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There are less than two weeks to go before Amber Arrowsmith-Gavin’s wedding, and she is finding it difficult to be excited. What ought to be one of the most joyous days in her and her partner’s lives is being threatened once again by the Covid-19 pandemic and a potential delay in the last stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Amber, 24, and her partner Kat Arrowsmith-Gavin, 23, have postponed their wedding no fewer than four times since it was originally supposed to take place last year, on 25 June.
After several delays, they became legally married in October, in a tiny ceremony where they couldn’t hug their parents and guests had to sit spaced apart. They then rescheduled their wedding reception to 26 June 2021, which would see 70 guests gathering in a golf club in Plymouth to celebrate their love.
But a surge in the Delta variant of Covid-19 has now meant a rising number of infections, which means the government’s plan to lift all social restrictions on 21 June potentially faces a delay of at least a couple of weeks, according to reports. If the current restrictions on weddings remain in place due to the delay, only up to 30 guests will be allowed at wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions on the couple’s latest wedding date.
“I cannot mentally comprehend rescheduling, replanning, repaying and rebooking my wedding and all of its knock-on effects for a fifth time,” Amber tells The Independent. “We aren’t asking to go to a nightclub with 2,000 people, we aren’t asking to fly to Australia for 22 hours, and we aren’t asking to go to a concert or sports game with 20,000 people.
"We are asking for a small group of up to 70 family and friends, most of whom are vaccinated and others who will absolutely do a Covid test, to finally celebrate with us.”
I cannot mentally comprehend rescheduling, replanning, repaying and rebooking my wedding
When the first national coronavirus lockdown was imposed in the UK last March, Amber and Kat – who are both from Anglesey in North Wales – held off on cancelling their June wedding as no one knew how long restrictions would last at the time and Boris Johnson suggested the “tide could be turned” in as little as 12 weeks. It became clear in May they would not be able to hold the wedding they wanted.
“We had to cancel and reschedule it for October, we told everybody to save the date because the registry office said things would be normal by then,” says Amber.
“But of course, September came around and we had to tell almost everybody they couldn’t come anymore. People who were still invited also started telling us they didn’t want to travel because they were worried about the virus, so our numbers were cut down even more.”
So instead, the couple had a 35-minute registration ceremony, which Amber described as “bizarre” due to the restrictions in place at the time. "There was no hugging our parents during the registration and to walk down the aisle, my dad and I had to wear a mask. Our group pictures had to be taken with masks on.
“Everybody would normally be sat watching the ceremony next to each other but we had to have spaced out rows and seats in between people. I think the guests felt lonely during the ceremony as they couldn’t turn around and chat, they had to sit facing forward.
“It was so strange. We were allowed to stand closer to the registrar than to our parents to sign the registry book!”
As a result they have been waiting for their June date to finally celebrate in the way they have long wanted to. There is added significance to Amber and Kat’s chosen wedding date in June, as it would take place during Pride Month. As a same-sex couple, they felt it was important to get married during Pride Month to reflect on the fact that at one point in time, they couldn’t have gotten married and now they can.
They also want to start a family sooner rather than later, and because they are a same-sex couple, they must be married in order to begin a family and be recognised as joint parents.
According to Berry Smith Lawyers, lesbian couples who are civil partners or married at the time of conception and conceive a child through artificial insemination will both be automatically treated as their child’s legal parents. This applies to couples who conceive through a licensed clinic or through a private arrangement at home.
We can’t do what Boris Johnson has done, which is the luxury of having a baby first and getting married later
But non-civil partners or unmarried couples will only be treated as legal parents if they conceive through a fertility clinic in the UK licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. In order to be recognised as joint parents, they must sign election forms before the date of conception.
“I know a lot of people were thinking, why did you have to rush to get married in the middle of a pandemic? But for us, as a same sex couple in the UK and you want to have a baby, you have to be married,” explains Amber. “We can’t do what Boris Johnson has done, which is the luxury of having a baby first and getting married later.
“My wife and I are not traditionalists by a long way but unfortunately it’s the law. So the pandemic has put a dampener not just on our wedding but also on starting a family. It’s delaying more and more things for us.”
Amber’s hopes for their wedding planned for 26 June are simple; she just wants to have her and Kat’s loved ones in one place to celebrate. “I don’t care what food we have, I could be getting married in a bus station for all I care,” she says.
“I just want everyone to be there and have something to celebrate. I want everyone to see us in our wedding dresses, I want to have my nieces as my flower girls and both sets of grandparents to be there.”
According to reports, the prime minister is still determined that 30-person limits on weddings will be lifted even if other lockdown restrictions remain in place. This would allow for unlimited numbers of guests, but guests will still be required to wear masks when not eating or drinking. However this is not confirmed so couples still wait for an answer.
Amber says: “We’re happy to ask all of our guests to take a Covid test beforehand even if the guidelines don’t require it. We’re not asking for a massive wedding with 1,000 people. It’s literally just a small one with 70 people. I just want people to see it’s not as though we want to go to a nightclub or anything.
“I’ve had this conversation with hundreds of people. Everything just feels the same old and I don’t know whether to hold out hope.”