Love in the time of coronavirus

We’re living in very strange times indeed and we’re all adjusting and adapting to new ways of doing things – and that includes marking special events such as the dates of weddings which have been postponed due to COVID-19 regulations on social distancing. 

Imagine the disappointment of having to postpone your wedding because of the coronavirus pandemic. What are you meant to do with yourselves when the date you had planned comes around?

Well, Humanist Ceremonies celebrants have come up with an ingenious way for their couples to celebrate their planned date: an online ‘pre-wedding celebration’ ceremony conducted over video-conferencing services (like Zoom and Google Hangouts).  It’s the ideal way to bring people together without, well, actually bringing people together.

In what’s being described as ‘our new reality’, people all over the world are having virtual dance classes, exercise sessions, birthday parties, and cocktail evenings – so why not virtual ceremonies?

Nothing can quite replace the shared commitment and joy of a wedding which is held in front of friends and family, but a pre-wedding celebration is a great way to mark a very special date in advance of the real wedding still to come.

Becca and Tim

On 28 March, Northern Ireland-based wedding celebrant Jean Barrett-Quinn performed a beautiful online commitment ceremony for Becca and Tim. This was recorded by Jean showing both the couple and the celebrant via a split-screen.

Becca and Tim have kindly shared their experience as they hope to bring a little joy to any couples who might be coming to terms with the rescheduling of their own wedding.

Jean explains:

‘Saturday 28 March was supposed to be Becca and Tim’s Wedding Day. Having rescheduled their wedding until later this year, this could have been a very challenging day for them. They chose however, how to react to the circumstances presented: they chose to make happy memories to add to their wedding journey – ultimately, they chose ‘joy’.

‘A few days before the ceremony, they got in touch as they wanted to do something to mark their ‘would be wedding date.’ By getting to know them so well over the last year and a half, I understood what values they hold dear as a couple and how celebrating this day, with something to share with their family and friends, was so important to them. As I had already written their wedding ceremony, I needed to consider the balance for their ceremony; meeting their expectations, yet not taking the sparkle away from the ceremony on their Wedding Day.

‘We chose to call it a ‘Commitment Ceremony’ where they celebrated their values, love, and resilience – conducted virtually via Zoom. Becca and Tim also shared promises they intend to keep until they exchange their wedding vows later this year.

‘Becca and Tim’s ceremony transformed a potentially upsetting experience into a day to remember for all the right reasons! The ceremony was recorded so they can share it with their family and friends to bring a little light and joy to these difficult times.’

Becca and Tim said:

‘We’re incredibly grateful to Jean for supporting us with our virtual commitment ceremony. It allowed us to have a meaningful, positive celebration on what would have been our wedding day. For us, it confirmed why we chose the warmth and kindness of a humanist wedding’.

Paula and Loc

Meanwhile in England, children Lily and Tobi were so disappointed that their parents’ wedding was being postponed, that humanist celebrant Zena Birch offered to conduct an online pre-wedding ceremony for the family so they could commemorate the day in a meaningful way.

Thanks to the use of video technology and help from Shelly Mantovani from Toast of Leeds, they were able to celebrate the day that was supposed to be their wedding day with a promissory ceremony involving family and friends around the world.

Zena said:

‘We invented a ritual and, during the online ceremony, Paula and Loc took their wedding rings and placed them in a jar. As part of their home-schooling last week, their children Lily and Tobi made coloured rice, and at the ceremony, in front of us all, they poured it over the top of the rings to keep them safe until we get to retrieve them in their proper ceremony next year. 

‘Public declarations are important and so are witnesses, which is why everyone important to the family was invited to be part of it. Our communities are essential: so, Paula and Loc still made promissory statements declaring that they will stand by as a family until I get to pronounce them husband and wife next year. 

‘Even Lily and Tobi made promises. They promised to do their best to be good and kind, and keep the rings safe until we need them next year.

‘Then, I was able to get everyone involved: I unmuted the microphones of all 60+ guests (who I had prepped), and as the children said, ‘We do,’ Paula and Loc heard a cacophony of corks popping and applause as confetti rained down upon them. Yes, there was confetti!’

Beth and Jonty

On Saturday 4 April, humanist celebrant Karen Faulkner helped Midlands couple Beth and Jonty celebrate with a virtual commitment ceremony.

Beth and Jonty

Karen said:

‘Nothing has changed in our plans for their autumn wedding – it’s an incredible ceremony with so many special features. The commitment ceremony was just a chance to get a little taster for the big day, and to celebrate this gorgeous couples’ love for each other. It’s so important for everyone to focus and celebrate the love in the world right now, because that’s where we find our strength!’

‘Beth and Jonty exchanged rings for the day but promised each other ‘To lend you this ring’ rather than ‘give’. They also made the wedding vow, ‘I will’ rather than ‘I do’.

‘Guests joined from across the globe and finished the ceremony by raising their glasses in a toast and setting off party poppers as Beth and Jonty were pronounced ‘almost-but-not-quite husband and wife!’

The happy bride-to-be said:

‘The ceremony really changed a day I was so upset about into something we looked forward to, and an event people could get out of their PJs for! I’m even more excited for our postponed wedding date. Now we’ve had a taster, we can’t wait to do it for real!’

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Jean Barrett-Quinn

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