Coronavirus: Couple holds 'socially distant' wedding

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Media captionThe couple were due to celebrate tying the knot in front of 300 guests

Small weddings were given the go-ahead to start again last week in certain circumstances in Wales, but what is the reality of a getting married now?

One couple from Cardiff organised their wedding on Saturday in just a few days.

As she stood huddled in the rain and wind outside the church in her wedding dress, it was not exactly the arrival at her big day Elizabeth Facer had dreamed of.

The minister about to preside over her wedding was delivering a health and safety briefing to her and her fiance Ian Choi, which they had to listen to before they entered the building.

Also standing 2m away were Elizabeth's parents and a registrar - the only other people allowed to attend the tiny wedding held in Penrhyndeudraeth, near Porthmadog, Gwynedd, on Saturday.

Around the corner, her brother, sister, her sister's fiance and their son were ready to watch the ceremony broadcast on the internet.

Theirs was one of the first nuptials held in Wales since the restrictions over weddings were eased last week.

For Elizabeth, 22, and Ian, 23, it was a victory - even though their original wedding on 20 June was due to have 300 guests.

Image copyright Thomas Butters
Image caption Social distancing was used during the ceremony

The couple started a petition urging the Welsh Government to allow small weddings to go ahead as restrictions around the pandemic eased.

"Once we realised it was going to have to be a socially distant wedding I went through all of the stuff in my head of like, it's not going to be all of us at my parents' house, it's not going to be how I had imagined it," said Elizabeth.

"And I focused on the positive things."

Elizabeth, who is doing an MA at Cardiff University, spoke to the register office in Gwynedd, as well as the minister who would marry them and managed to book the wedding for the following weekend.

"It almost didn't happen," she said.

"Right at the last minute they almost stopped it because they hadn't had any official guidelines even though the regulations allowed it."

Some local authorities in Wales said they would start registering church weddings again, while others were waiting for further guidance from the Welsh and UK governments about resuming register office weddings.

Anywhere not a register office or place or worship - such as hotels, castles and stadiums still - cannot host weddings despite having a licence.

Because attending a wedding is listed as a "reasonable excuse" for travelling more than five miles from home, Elizabeth and Ian were still able to have their wedding at her home church in north Wales - Capel Fron.

Image copyright Thomas Butters
Image caption It was not quite the wedding the couple had planned before the coronavirus outbreak

Ian's parents live in Hong Kong and had planned to fly over for the original wedding, but there was no way of them being there this time.

And the couple's reunion with Elizabeth's family was also difficult.

"I could tell it was really hard for my mum not to be able to hug us," said Elizabeth. "It was really hard to try to stay composed and not encourage her to hug."

Elizabeth's parents, who live close to the church, decorated it for the couple before Wednesday, because it had to be empty for 72 hours before the wedding to ensure it was sterile and safe for the big day.

And because they wanted to keep to tradition by staying apart the night before the wedding, Elizabeth stayed in a friend's house, which was empty, while Ian ended up sleeping in her parents' outhouse.

On the morning of the wedding, there were no hairdresser or make-up appointments for Elizabeth - instead she got ready alone.

"When I was getting ready, I was still thinking about the positives of it," she said.

Social distancing meant the couple drove to church together, with Elizabeth's parents and sister all in separate cars.

Just six people were allowed in the ceremony - Elizabeth's parents as witnesses, the minister and the registrar.

It also meant Elizabeth had to enter the church through the fire exit in the toilets, while trying to keep 2m from her father who was walking her down the aisle.

Image copyright Thomas Butters
Image caption Ian's parents watched the ceremony from Hong Kong

Ian said: "It was really special just seeing her come down the aisle after all this. It was quite surreal.

"I still can't quite believe that it happened, because for such a long time we weren't even allowed to think about when we were going to do it, it just all happened so quickly the process of it being allowed, and getting everything up and running in less than a week.

"It was like a massive, massive relief."

With no best man, Ian had their rings, and his parents did readings via webcam from Hong Kong.

And because they were not allowed to sing due to the virus, recorded hymns were played on a laptop.

Image copyright Elizabeth Facer
Image caption Elizabeth Facer and Ian Choi had been forced to delay their marriage due to coronavirus rules in Wales

After the registrar carried out the legal part of the ceremony, she left, and a photographer took her place.

As they left the church they were greeted by the rest of Elizabeth's family, who had been watching from a nearby railway station.

The family went in separate cars to drive to a nearby industrial estate for the wedding "reception" - a picnic in which they all sat in their car boots as it was raining.

The newly-weds then drove straight back to Cardiff where they had a microwave lasagne and garlic bread as their wedding night meal.

As for the honeymoon, that is off the cards for now.

Where can weddings take place in Wales?

There have been two weddings in Gwynedd since the easing of restrictions, with the first set to take place in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Flintshire later this week.

They can also take place in religious buildings in the Vale of Glamorgan, with the first scheduled for Anglesey later this month.

Services have not yet restarted in Monmouthshire, Conwy, Bridgend, Cardiff, Pembrokeshire, Caerphilly, Swansea or Denbighshire.

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