Justine and Rob had been planning their big, British-themed summer wedding for over two years, when coronavirus struck. The couple decided to go ahead and get married anyway, with just 30 guests, and even brought their big day forwards. Newlywed Justine tells us what it was like to have a lockdown wedding…
Justine and Rob’s Lockdown Wedding Story
Rob and I met through a mutual friend (and through the nudge of Tinder!) six years ago. We went to a lovely Italian restaurant for our first date- we share a passion for food and hit it off from the word go!
We talked for hours and laughed the night away. We were the last customers in the restaurant and I actually think we were asked to leave. Rob was a true gentleman, paid for the meal and drove me home. The rest is history as they say.
We are total opposites, but that makes for a match made in heaven: they say opposites attract and we definitely bring out the best in each other.
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The Original Wedding Plans
After four years together, Rob took me to Venice for my birthday. I wasn’t expecting a proposal, and it was so perfect. This was January 2018, and as soon as we got back we excitedly started planning a wedding.
We booked St Michael’s Abbey in Farnborough followed by a reception at the Great Barn in Wanborough for 25th July 2020.
Read more: The best barn wedding venues
Coronavirus and Our Wedding
We were so excited for 2020 – it was finally our wedding year, and my mum had been suffering with cancer for the past two years so we were all looking forward to something positive.
Then COVID-19 started creeping into the news and conversations, and some of our friends started postponing their weddings.
We discussed it and decided to hold out until a month before the big day before we made any drastic decisions. Things were changing all the time and we were trying to stay as positive as possible.
As time went on, we did start to email our suppliers and ask about possible dates for later in the year, then for next year and even for 2022! We had lots of guests coming from abroad, as we have family all over the world – including my matron of honour, my sister Donna, who was supposed to fly in from Australia, so we wanted it to be safe for everyone.
One Month to Go
We got to our ‘one month to go’ deadline and received the devastating news that my mum had been diagnosed with 10 brain tumours and cancer of the neck. Rob and I made the decision that we were going to get married as soon as we could – even if it was just us, a priest and two witnesses. The most important part of it all to me was having my mum there to walk me down the aisle.
Then Boris Johnson announced that weddings could go ahead with 30 guests, and we were over the moon! We couldn’t believe we were allowed to have 30 people attend.
Most people probably would have found this totally disheartening after planning their day for so long, but honestly, because of the circumstances, we couldn’t have been happier. We were gutted that our family and friends from abroad couldn’t come, but everyone was so supportive and understood why we had chosen to go ahead.
Two Weeks to Go
We got in touch with all our suppliers and everything seemed to be running smoothly for our wedding date of 25th July. Then St Michael’s Abbey emailed us to say they were having works done at the venue and we wouldn’t be able to get married on the 25th as planned. They could only offer us the 11th of July, which was two weeks away at that point, or wait until an unknown date for the work to finish.
We didn’t want to wait as we were worried about a second spike and another strict lockdown hampering our plans. So we decided to bring the wedding forward, which was a shock to most of our suppliers, who were experiencing lots of cancellations and postponements.
The challenge was on, as well as taking my mum to her appointments, treatments and various scans we had two weeks to pull this wedding together. My poor mum actually had brain radiotherapy four days before the wedding!
Our Different Wedding Day
Our original wedding was supposed to be in a beautiful church, surrounded by 120 guests, followed by a lively reception at a barn. We had been planning a DIY wedding with lots of crafty touches and personal details. It was going to have a Great British theme, with afternoon tea, fish and chips and an ice cream van.
We had a toastmaster booked, a magician, a portrait artist and a 12-piece soul and Motown band, followed by a DJ accompanied by a saxophonist and a percussionist. Of course, we had none of this in the end, but what we did have was even more magical than we could have ever imagined.
The morning of our new, lockdown wedding day started with my bridesmaids, hairdresser and makeup artist arriving at the house. Rob and his six groomsmen got ready at his mum’s house.
We did leave ten minutes late, but I arrived in style in a 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. 25 guests were waiting inside the Abbey, and a wonderful crowd of friends and family had gathered in the grounds to see us arrive and leave – it was actually quite overwhelming to see how many people turned up just to be able to see us leave as husband and wife!
We decided to livestream the wedding on YouTube for our guests around the world to watch, so everyone could still feel like they were a part of it. My sister stayed up until 3am in Australia in order to watch, and we also had family in Malta come together to celebrate with us from afar.
Watch the wedding live stream below!
The Socially Distanced Wedding Celebration
Our original wedding ceremony included hymns and readings, but these things weren’t allowed under the new guidelines. We weren’t even allowed a rehearsal! The ceremony went quickly with just the legal requirements, but it was still beautiful – the sun streamed through the windows and we had beautiful floral displays from Jasmine Flowers.
The weather couldn’t have been better, and Rob’s lovely sister Helen and her husband Tom offered us their huge garden for a socially distanced reception after the ceremony.
Read more: Garden party style wedding ideas
Helen and Rob’s mum did so much to help plan our garden party. We had a barbecue, a sweet table, a doughnut wall, wonderful balloon displays by Little Party Robin and a silent disco!
My sister put together a surprise wedding video from all our family and friends that couldn’t be with us; it was very emotional but such a wonderful part of the day.
We’d originally hired 120 chairs and tables from Rustic Hire for our wedding, but as we didn’t need that many they let us swap some items out for bars, blankets, rustic boxes, pillows, firepits and metal baths for champagne and beer bottles.
The garden looked like a proper wedding reception venue, and it was everything a normal wedding should be – we cut our cake, we had our first dance, we waved sparklers and we all danced the night away (with headphones on, so we didn’t disturb the neighbours!).
Read more: Unusual entertainment ideas for your wedding
Looking Back on Our Lockdown Wedding
We wouldn’t change anything about our wedding day – it was so perfect and even more magical than we ever could have imagined. We just wish our family and friends from Malta, Australia and Switzerland could have been with us to share the celebrations.
For me, the best part of the day was being able to walk down the aisle with my mum. If anyone out there is unsure about going ahead with their wedding right now because of the coronavirus restrictions or illness in the family, I’d say do it. You won’t regret it.
Your wedding day is about you two coming together as a couple and getting married to the love of your life. Okay, so we didn’t have the day we planned and we will never know what we missed out on there, but we do know that we had an incredible day regardless and we enjoyed every single moment of it.
It was all captured by our wonderful and talented photographer and videographer Daniel Farley at South East Wedding Photography and Chris from Chris Bennett Films. I’m so excited to have footage of the day so I can relive it over and over again.
After everything that has happened the day was full of love, laughter and hope and we are finally husband and wife after a lot of sadness, stress and uncertainty.
Feeling inspired by Rob and Justine’s lockdown wedding? Find out everything we know about Princess Beatrice’s lockdown wedding here!