What it was like to get married in middle of pandemic

This is it. After everything - all the planning, restrictions, border closures, rise in optimism then crushing disappointment and the long conversations to cope with the uncertainty of it all - we finally did it.

We finally got married and never did I imagine it would be in the middle of a global pandemic.

During the strange months of this year, various government restrictions forced us to cancel our June wedding then, in the fleeting mid-year window when Queensland's borders were open, we booked a new date in October.

Soon after, an outbreak hit Queensland and things really escalated.

It wasn't an option for us to cancel again. Even if we did, the state could erupt in another outbreak and plans would change once more.

So my partner, Liam, and I pledged to get married on that day regardless of what it may look like.

Jane Armitstead and Liam Butterworth on their wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures
Jane Armitstead and Liam Butterworth on their wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures

All we prayed for was my partner's only sibling, his brother, who lives in Sydney, would be able to stand beside him.

All other immediate family members, including our parents and my siblings, are in Queensland.

But the unforgiving virus led Annastacia Palaszczuk to slam the Queensland borders shut to all states in August and tighten restrictions, including at weddings.

There was to be no dancing, mingling or singing.

In the midst of it all, it hardly seemed the time to be worrying about having a wedding.

Why do they really matter anyway?

But weddings matter. They matter because this virus made it evidently clear how quickly everything can be taken away from us, especially the ones we love.

It made us want family near, to keep the light from fading, to feel the warmth, the kindness and remember the human spirit is all we need to feel sometimes.

It matters because weddings are often the only opportunity family and friends have to be together, to laugh, dance and embrace and be surrounded by love and happiness.

When, at one point, those things were taken away, like dancing, mingling, hugging and family who couldn't travel, it was devastating. But we clung to hope.

Unfortunately for us, our wedding was the day before the state election and the politics were complex.

Jane Armitstead and Liam Butterworth with their bridal party on their wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures
Jane Armitstead and Liam Butterworth with their bridal party on their wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures

In the weeks leading up to the wedding the rules were rough; borders were shut (and stayed shut), you must sit at all times, tables must be separated, no dancing and no mingling.

But two weeks out from our wedding Palaszczuk changed the rules again, announcing we could now mingle and limited dancing was allowed.

Our plans changed once more; we changed the seating plan and upped our duo to a full band.

The borders, however, were due to open on November 1 at 1am, the day after the election and 36 hours after our wedding.

With the timeline so close, our local MP indicated an exemption might be considered.

But, two days out from the wedding, that exemption was brutally and clinically denied, banning Liam's brother, family and all our interstate family and friends from being with us.

It was upsetting but overall, wildly disappointing.

Liam's bond with his brother is tight, deepened when their mother passed away in 2014. To not have him there was heartbreaking

But he, alongside the 50 friends and family from interstate and overseas who also couldn't be there, watched the livestream of our ceremony from home. The unforgiving virus had already taken so much away from us but it was never going to take away love, whether that was felt near or far.

Friends and family sent us pictures of them watching along from Ireland, London, Sydney, Tasmania and right across Australia.

So, a few weeks ago, when I finally walked down the aisle with my dad by my side, beaming friends and family watching on, my best friend waiting at the end, we could feel that love from everywhere.

 

Jane Armitstead and Liam Butterworth on their wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures
Jane Armitstead and Liam Butterworth on their wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures

Despite what it took to get there, it was still the best feeling in the world.

Under a floral arbour, surrounded by the lush gardens of the Brisbane City Botanical Gardens at The Gardens Club, we held each other's hands tighter than we ever had.

Neither of us wanted to let go. We were each other's comfort, we always have been.

Both of us bubbling with emotion; joy, relief, happiness and, it must be said, emotional exhaustion.

On the verge of uncontrollable tears, we squeezed a little tighter and looked into each other's eyes and smiled smiles that are still on our faces.

We knew everything was, and always will be, OK because we have each other and fierce love from family and friends around us.

The pandemic reminded us of what a wedding is really about; two people making a lifelong commitment to each other; who want to stand by each other's side always.

We stripped everything back.

I wore my mum's beautiful wedding dress, a dress she wore when she married my dad 38 years ago.

My bridesmaids did all the flowers, my sister-in-law made the floral arbour, my brother-in-law and a family friend played the ceremony music and a friend designed new updated invites (after I'd handwritten the original ones!)

 

Jane Armitstead on her wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures
Jane Armitstead on her wedding day. Photos: Figtree Pictures

My wedding ring also includes diamonds from a ring of my grandmas.

Love in the time of COVID-19 is one like we've never seen or felt before.

There have been so many heartbroken families across the world.

Those who haven't been able to mourn the loss of loved ones together, be there to comfort each other or feel each other's embrace and have been brutally separated.

It's not lost on us how lucky we were to have had a wedding at all which is why our wedding became much bigger than us.

It was the reason people had to smile again. It was the chance to laugh, feel joy again, get dressed up and leave the house, feel and witness happiness in a tumultuous year.

With my new husband next to me on the dancefloor of Lightspace in Fortitude Valley, we looked around us.

Friends and family dancing, singing together into pretend microphones, standing together having a drink, laughing with laughs that fill your heart with warmth.

They were enjoying life with a spirit I haven't seen in years. That day 2020 was officially rewritten.

It was now a year that had become memorable for all the right reasons.

As borders open and restrictions lift across Australia, families will reconnect, strangers will smile a knowing smile of solidarity and hearts will be full again. Hopefully now many others will have the chance, as we did, to hold onto those close to you and watch the light return.

Originally published as What it was like to get married in middle of pandemic



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