared their dismay at the “bizarre” restrictions still in place on weddings – while Covid pilot events can still go ahead.
Nancy Smith and her fiancé Jurgen booked their wedding at The Old Vicarage in Southwell back in 2018 and had to postpone their June 2020 nuptials to July 10 this year. Nancy told ITV News: “The venue had been fantastic and they have kept us in the loop with things all the way.
"Originally it was going to be indoors, but they have the option to have an outdoor ceremony so we've done that to avoid face masks… but you can't drink outside, stood up, which is the most bizarre of all.
Working in the NHS, the couple have both always been “very mindful” of the restrictions: “We have stuck to the rules and we haven't seen my partner's family for nearly two years - we haven't traveled out to Germany even though his aunt is quite unwell”, Nancy, 28, said.
“I don't begrudge anybody having fun safely.
"I don't begrudge the G7 and I understand the importance of world leaders coming over to have discussions around getting the vaccine out there and supporting countries that need it.
"But then to say, I can't stand outside and have a drink with my family and friends who have all, but two, had their vaccines. “It's just, it's so unfair. It's so inequitable.
"I accept we are where we are in a pandemic, but I don't accept that it's one rule for Wimbledon, one rule for myself.”
Getting married amid the restrictions is not without its stresses.
“The thing that will be the most difficult on the day is probably the worry around making sure everybody is sticking to the rules.
"I don't want the venue to be uncomfortable.
"I don't want my guests to be uncomfortable. I think the lack of clarity makes it difficult for me to say to my guests, ‘don't do this, but do this’.”
‘I can teach a Zumba class for 50 people but can’t dance at my wedding’ While restrictions on numbers are lifted, for Michael and his partner, Lewis, not being able to dance makes it feel impossible to have the wedding they’d planned for July 2. “We booked this date back in 2019 and have been in limbo for a long time, keeping our fingers crossed for a very long time, hoping it would all go okay - and then obviously at the last minute, it's not quite that story." The couple had planned for 90 guests in the day, with an additional 40 for the evening reception. “Whilst the limit of 30 has been lifted, the new limit is based on social distancing capacity.
"So it means we wouldn't be able to have any evening guests and we would have to cut day guests down by about just over 20 to allow for a social distance capacity at the venue. “Everything has to be sitting down, which is so frustrating when you see pictures of Ascot, the football and the cricket, when I can go into someone's garden and have a drink, but I can't do that at my wedding."
Michael, 31, considered postponing but re-booking each separate supplier seemed a daunting tasks and the venue, Brookfield Barn in Horsham, is nearly fully booked for the next two years. “We picked these suppliers for a reason and it's because we love their work, or we love their take on things. And to kind of go back to the drawing boards would just, you feel that you would almost be compromising, especially when there is actually no guarantee what a wedding next year will look like."
He added: “We're just going to go ahead and make the best of a bad situation, as bad as that sounds. “Probably the biggest thing that is still bugging us at the moment, especially when I teach Zumba every week for 50 people, yet at my wedding, I can't have anyone dancing without masks on or on the dance floor. “I thought if it's a nice day and we all dance outside, but that would then be all our guests making a dance floor, which means it becomes a legal issue for the venue. And we obviously don't want to do anything that's going to put them in any kind of issue or jeopardy for the weddings they've got for the rest of the year.”
'At this point it's better than nothing'
Hayley and Marcus are on their fourth wedding date. The pair originally planned to wed on May 30, 2020, but moved the date to June 2020, before changing again to May 2021.
"We moved it to May 2021 and then we went back into lockdown in January and then they announced when the first people could have a wedding and we just thought... we wanted to have the wedding we'd paid for, and that we had planned. "It had been so stressful moving already. We just didn't really want to compromise and it's been a hard year for both of us anyway.
"We just thought we wanted to come out of this and celebrate, to see our friends, see our family and it's been like the light at the end of the tunnel for everyone."
Now the pair will now tie the knot in a forest setting on July 3 - they'd chosen that date after the prime minister made his roadmap out of lockdown announcement.
With the June 21 unlocking looking less and less likely, the pair started plotting which 30 guests they'd keep if they had to cut down.
"Now we can have as many people as we like so we're quite glad that we waited but it's just little things now.
"Like I've had to change my maid of honour because my cousin can't come, so I've asked my best friend which is fine, but it's just now I don't have people there that we would've wanted to be there.
"My sister lives in Florida, so she can't fly in with her family, so they can't be there.
"It's just the new sacrifices that seems so small, but actually makes such a big difference."
Even with an outdoor wedding at Upthorpe Wood, Suffolk, the pair can't dance with their guests: "If guests want to drink, it says table service and they have to sit at the table, which means that we've now had to spend more money on hire furniture.
"One of the downfalls of getting married in a forest, is you have to build it up from the ground up.
"So it's more faff, it's more money, hiring furniture. And also it's just a lot more rigid and you can't really explore the forest like we would want people to.
"It's not going to be the experience we wanted everyone to have, but at this point it's better than nothing."
'To not have music and dancing just doesn't work'
Sarah Balfour is facing the change in restrictions as both a wedding planner - and a bride.
She and her partner, Lloyd, were due to get married on August 30, 2020, but moved the date to July 11 this year. But the pair won't be going ahead after learning that dancing is not allowed.
As a concert pianist and director of Music by Arrangement, dancing and music is vitally important for Sarah's wedding.
"To not have music and dancing at my wedding just doesn't work.
"I'm all about music and music at a wedding is so important, especially after the formalities of the ceremony. It's when you can really let your hair down and get the party started.
"With this whole last year that we've had, I think weddings have taken on a whole new meaning.
"It's a whole, it's a whole new level of importance without being able to create happy, happy memories for ages, same goes for music.
"Music's also taken on an even bigger role for weddings for the same reasons."
Now Sarah and Lloyd hope to host their big day with 115 guests at Claridge's Hotel on October 3.
She said: "All I can do is hope that restrictions will be lifted then.
"I'm going to have to now contact all the suppliers that I had booked for July 11 and double-check that they're available for October. And then of course the whole styling thing, I was having a lovely summer wedding. It's now going to be an October... There's a lot of things that I need to revisit."
'Telling our future kids of having a wedding during the pandemic is quite the story!'
Akeel and his fiancée, Zahra, are feeling positive that they can go ahead with their civil ceremony and wedding reception in order to start the next chapter of their lives.
The pair, both aged 24, are sticking to their originally planned dates, which will see them legally wed on July 2 before a religious ceremony and reception at the The Great Barn, Harrow, on July 31.
“On the day of the civil ceremony, we were intending to go back to my fiancée’s house and have a barbecue there with all friends and family”, Akeel told ITV News.
“But obviously given the fact that there are still restrictions and you're only allowed 30 people outdoors at gathering, it can only be 30 people.”
Although their Bali honeymoon plans are up in the air, the couple are keen and excited to go ahead so they can continue their life plans together: “There's been a great deal of planning, particularly by my fiancée.
“It's been sort of eight years in the making - we've been together for eight years. We purchased a place last year and we've been waiting for that final date where we can celebrate together with friends and family, formalise everything - in that special order that we've always wanted to go in. So we want that cycle to be completed.
“But at the end of the day for us, it's more about having a special day regardless of the circumstance. And maybe telling our future kids of having a wedding during the pandemic is quite the story!”
For wedding planning help and advice, brides and grooms-to-be can visit Hitched.co.uk