Planning A Wedding In A Pandemic

Written by Paula Christie
Co-owner of The Small Things Co

An Interview with Hannah & Paul Judd

There will be many words that those who have lived through the year that is 2020 will never want to hear again. ‘Covid’, ‘Lockdown’, ‘Corona’ and for many couples and those in the wedding industry ‘Postpone’ and ‘Cancel’ can be added to the list.

Within the tsunami this pandemic has been, couples who had weddings planned for 2020 and early 2021 have been swept up in the wave. Wedding plans have been canceled, postponed, changed and adapted. Considerations such as guest number allowances, interstate and overseas guests being able to attend and the general feel and running of the day are large concerns that couples have had to consider.

We sat down with Melbourne bride Hannah Judd, to find out about her and Paul’s experience of planning a wedding in a pandemic. 

Tell us about your initial plans for your wedding day?

Paul proposed to me In June this year. It was right at the time the first ‘Covid wave’ in Melbourne had eased and we thought we had experienced the worst of what 2020 could bring. We initially planned our wedding for Jan 8, 2021. Naively assuming that would be plenty of time for things to settle and things to open up again. We booked the perfect venue, Coombe Yarra Valley. We invited our bridal parties to be a part of our special day, and started to celebrate with close friends in small gatherings that were allowed with government guidelines at the time. The dream was really coming to life!

How has Covid affected those plans?

About one week after we got engaged, the second wave hit Victoria and we went into stage 4 lockdown. What was supposed to be six weeks, turned into multiple months. Not being able to go further than 5km from home and wearing a mask every time we step out the front door, are things we will not soon forget. It was a hard time for our whole state. 

When the announcement was made that we were going back into lockdown I called my boss and asked for the day off so I could go and find a wedding dress. Knowing that if I didn’t find a dress that day, I wouldn’t be able to get one in time. My parents live in another state, so it also meant that my mum couldn’t come dress shopping with me. Thank the Lord for FaceTime and an incredible Mother in-law to come shopping with me.

We played the waiting game as long as we could before we made the decision to change our date but aside from my parents living in another state, we also had siblings, grandparents and close friends who would be coming from NZ, NSW, QLD, TAS, SA & WA.. Basically, every border needed to be open in time! In the end we decided that the stress in the lead up to our wedding wasn’t worth it, especially when we had absolutely no idea if we would get to a week before our date to find out borders still aren’t open and end up with a wedding that’s missing our nearest and dearest. Not to mention the potential of no dance floor, social distancing and face masks still likely to be our reality. Back & forth we went looking at every option and possibility and finally we decided to look at Eloping and then having our big wedding on our first anniversary the following year.

What was the hardest thing about the whole process?

If I’m honest, almost all of it was hard. Giving up the dream and trying to plan when nothing is certain or known. As I mentioned earlier, most of my family don’t live in Melbourne so we were really feeling the distance. We celebrated with only a few friends before going into lockdown. It felt like what was supposed to be one of the happiest times of our lives became one of the most challenging. Even the week of our Elopement was all up in the air. We had a small venue, then restrictions were extended so we lost it, then 24 hours later the announcement of restrictions changing meant we could have the venue back. Only to see the updates on DHHS website another 24 hours later to see they had added some more fine detail which meant we lost the venue again. This was Tuesday and we we’re getting married that Friday. 

Paul’s parents have a beautiful property but had also had massive storms and trees blown over, plus they lost power for a few days and only got it back on the Wednesday. Realising we didn’t have time to get a permit for a park and it was predicted to rain, they we’re so kind and worked non-stop in the few days leading up to the day to make the place look absolutely stunning.

What considerations did you have when planning an elopement and postpone reception?

It was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions. Initially our thoughts were to keep our elopement as simple as possible in order to not take away from our big day the following year. We weren’t going to dress up, get my makeup done, organise flowers or even a photographer. There were many scenarios and questions going through our minds… Do we just elope and be done with it? Do we postpone and wait it out?  Do we elope now and then have a full wedding next year or just a reception? If we say vows this year, should our vows be the same next year or should they change? You get the point ha! After a few conversations with some kind and honest friends (one who had also eloped a few months earlier due to the same reasons) we came to the realisation that our elopement isn’t robbing us of any part of our wedding but in fact it’s only adding to the memories of our love story.

What did you love about your elopement?

After what felt like literally everything that could go wrong did, the day of our elopement couldn’t have been more perfect! The sun was shining, the property looked beautiful, my man was looking damn fine in a suit, and we had our friends and family there with us via Zoom. Not the same as in person but we felt so supported and loved!!

One of my favourite things though was that we have a full dream in mind of what our wedding will look like, dresses, colour schemes, florals etc. but we had creative license to have a whole new plan and dream. I even got to wear a suit and still get my stunning gown next year. It truly became the best of both worlds.

What are you looking forward to most about your big wedding day?

The celebration with all our friends and family in the FLESH! It’s going to be the biggest and best celebration and we’re so excited for it. I would even say I’m more excited now that we’ve eloped, and pressure is off.

What are you doing differently on your big day because you have already eloped?

Almost nothing different except signing the legal documents. My dad will walk me down the aisle, we’ll say our vows and declare our love yet again, we’ll have our first dance, say some speeches, share a meal with all our guests and cut the cake together. 

Is there anything worrying you now about your big day?

We keep saying to each other that we’re soooo glad we eloped. Literally from that moment we said ‘I Do’ it felt like a huge relief. It was like we stepped into a new freedom! We made the choice that even if restrictions ease in time for our original date that it was still worth it. Since that day, we’ve realised how much we’re watching and waiting on every announcement from the government and every day’s case updates to try and predict what might happen. It was a rough time on our mental health and it’s safe to say we definitely don’t regret our decision!

Any advice for couples in a similar situation?

Our biggest piece of advice would be to focus on what’s important. Your marriage it’s what’s most important. Yes, the wedding day and the dream of what it’s going to look like is important, but what the day is designed for, is actually the beginning of a new season for you both together. You have to physically make the choice of what is most important to you both. Choose to find the joy in the simple things. Don’t get caught up in unnecessary stresses. Remember that laying down some dreams will make room for bigger and better dreams. Be each other’s best friend and biggest cheerleader and last but not least, have grace for yourself and make the necessary choices that you know will be better for you both in the long run.

Photography: Lei Lei Clavey Photography

Wedding Planner & Stylist: The Small Things Co

Florals: Flowers St Germain

Hair and Makeup: Mon Hanouch

Brides Attire: Asos, Mossman and Atmos & Here

Shoes: Gucci

Grooms Attire: Asos