Former Sassy Editor Lauren Bright shares what it’s like to get married in the midst of a global pandemic…
Needless to say, it’s been a difficult time for couples who were hoping to get married this year. But a lot of them have refused to let a pandemic get in the way of their big day. Besides, if anyone could pull off a pandemic wedding in style, it’s our former editor Lauren Bright.
Lauren had always planned to celebrate with her friends and family in Hong Kong, where she was born and raised. But she also had plans for another wedding ceremony in France this summer, which has sadly been put on hold due to travel restrictions. Nevertheless, thanks to a touch of creativity, a helping hand from her loved ones and the magic of technology, she was able to really make the most of the situation. With a last minute dress change, FaceTime speeches and a reception back at her and her partner’s flat, it was definitely a wedding to remember.
Read more: What It’s Like To Postpone Your Wedding
Every bride has a proposal story. What’s yours?
When we go back to the UK for Christmas, we always visit Chatsworth House with our family. Every year, the house is beautifully decorated. Each room is filled with amazing displays, usually following a theme. For my Christmas present, Nick arranged for us to stay at one of the bed and breakfasts on the estate and said that we needed to go early to drop off our bags (little did I know our family – which included my mum and brother from Hong Kong – were following in the car behind us).
We got to the estate early so Nick suggested we walk around the grounds. We ended up at the base of the Chatsworth Cascade, which was built in 1696. While I was busy reading one of the signs about its history, Nick kept saying my name – but, of course, I kept ignoring him. When I eventually turned around, Nick got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was such a surprise. The best part was when we went back to the carpark and I found our family there with champagne and cake!
I later found out that they were all in on Nick’s plan. Mum even carried the ring all the way from Hong Kong (which caused her a fair amount of stress!). We got to spend the rest of the day celebrating with them at Chatsworth, and then Nick and I had the night alone together at The Devonshire Arms, Beeley. It was an amazing day that both of us will never forget.
Tell us about the ring.
Nick chose five different diamond rings at the Diamond Registry in Hong Kong and asked my mum and two best friends to help him pick out the final one. It’s a beautiful solitaire with a really thin white gold band. It meant even more knowing that Nick was able to involve the people I love most.
For my wedding ring, we went to a jeweller based in Wan Chai called Ellis Jewellery that my mum has been going to for 20 years. The jewellers there were able to repurpose two rings that my mum had given to me for my 18th birthday into my wedding band. Nick was also able to have his great-grandfather’s ring, which was passed down to him from his late grandmother, remade into his wedding band.
What did you do for your hen party?
Unfortunately, the plans that my bridesmaids in Hong Kong had made couldn’t go ahead due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and gatherings, so they ended up taking me for a massage at The Right Spot. It ended up being a really relaxed and sweet way to make the most of of a very strange situation.
I’m really lucky that I was able to have a hen do in London when I went back to the UK last Christmas. One of my bridesmaids living there organised a life-drawing session followed by a boozy brunch with some of my best friends from university and school, and my gorgeous sister-in-law was able to be there too. It was amazing to see them all, especially before COVID hit. I feel really lucky that I was able to have multiple hens!
Tell us about the dress. How many did you try on?
Before COVID, we had hoped to have a lunch and party at the Aberdeen Boat Club and I bought a full sequinned midi dress from Whistles to wear for the occasion. With everything that happened, it didn’t feel quite right to wear something that was so sparkly and fun. We were also only going to be able to have a very small celebration, so I wanted to find something that was a little more casual and appropriate. With just a week to go before the wedding, I was feeling unsure about what to wear and, to be honest, a little sad about it all.
I was in Central running some errands and decided to pop into a few shops to see if there was anything suitable. I tried loads of different white and cream dresses and playsuits, but still couldn’t find anything I was in love with. I ended up in Zara and, luckily, one of my bridesmaids suggested I try on a linen dress that I hadn’t initially been so keen on. It turned out to be perfect and was only $500!
We love that! What about the rest of the styling?
I then quickly ordered some Aldo shoes from Zalora. I also wore a vintage clip that I found in an antique store in Stamford, England, and had that styled at the amazing Love Hair before the ceremony. They are so supportive and accommodating at Love Hair and made the day feel really special, even during such a strange time! For something borrowed and blue I wore my bridesmaid’s Monica Vinader bracelet.
As all of the nail salons were shut, my wonderful friend, who used to work as the manager of one of Hong Kong’s best hotel spas, learned how to do a soft gel manicure and bought all the supplies needed to give me an at-home mani. It was a really sweet thing for her to do and made me feel a bit more excited for the day despite everything that was going on. I did my own makeup at Love Hair using a few products from Charlotte Tilbury.
The best advice you received before the big day?
One of my friends in the UK, whose wedding I attended last year, said that you feel like a celebrity when you’re a bride. I remember her standing on a mezzanine and singing out at the crowd – she was just the most badass bride who really enjoyed every single moment. She definitely inspired me to just enjoy the day, be present in the moment and make the most of being the centre of attention.
What was the wedding like?
The plan we had for our Hong Kong celebration changed multiple times! We needed to be mindful of the restrictions in place, whilst also ensuring everyone’s safety. In the end, we decided to keep it simple and just have our wedding signing at Cotton Tree Drive, followed by a few drinks back at our flat.
At the time, weddings were allowed a maximum of 20 people at the registry office and our flat could probably only fit that many people too. Nick invited our guy mates round to ours in the morning and his best man made him bacon and egg cobs. I slept over at my mum’s house and in the morning went to Love Hair to get ready. We then all met at Cotton Tree Drive. It was a beautiful sunny day.
Nick’s family in the UK, who were supposed to be in Hong Kong for the occasion, woke up at 3am UK time and dressed up in their clothes so that they could watch the quick ceremony via FaceTime, as did my Dad in Sydney. My brother’s friend offered to take photographs for us on the day. After the signing, we went with him to take more shots around Hong Kong Park. We are so, so happy with the photographs – he did such an amazing job!
After the picture-taking we headed back to our flat which we had decorated with DIY bunting and flowers. My mum and bridesmaids had made these delicious grazing boards for people to snack on, and one of our friends supplied lots of bottles of sparkling rosé as a wedding gift! We got through a lot of booze that day… including some homemade infused gins and vodkas from our family friend (which were a big hit). We were able to also use the roof of our building for drinks and speech making.
One highlight was the cake; my bridesmaid’s mum made us a delicious homemade cake that was decorated with thyme and roses. We enjoyed this just after another highlight of the day – a video reel of messages from all our family and friends abroad, put together by my brother and his girlfriend. It was such a surprise, and there were definitely tears of laughter and of joy.
What were memorable parts from the speeches?
As our Hong Kong celebration was just in our home and our family from the UK and Australia were not able to be there, we didn’t have a traditional set up for speeches. That being said, both of our dad’s were able to say a few words in different ways. Nick’s dad read out his speech via FaceTime which made us both very emotional, and my brother read out a speech that my dad in Australia had written.
Even though it was really hard not having all of our close family there physically, we are so grateful to have the technology that we have today, which allowed us to still involve Nick’s dad, mum and sister, and my dad and grandmother. Two of our really good friends even recorded the whole registry signing live for them, which we so appreciated. It wasn’t the same as having them there, but at least it felt like they were a part of the day in some way.
What was the most stressful element of planning your wedding?
We considered having a lunch for 30 people at various venues, then looked into whether we could do something on a family friend’s rooftop or barbecue area… but each time we planned something the rules changed, so we had to adjust. The most upsetting part of the whole process was when we realised our family in the UK and Australia wouldn’t be able to fly over as planned. That really hurt and was hard to accept, but we are so fortunate to have my mum, brother and some of our best friends living here. We were also so grateful to have been able to use technology to still see the family we were missing.
Obviously, COVID has created stress and difficulties for people planning to get married this year. It was unexpected and disappointing to have to change so many plans that we’d been looking forward to for over a year. That being said, we are always aware of how fortunate we are to just be healthy and safe during this time. The pandemic has caused so many awful things for people around the world, our cancelled wedding plans are nowhere near comparable.
At the end of the day, we are lucky that we get to share our lives together and that we were able to get married this year. It has definitely made me appreciate even more that marriage and choosing to be with someone is the important part. The wedding is just an addition – an extra fun party on top of something that’s already special.
And which part did you enjoy the most?
Planning this wedding was difficult to say the least, but it also made us more adaptable and open to different ideas. I ended up doing a lot of DIY; instead of paying a fortune for a professional florist, I went to Woodsy Garden and chose loads of flowers to decorate our flat with myself. I also picked up some flowers for my bouquet and used a few of the decoration ones to make our own DIY flower buttonholes for Nick and our friends. This was actually much easier than I thought (with the help of my mum and friends!), and I really enjoyed it.
It made me feel a lot more relaxed about the flowers for our French wedding celebration (which we will hopefully still have at some point!).
I also made a slideshow of some photos of us with our family and friends which we had on loop on our TV in the flat. Looking through all those memories was really special.
Read more: 10 Ways To Save On Your Big Day
What were the wedding favours?
For wedding favours, I went to a tiny little Aladdin’s cave of Hong Kong-style pottery in Soho that I’ve been going to for years. I ended up getting some porcelain chopsticks for everyone and made little DIY labels to tie through the top of them to say thank you.
Any tips and tricks for brides-to-be?
For a small wedding, I would recommend trying to be your own florist. I found it fun being able to select my own flowers and it made my bouquet feel even more special. It’s also nice to support local and smaller businesses if possible, which will also end up being a better deal for you. If you’re lucky and have amazing friends, I would also remember that so many people will want to help and that you should take them up on any offers they may have!
Read more: 10 Ways To Save On Your Big Day
All images courtesy of Nik Pillay via Lauren Bright.