As it has everything else, coronavirus has wrought havoc on wedding plans. Although there were fewer simchas set for April and May as traditionally observant Jews do not marry during while the Omer is being read, most of those who planned to marry in June, July and August are having to postpone.
“It’s such an uncertain time, although some couples may have opted for Zoom weddings,” said Karen Cinnamon of Jewish wedding blog Smashing The Glass.
Ms Cinnamon knows of 40-50 weddings affected by the pandemic. “Most of those planning to marry abroad will have decided to postpone into next year,” she said.
“Current government guidelines allow for gatherings of only five people (including the couple) and there are global travel bans in place. For many brides-to-be, the emotional side is the hardest part. Many of them may be feeling guilty at feeling upset over this when people are dying.”
Synagogue administrator Hayley Marks and food entrepreneur Dan Renak had been due to marry at Marble Arch Synagogue on May 31.
“When the media hype was beginning to build, we had a chat — oddly enough, on the anniversary of the date I proposed,” said Mr Renak. “We decided to postpone the wedding. All of a sudden, control was back in our possession and, because we acted fast, we were able to secure most of our suppliers for next year.”
Rabbi Alan Plancey, who had been due to officiate, offered to marry them in a smaller ceremony. “He has been amazing and with us every step of the way. He told us he will make whatever we want happen,” said Mr Renak.
Ms Marks, who has been assisting brides-to-be at Hampstead Synagogue as part of her job, said they have tried to see the silver lining: “This has given us another year being engaged, and without the stress of wedding planning as we’ve done all of that — and another year to get ready for the wedding.”
Sarah Rick-Harris had been due to marry fiancee Richard Braham in Marbella on June 21: “I lost my father when I was five, so I wanted to get married on Father’s Day. Our civil ceremony was set for Dad’s birthday just before then.”
Ms Rick-Harris, a 32-year-old trainee solicitor from Maida Vale, said she did not imagine they would need to change their date: “I started off pretty positive and thought it would be fine by June.”
But in March, the stress was huge. “I was having trouble sleeping and was checking the news hourly. I’d wake in the night and check, hoping it would magically have got better. Of course it hadn’t.”
So she and Mr Braham agreed to move the wedding to September. With the help of wedding planner, Dyana Simmons, Ms Rick-Harris rebooked band, venue, hotels, caterer and all other suppliers — which took a week.
But with Covid-19 showing no sign of abating, she panicked. “Richard’s mum has MS and we wouldn’t have felt comfortable putting her at risk, so we moved the date again — to June 2021. We did that in 48 hours!
She feels calmer now she has accepted the situation, but confessed to moments of sadness. “April 1 would have been my first dress fitting and that was incredibly upsetting.”
Rafaela Bartley had been due to marry Daniel Coburn on April 5. “We had been planning this for 18 months, as my family are in Brazil. There were also guests due to fly in from the US, Israel, Holland and Portugal. Forty per cent of our 100 guests were from abroad.
“When we first heard about coronavirus we decided to go ahead anyway, as Dan’s father is fighting cancer,” said Ms Bartley. But the couple realised they were in trouble when airlines were cancelling flights — about three weeks before their big day.
“When schools closed we thought we had no chance and eloped to Watford Registry Office! My brother, who had made it from Brazil, was there, with Dan’s parents and one of his sisters. We moved that ceremony several times as things moved so fast,” she said.
“We kept it intimate as my Dad couldn’t come into contact with anyone,” said Mr Coburn. The pair have both been married before and their three sons were also present.
They have now moved their ceremony to November 1 — “I want to see Raf walk down the aisle,” said Mr Coburn. “The hardest moment was the initial realisation that we couldn’t have our day. We have all the couples’ names printed with our wedding date, and menus, as well as welcome tote bags for every guest. We even have our Ketubah, which had been sent from Jerusalem. That will need to be redone.”
They decided to postpone to this year so that guests’ flights will still be valid. “Whether it’s a suitable date, who knows? All being well, we’ll be married in November,” said Mr Coburn.