Megan Kennedy and Tom Cahoon had spent months planning their wedding for March 2020 – and then the pandemic hit.
With just two weeks to go, they made the difficult decision to postpone to October this year.
But as the coronavirus restrictions went on, the couple realised their wedding would be put on hold for a second time.
Wanting to say ‘I do’ the couple decided to go ahead with a small ceremony and planned a huge party for 2021.
But with numbers limited, Megan wasn’t able to have her original bridal party, so instead she asked her two grandmothers – Mary Kennedy, 90, and Gillian Holloway, 80, to step in.
She explains: ‘I had a bridal party of 10 in our original plan, and as most of my bridesmaids couldn’t even be in the church on the day we got married, we thought it would be unfair to choose anyone from the original group and instead ask my grandmas to step in and be my bridesmaids for the day.
‘It’s quite an unusual thing to do – but this year has not been a usual year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
‘My grandmas are the strongest and bravest women I know, and it has been so unfair on them that they have had to spend so much of this year worried about the pandemic on top of their own health concerns – we just wanted then to realise how important they are.’
Tom, 35, and Megan, 34, met on Match.com in the summer of 2017.
Megan says: ‘Neither of us were expecting to meet someone we wanted to marry, but within a few days of creating our profiles we started talking, met for a walk around Regents Park and we have been together ever since.’
Their original plan was to get married in March 2020 in London with 120 people during the day and 200 people for their evening reception in the city at an old art deco banking hall.
Tom’s family and friends were all flying in from Northern Ireland, where he is originally from, to join the celebrations, as well as other loved ones who no longer live in London.
‘We were going to have a weekend full of celebrations while everyone was together,’ Megan said.
But in March, the global coronavirus pandemic was becoming more concerning and the couple realised it could have an impact on their plans.
Megan adds: ‘As we got closer to our wedding date in March, guests were getting nervous and we were very worried about what would happen – at this point the government had just advised against going to events and bars and restaurants rather than closing them, so all of our vendors and venues were still willing to go ahead, so contractually it was on us to cancel and potentially lose everything.
‘Two weeks before we were due to get married, we had to make the decision to postpone and quickly reorganise everything for another date later in the year, desperately trying not to lose money as we had already made all of our final payments to everyone as we were so close to the wedding date.
‘This decision was heartbreaking, but was absolutely the right thing to do – the government announced the national lockdown later that same week. Our guests had also had a terrible time trying to move their flights and hotel rooms as at this point venues were still navigating what to do so early on in the pandemic.’
Megan had met people living in Hong Kong, where cases of coronavirus had come earlier and based on their experiences, she thought things would calm down quickly and they would still be able to get married in 2020, setting a date for October.
She says: ‘At first we were positive that things would improve as we got into the summer, and I worked with teams based in Hong Kong and could see they had the pandemic under control there, so assumed we would be in a similar position later in the year.
‘As we got closer to September we could see that our plan for October would not be able to go ahead as planned, so we postponed our big celebration again to September 2021, and had to go through the process of working our venue and vendor availability again, then asking our guests to move all of their bookings for a second time.’
The couple decided to go ahead with a ceremony at their church, St Stephens in Dulwich, and a small reception dinner at a house and local pub, with 30 guests, according to the guidelines at that point.
But two weeks before the wedding, the number was cut to 15 and they had to rearrange the guest list again.
Megan says: ‘We went ahead with a small dinner reception at the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall after our small church service. This was incredibly stressful as we had already been so disappointed that we couldn’t get married in March, and with rules changing so rapidly we didn’t really believe it was going to happen until the actual wedding day!
‘We decided not to watch the news and self isolate on the lead up to the wedding to stay calm and avoid us being the reason to cancel. We couldn’t let ourselves get excited until the very last minute which was a shame but we knew when we decided to try to get married again there was always a risk it would all get cancelled again.
‘We really wanted to get married, and with things being so uncertain and this year being so tough we wanted to see if we could do it before weddings got cancelled altogether again. We were happy to move the celebration but the most important thing was always to make the commitment to each other.
‘I am very close to my Grandmothers and have always wanted them with me on the day, a big reason why we went ahead in October was to make sure they could be there with us.’
Megan’s grandmothers had been shielding since March and were only able to come to the wedding for a short time, staying away from other guests.
With Megan’s bridal party of 10 being too large to be included, her grandmothers were on hand as bridesmaids on the day.
She says: ‘It was so important to us that they were there, and as they had been shielding since March we could understand that this could be quite overwhelming for them, but we also really wanted to make them feel special.
When Megan told her grandmothers the plan, she admits they both laughed but soon got into the spirit of it.
She says: ‘At first they thought it was ridiculous – and that we should give their places to someone else as the numbers were so limited. When I explained how important they were to me, and that I needed them there by my side they both accepted and got so excited.
‘This has been such an isolating time for them, so we really wanted to make them feel special, and we ensured they were safe at all times and only came into contact with people outside of their household for the photos.
‘They loved being VIP’s for a few hours and it was so lovely to have them with me for the most important day of my life. Whatever happens now with future celebrations this will be the highlight of this experience, it was such a special moment.’
Although the day itself was special for the pair, it was not like anything they had imagined.
Megan adds: ‘With so many restrictions in place and numbers being so limited we got ready separately only with a couple of people with us, 11 people for the reception at the Corinthia Hotel, London and 15 at the church – but so many family and friends came along to cheer us on outside the church. We loved every minute.
‘This has been such a stressful year for everyone, it was such a feel good moment for our friends and family and we have lots of memories we will cherish from the day.’
They’re hoping to be able to go ahead with their big wedding celebration in September next year, using as many of their original plans as possible.
Megan says: ‘We are hoping we can go ahead with our reception we had already planned and paid for. There is still so much uncertainty with whether our venue, hotels and vendors will all still be in business, and if our wedding insurance will pay out if the worst does happen.
‘We could potentially lose a lot of money and be very disappointed again.
‘We are enjoying being newlyweds for now, and staying positive for next year- if the reception goes ahead next year without any restrictions it is going to be a very much needed reunion and party for everyone after all this time!’
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