Couples rearrange weddings for Saturday night to beat Covid deadline

Two United Synagogue couples hastily changed plans and got married last night before new Tier-4 restrictions came in


Two weddings which were due to take place in United Synagogue communities on Sunday were dramatically rearranged for yesterday evening in order to beat the new tier-4 restrictions deadline

Under the tier-4 rules for London, the South-East and East of England that came into force after midnight on Saturday, wedding ceremonies are no longer permitted for the next two weeks.

Debbie Waterman and James Buckman were due to be married at Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue and Jamie Collins and Chloe Martin at Edgware United’s today.

But as new broke of the new social distancing rules shortly after Shabbat went out, the United Synagogue rabbis were able to rearrange the chupot in time.

Rabbi Alex Chapper of BES said he came from shul yesterday evening to find messages from the couple wondering if they could still get married the following day.

“It wasn’t clear but when I saw the new guidelines, it said that you could only have weddings with six people in extenuating circumstances.

“I called them  and said ‘If it’s going to happen, it will  have to happen tonight - we’ll make it happen’. It felt a privilege to help them as they were desperate to get married.

“The chupah hadn’t been set  up, so the groom brought a tallit to shul and four of his friends held it on poles as a makeshift chupah. Johnn Turgel, the chazan and I, officiated. It was intimate and special and the bride told me it was magical.”

It was the first Saturday night wedding he had conducted.

Rabbi David Lister of Edgware said, “The groom and I had an email exchange after the news of Tier 4 broke shortly before 6pm after Shabbat and we decided we would try to make it happen before the restrictions came in at midnight.

“With a massive effort from all concerned, we had the bride and groom under a decorated chuppah at 10pm and they were duly married”

Rabbi Lister said he was “grateful to all who made a special effort to ensure that this lovely couple could marry legally. We wish them every happiness in future.”

Rabbi Julian Shindler, director of marriage authorisation at the Chief Rabbi’s Office, said that while Saturday night weddings were normally discouraged, “in these exceptional circumstances, permission was given for them to go-ahead”.

He said “One of the most vexatious consequences of the pandemic has been its impact on family semachot. Many weddings, for example, have been postponed - in some cases more than once - as the government guidelines have responded to the changing situation.

“Since the late spring, I have fielded many anxious conversations with couples disappointed to have their wedding plans curtailed or disrupted.

"Throughout this time, our office has likewise worked assiduously with my rabbinic colleagues to try and facilitate Covid-secure wedding ceremonies, whenever these have been permitted by law.”

Under the previous tier-3 rules, 15 people were allowed to be present at a ceremony.

Although synagogues can remain for services under tier-4 rules, Borehamwood and Elstree has now taken the decision to close.

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