29th March 2020
Garden on Zoom
Intimate Garden Wedding During COVID19 Shared With Sixty Guests On Zoom
Firstly our love story, how did we get here? Thirty something years ago, Darran and I used to date in Cairns, I was a kiwi living in Australia and Darran had driven up from the Gold Coast to work in his sister’s restaurant. Late at night in a nightclub, in walked this tall, blonde, beach bum, I was dressed to the 9’s and thought to myself, that’s yum. Two years of dating, we headed our separate ways, I was building a fashion label and our lives were heading in different directions.
We had spoken a couple of times over the years, then two years ago a friend request came through facebook. After chatting for nearly a year Darran asked me to join him on the Gold Coast for a holiday, of which at that time I declined. I had had a stroke which came totally out of the blue, a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I did not see that coming. six months later he asked me again and I agreed to holiday with him on the Gold Coast.
Our love reunited, back to NZ I went and made arrangements to move back to OZ. We were living in Weipa at the time and started making our wedding plans from there. We chose the Gold Coast knowing that Darran’s parents couldn’t fly. We picked a venue and started to get organized. We gave the kiwis and our friends around Australia the heads up for the date, so they could book accommodation and keep an eye out for deals on flights.
Unfortunately a workplace injury for Darran, saw us leave Weipa and move to the Gold Coast for him to have shoulder surgery and recover.
Venue and all Vendors Were Chosen
We checked out the venue we had looked at and quickly changed our minds. I had fallen in love with another venue “The Mobile Barber Depot” a barber shop during the day and a wedding venue on the weekend. Only thing was Saturday 28th March wasn’t available however Sunday 29th March was, so we took it.
A marriage celebrant located in Brisbane was recommended by my best friend in NZ. Catering, venue, celebrant, dress, rings, wedding vows, wedding car being driven up from Melbourne, everybody that was travelling had flights and accommodation booked, music, playlist, candles, cake and our cake topper ordered from America had arrived. Only last thing was hair and makeup, and a pre wedding BBQ to organize. I felt so confident it was all happening.
Heart Operation Back Home In New Zealand
We had to make a trip home to NZ at Xmas for a heart procedure to close the hole in my heart, after some recovery time we returned back to Australia.
The countdown was now on, my sister in law received her visa, I was so excited, that meant all my family could be here. My nephew had to pull out, with a pregnant partner, they needed all the cash for later.
A Two Week Lockdown Was Announced In New Zealand and Then Australia, Our Plans Changed
As the development of the Coronavirus was happening, we had been watching the impact on the world. I had full confidence that everything would be okay. The wedding was getting closer.
Two weeks before our wedding, Darran and I took a trip to go and visit some friends and on the news it came…….Jacinta Ardern had announced a two week lockdown on anybody entering NZ. Our hearts sank, the messages from the family started to come through. In the twenty minute drive, we discussed this whole new scenario. A facebook messenger group had previously been set up, frantic messages were now going back and forth between us and my family.
My Mum’s health was a concern, being over 70 years old with existing respiratory problems, my nephew with low immune system and the isolation of two weeks on return. We had to truthfully assess the situation, family members couldn’t put themselves at risk nor afford the extra two weeks off work. A decision had to be made, a decision to postpone our wedding with no plan B. We headed upstairs to our friends for drinks.
Many more messages went back and forth, we had to let everybody know, both our families and friends.
It was hard, so hard, all that work and BOOM, just had to stop like that. We knew it was the right decision to make. The next couple of days were flat, having to cope with the decision we had made. The Australian government then followed NZ and put in the two week isolation, so we knew our wedding wouldn’t have been able to go ahead. Day by day the closures started happening, bars, restaurants, everything started closing in.
We contacted our vendors and to be honest they were great, they understood and everything went smoothly with our cancellation. Getting married is the day you say “I DO”, you declare your love and your promises, you look your partner in the eye and “Yes” you are going to spend the rest of your life with that person. Traditional weddings are changing in the face of what we are facing with Coronavirus times. We (Lauren who is 55 years and Darran who is 57) like many couples started planning our wedding one year ago.
I Wished For My Beautiful Daughter To Be Part Of Our Big Day
I hadn’t planned anything for our changed wedding day, but did think we needed to do something. We organized Darran’s family that lived local to come over at midday for drinks. We worked out all the time differences across Australia and New Zealand and invited everyone to share with us drinks at midday Queensland time.
It was suggested that we organize everyone onto a zoom call so we could all celebrate together. That night, the Saturday, the night before our non-event, we discussed a possible plan B. It was sad, it was hard, I had been a single parent and raised a beautiful daughter now 25 and living in Melbourne and I really wanted her to be a part of our special day, with not knowing how to make it all work in the future I went to bed sad.
Our Special Day Plans Changed, Four Hours Later We Were Married Lovingly on Zoom
The morning of the 29th March 2020, the day we were meant to be married, it was flat, sad, a non exciting day, all I knew was we were having drinks at midday with everybody on a zoom call.
Darran’s family arrived, at that stage the restrictions hadn’t kicked in about visitors, we linked in zoom and I got to chat with my family and friends from Australia and NZ. With everybody chatting and sharing in our laughter, we did our first dance for everybody to see. Darran had put on his shirt and waistcoat with shorts and thongs and there was pressure for me to put on my dress.
We put the cake topper on a chocolate cake we had purchased and shared it via zoom with everybody. My sister was saying “You should have just gone to the registry office and got married” My reply was “We still have our celebrant” then the wines started to flow and with the conversations flowing freely my daughter said “You should just get married”…… Oh well did that open everything up. My best friend in NZ contacted the marriage celebrant even before I could have a chance to ring her. With the kiwis and the Aussie’s sitting on the edge of their seat waiting on zoom, saying to Darran “this is going to happen, YOU ARE GOING TO GET MARRIED”
A phone call to our marriage celebrant Belinda Booth from Beloved Ceremonies and she said “Yes”, she would have to grab all the paperwork and could be there by 5 pm. I actually thought five pm was too late but agreed. Belinda said “as long as there are only five, four plus me, I can do it.”
Back on zoom and said “We are getting married at 5 pm, which is eight pm Kiwi time, so the zoom call ended, I rescheduled another zoom call for 5 pm, sent out the links to everyone and to all whom were meant to be at our wedding.
I had no makeup organized, no hair stylist, reality hit, this is it.
Garden Transformed For Our Wedding
Darran’s nephew and wife said “have it at our place” and off they went to set up for our wedding. Our marriage celebrant checked in with me and said “rules are, you are only allowed five people, marriage celebrant, bride and groom and two witnesses” “Okay” was my reply. Out of our wedding box we grabbed table cloths and candles plus bubbly set aside. To be honest it was all go. My dress wasn’t steamed or anything.
We loaded our vehicle with everything we needed. A phone call came through from my best friend in NZ, she had rung my daughter to make sure she was okay with everything and then she was ringing Darran to make sure we ate something in this whirlwind. No time for showers or fussing with anything. Our marriage celebrant Belinda arrived at 4.30 pm with the last of our paperwork to sign.
Our wedding car, Chrysler 300, still in Melbourne was dressed for the occasion, glasses and bubble ready in the back, photos sent through and a slow drive up the driveway was filmed so we felt like we had our wedding car, nearly cried when I realized the extent people had gone to for us.
It’s Official, We Are Married, First Dance, Cut Our Cake Cheered By Loved One’s On Zoom
At twenty minutes to five, I was still not dressed, nor was Darran, everything was set in place, 5pm all our friends and family were on zoom. ten past five emerged, ready to step into a backyard garden that had been transformed ready for our wedding.
It was beautiful, my sister was still able to read a poem for us via zoom. Everybody got to laugh and cheer through the ceremony and a huge cheer when we kissed.
Our two witnesses were taking our photos and videoing, so we didn’t miss out on anything.
Our marriage certificate was signed, we had our first dance, cut our cake and had our first toast with everybody still on zoom.
More Heartfelt Moments To Look Forward to with Our Future Wedding Festivities
I look back now and think how crazy was that, we had four hours to pull it all together. Our plans for the future are to catch up with friends around Australia and have a big party in NZ with family and friends when everything is all back to some sort of normal. There is still so much to look forward to at our family celebration. To name some of the future heartfelt moments, will be the gifting the Pounamu, which is culturally significant to Māori and all New Zealanders because it links heaven and earth, along with the stars and water.. Whanau or families who maintain their heirloom pieces keep a connection with their heritage and history. This Pounamu I had commission (made) for Darran out of NZ jade… It was organised by my Brother Brad and his partner Roz…. The Pounamu (God Stone) can only be gifted. The twist represents… Infinity, love, bonding of friendship to eternity, the bond between two people connecting the lives of family friends and loved ones.
The Pounamu was meant to be given to Darran by my brother at our wedding as a welcome gift into our whanau (family)… We will save that for our next trip home to NZ. Having my daughter with me at our next part of our wedding celebration will be an unforgettable moment. We originally planned for her to walk me down the aisle, and now we will celebrate this together in a new way that truly symbolises our bond and love. We are looking forward to sharing this beautiful treasured next part of our special day with our family next to us.
A massive thank you to Belinda Booth from Beloved Ceremonies, our marriage celebrant who dropped everything and drove from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, to make our special day happen.
To all the Brides and Grooms that are frantically changing plans, I wish you all the best for your special day.
I have been writing a book called “Glass Slipper” and it’s my story of my stroke recovery in the lieu of helping others understand my stroke recovery journey and now it has a fairy tale ending.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story….Lauren Kopua-Dowling.