Weddings in 2021 - Covid, 'normal', Covid?
Weddings in 2021 started a bit late. The Covid-19 pandemic had not gone away, with the year starting with restrictions yet again. The third National lockdown in the UK. My final wedding of 2020 had been brought forward 24 hours before restrictions took effect pre-Christmas. After a socially distanced Christmas, the New Year saw some of my couples having to re-assess their plans, with many moving their wedding dates to later in 2021 and even on to 2022. Some dropped off as I couldn't do their new date, being already booked. One wedding was thwarted by international travel restrictions but another couple who live in San Francisco did manage to get their wedding day in Sussex.
Back in 'Lockdown', it was a question of when weddings - reasonably-sized ones at least - could start again? The 'stay at home' advice ended in March. In April weddings could have up to 15 people, by mid-May this had risen to 'up to 30'. My first wedding to shoot was in May. Restricted numbers, masks, hand gel, seating spaced out and no standing up until the registrars had left the room(?) Once they had gone, the restrictions melted away a bit. The main problem - it rained pretty much the whole day.
Come mid-June and restrictions at weddings ended. Not before a couple of local weddings and when I say 'local' - the commute back from one took me less than 30 seconds - I shot the wedding for my neighbours. It was also the only wedding in which I was not allowed to photograph the ceremony, due to Horsham Registry office interpreting the rules differently from everyone else. There was space in the room, I was double jabbed and wearing a mask, but no, no access.
A common theme at Registry offices has been insisting people wear masks to walk the twenty to thirty feet to a ceremony room, then sit together for almost an hour not wearing masks and being told to wear the masks again for the walk back out... I only shot two church weddings in 2021. At one the vicar was asking people to wear masks as they entered the church and keep them on, at the other, no such rules, just an optional squirt of hand gel. But they were a month apart and reflect how as the summer pushed on and into the autumn, weddings began to feel more 'normal'?
Weddings in 2021 - wear a mask, don't wear a mask?
With restrictions easing as the year went on, still mask-wearing stayed in part. Mostly just during the ceremonies. Many summer weddings were focused on the outdoors - several first dances timed for the sunset. Keeping as much as possible outdoors has become a strategy during these Covid times. Sometimes it would just be me wearing a mask during the actual ceremony, largely as I'm stood so close. Sometimes the only masks you saw were worn by the waiting staff. (On a personal note, I've been wearing a mask in shops, on trains, etc throughout. The aim has been never to miss a wedding). The vaccines helped too. People got more confident - the dance floor started to get used. There had been a ruling in the summer about no dance floors when everything else was open.
Weddings in 2021 - mostly in Sussex and London
Weddings in 2021 were two-thirds in Sussex, with most of the rest in London (plus Oxfordshire, Essex, Surrey and Hampshire). No weddings abroad, for obvious reasons. I finally got back onto an airplane in December. (Masks and lots of tests/paperwork).
Weddings that were just for three hours, others up to eleven hours. Weddings for the sister of a 2016 groom, plus the mother of a 2015 bride. Weddings that had moved venue due to Covid. Some weddings that were on their third date. One had a delightful picnic after the planned pub reception had to be canceled, as the pub could no longer host. Weddings in gardens, in fields, in barns, atop a seaside cinema, in registry offices, a big manor house, old town halls, on a steam train, in a pub garden, in a Victorian pub, above a Sussex pub, in an old chapel, a railway arch and in a wood, surrounded by big Redwood trees.
What about weddings in 2022?
As I write this (Jan 2022) my first wedding of 2022 should be in February - for the sister of a 2014 groom. Later in the year will be weddings that should have happened in 2020. Other weddings that I have booked in the last few days. Will 'normal' be back? Will another variant appear and disrupt? The last wedding I shot in 2021, the reception was in a function room above a pub in Lewes. A band, a smoke machine, and a very crowded dance floor. Made great images. But also under the shadow of the Omicron variant, said to be more transmissible. If there was a space in which to catch Covid? Lateral Flow test was negative. Will we still be doing these in a few months? I think 2021 showed that once the restrictions ease, weddings are truly back. 2021 saw a progression from socially-distanced small weddings to weddings with packed dance floors. Everything currently points to 2022 being a more normal year for weddings.
Here's to a busy year of weddings in 2022! Please do get in touch if you are planning a wedding this year.
There was that one night though...
A wedding on a Sunday in August 2021. A wedding ceremony at The Asylum Chapel in Peckham, followed by a reception at the nearby AMP Studios. All just by the Old Kent Road. With a late afternoon kickoff, I drove up from Sussex and parked up on a street near the Asylum Chapel. At this point, I made a big mistake. I decided to attach a Stoplock to the steering wheel. Wedding coverage done, including getting absolutely soaked in a heavy downpour as everyone walked from the chapel to the Studios, I got back to my car at 11.15 pm. Put the key in the lock, nothing, Stoplock refused to open. Tried for twenty minutes, no joy. Rang the AA. They may get to me by 7am?
Stuck in my car - no food, no water, no book, no iPad, no spare battery for my phone, no warm clothing - lucky it was August. Just sat watching drunks walk by and one fox who spent the night patrolling the street. A van, not AA but sent by them, arrived at 2.30am. He got the key out of the lock - it had broken - but could not get the lock off the steering wheel. "Good luck" he said and drove off. Another call to the AA, credit card details taken to upgrade. Truck should be with me later in the morning. Eventually my car was put on a flatbed just after 9am with myself and the car driven back to Sussex. The AA guy had a look at the lock and offered advice. Frantic search around the house for the spare key. A drop of oil, key in the lock, it came off. NEVER TO GO ON AGAIN!!
A few weeks later, I was driving up to and parking near the same spot for another Asylum Chapel/AMP Studios wedding.
(They say there is a 10-year guarantee on this product - I have had no reply from the company at all about this - be warned if buying this Stoplock! I think the 'professional' bit is a joke?)
On the plus side...
I won Wedding Photographer of the Year (South-East)!!
A nice way to finish off this year of weddings - well from May at least, once restrictions eased. Based upon the votes and comments from the wedding couples of 2021, along with an assessment of my work by a judging panel of professional wedding photographers, I won the Wedding Photography category in the South-East Regional Final of The Wedding Industry Awards. It's the third time I have won this. Thank you to all these couples who booked me to capture their weddings days and for their votes and comments about the resulting work!
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