Cressida Bonas: My perfectly imperfect lockdown wedding

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

I had a lockdown wedding. A 30-person, socially-distanced, sanitised church service was organised in under two weeks. Restrictions meant no hymns, no wind instruments and no speaking too loudly. A disappointment for a musical family. Not what we’d envisaged, but a more intimate and special day than we could ever have imagined. Imperfect yet perfect — a day we will never forget. Four days before the big day, I marched up and down Oxford Street on the hunt for a wedding dress. Finding nothing, I remembered an old Whistles dress I once wore for a James Arthur music video. I went home and found the dusty frock at the back of my cupboard. After some ironing, it looked good as new. Two days before the wedding, I woke up with a stye on my eyelid. It was red, bulbous and seemed to be growing. My mum recommended the old-fashioned Golden Eye ointment. That only made it worse. The doctor said it would need operating on after the wedding. Not ideal timing, I thought. ‘Well, it could be worse,’ the doctor said. How, I wondered.

The night before the wedding I stayed in a hotel with my family and my maid of honour. I went to bed with a cucumber compress on my eye. Morning arrived and we got lost on our way to the church. A supposedly 20-minute journey took an hour. We drove up and down a dual carriageway several times before eventually arriving at the church 40 minutes late. My dad seemed strangely quiet and I asked him if he was all right. He said: ‘It’s just like taking Sheba [his dog] to the vet.’ He didn’t want to do it, but knew he had to. He is very fond of my husband, Harry, by the way. But he didn’t want to let his daughter go.

I stepped out of the car and into a puddle. My sister Isabella told me not to worry, saying ‘The rain is a gift’ as I looked up to the heavens. People always say: ‘Oh, you don’t notice wet weather on your wedding day!’ With strong winds and horizontal rain, I definitely did. But as the old saying goes, ‘a wet knot is harder to untie’.

We were greeted by the vicar. This was her first lockdown wedding and she looked nervous. All the men wore summer suits, apart from my dad who insisted on wearing his tailcoat (I chose not to fight that particular battle). As Harry and I both have abnormally large families (22 siblings and four sets of parents between us), it was impossible for them all to be there. But the whole time I just wished that they were. This was the only sad part of an otherwise happy day. I am certain we value our family and friends even more when they are absent. My dad and I walked slowly up the aisle. At one point it looked as if we might never get to the altar. I gave his arm a squeeze. I couldn’t look at his watery eyes, I knew it would set me off. Apparently, there’s nothing worse than a blubbing bride. Then I saw Harry’s face, and everything fell into place. The Covid regulations, the uncertainty, the plans that got turned upside down, all were gone when I took Harry’s hand.

The service was moving despite the lack of hymns. There was a feeling that everyone was fully engaged in it. With big weddings, I often find this isn’t the case. Hymns were replaced with readings and some beautiful piano playing by Harry’s and my siblings. The keyboard was dutifully wiped and sanitised between each performance. Our mums read from ‘Desiderata’. My aunt recently passed away and this was her favourite poem. It hung on the wall in her kitchen and every day she would be reminded to ‘go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence’.

Before we knew we were having a ‘Covid wedding’, we’d talk about the party, the guest list, the cake, people’s expectations, what it should or shouldn’t look like. Having a small portion of Harry’s and my family in the church made it just simply special. After the service, swapping heels for trainers, we rode away on horses. At first my horse looked at me nervously. He didn’t seem keen on my dress. Once finally aloft, with hearts full, we rode off into the stormy weather and into our future life.

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