An Indian-origin couple, keen not to delay their wedding plans despite a strict restriction on the number of guests allowed to assemble under England's coronavirus lockdown rules, are celebrating this week after pulling off a first-of-its-kind drive-in wedding near London.
Londoners Roma Popat and Vinal Patel were originally due to get married on April 20 but when lockdown disrupted their plans, they discussed the concept of a drive-in wedding with their wedding coordinator, Saheli Events, almost as a tongue-in-cheek thought rather than a serious plan.
However, what began as a joke became a reality last Friday, when the couple were married in front of a small gathering of their immediate family with the ceremony being projected onto a big screen in a field next door to friends and family seated in more than 100 cars at Braxted Park in Chelmsford.
"We're delighted with how both the wedding ceremony and drive-in has gone," said Saheli Mirpuri, Founder & Director of Saheli Events. "This year has been so difficult for luxury Asian weddings and celebrations in particular, but this was a creative way to still ensure that guests felt they were with the couple on the day, and we're delighted to have worked with so many amazing suppliers to bring everything together," she said.
Under the UK government guidelines, only 15 people are allowed to be part of wedding ceremonies, which has resulted in many weddings either being postponed or couples trying to find virtual options to include friends and family to be a part of their big day. "When we had to postpone our wedding in April, we had no idea whether we would be able to get married this year or not," said bride Roma.
"We have so many friends and family and we wanted them to be part of our celebration. It literally meant everything to us to have everyone there, albeit in a slightly different way to the one we envisaged. It's a day we'll never forget," she said.
On arrival at the drive-in wedding, guests in cars were given welcome hampers containing anti-bacterial hand gel and requested to stay in their vehicles throughout. The option to order food was available from their respective seats through a COVID-safe delivery service direct to their cars. If they needed any help, they were advised to flash their lights or hazard flashers.
The traditional Hindu wedding ceremony unfolded on the big screen and as is the tradition, the groom's grand entrance was marked by travelling around the field before the ceremony waving at all the guests in their cars. Horns were honked as he travelled past on a specially decorated golf buggy, driven by a member of venue staff wearing a protective mask.
After the intimate ceremony inside had been completed, the newly-weds then travelled around the field on the same golf buggy, waving to their friends and families inside their cars. The couple were also able to watch a specially filmed tribute for them on the drive-in screen made by guests unable to travel to be with them on the day.
Braxted Park, the wedding and events venue which hosted the unusual drive-in wedding, said it has since been receiving several inquiries from couples keen to organise their big day under similar Covid-secure settings. Under tougher restrictions that came in last month, maximum guest numbers at wedding ceremonies and sit-down receptions in England were halved from an initial 30 to 15 amid a spike in coronavirus infections.
However, they were included as an exception to the wider rules banning groups of more than six from gathering.