In the age of coronavirus, walking down the aisle among friends and family was never an option. Instead, two of Canberra’s newest newlyweds, Doug and Dimity, asked their guests to turn left, turn right and park their cars to form a very COVID-19 wedding aisle.
With social distancing and size limits on groups congregating, planning a wedding to remember was never going to be smooth travelling, but at least it was a day to remember for the newlyweds.
“Today was either going to be a triumph of technology or a heap of us arguing about internet connections, but laughing our asses off,” Doug told Region Media while in a barber’s chair getting a haircut before the wedding.
“Either way, we’re going to have a glass of champagne and have something to remember it all by.”
Groom Doug Boyd didn’t want a big wedding. Bride Dimity Douglas had slightly grander plans with friends from interstate and Doug’s parents from the US were initially invited, of course.
Dimity also wanted to make somewhat of a grand entrance, so after checking with what Doug calls the ‘Special Department of COVID-Related Special Activities and General Specialness’, he organised a car aisle of friends and family so his bride could still make her special entrance.
“When the COVID-19 stuff hit, the first thing that happened is my parents cancelled their trip and then borders were closed, so nobody could come from interstate,” Doug said.
“We went from having 60 people, then to 20 to 10 and then finally it came down to five. ACT Health has said that technically, even the kids can’t join. So, we had to put them inside the house, behind a glass window.”
Doug said that despite the limitations, the couple never considered postponing their special day.
“Postponing felt like giving in and we’ve been together for seven years and we’ve made a lot of plans around this day, including our honeymoon that we’ve had to postpone,” Doug said.
They were married on a balcony as their friends and family watched either via Zoom or safely from their cars. Dimity was driven ‘down the aisle’ and delivered to the front door of the house.
“ACT Health said that as long as people stay in their cars, it’s completely legal,” Doug said.
“I had no idea how many people were going to show up.
“Dimi didn’t know about any of this. She’s been pretty down about the whole experience as we’ve gone from all of her interstate friends to now just five people.”
And so, ‘Project Wedding Surprise’ took shape. Instructions were sent by email to guests and the ceremony was broadcast via Zoom. Even the wedding music was e-organised, with a good friend of Doug’s in Hawaii playing the guitar and singing via Facebook after the couple made their vows.
“When our initial plans fell through, we said ‘does it really matter?’ Just get on with it and have fun and do the best you can. That’s what this situation with COVID-19 is turning into.”
Doug and Dimity’s special day is one way the institution of marriage has adapted to social distancing laws that only allow five people at a wedding. Canberra Small Weddings provided the wedding celebrant and photographer.
Juggling the same issues, a novel wedding business, named I Do Drive-Thru, also launched in Canberra this week, with two Canberra marriage celebrants looking to bring people together for life (albeit from a safe distance).
The concept allows couples to be married at a number of scenic Canberra locations or at any parking spot the couple feel would be fitting for their own drive-thru experience.
The couple and their witnesses arrive at the designated location. Their celebrant meets the vehicle. The ceremony is conducted while the couple remains safely inside the car. Paperwork and certificates are passed in and out of the windows and rings are exchanged. Back seat smooching is encouraged.
The short but sweet ceremonies cater to the COVID-19 wedding market, with marriage still considered an ‘until death-do-us-part’ essential service in Australia.
Canberra marriage celebrants Pat Coelho and Amelia Haddock have had lots of couples cancel or postpone their special day, which they say has been sad to see. Coelho, a public servant by day, loves nothing more than telling a happy couple they are now married.
“At the end of the day, it’s two people in a marriage and they are marrying the love of their life, and whether the wedding is big or small, it’s equally as special to us,” Pat said.
“My advice to people still wanting to get married is to go for. There are still lots of ways we can make your day special.”