2020 was going to be a golden year for weddings. Sadly many have either already been cancelled or are hanging in the balance as venues, suppliers, brides and grooms grapple with the uncertainty of the current situation. This is the story of one couple’s ingenuity and resilience through it all. Their wedding was planned for 4th April at The Grange Hampshire.
In the autumn of 2019 when school teachers Ben McBride (28) and Imogen Hocking (29) drove down the drive to The Grange and saw the magnificent house nestled in its own valley, they knew immediately that they had found their ideal venue. Delighted to discover a place where weddings are not on a conveyer belt, they spent the next 6 months planning every detail alongside The Grange team, appointing family members to design each room, creating the ultimate vegetarian menu that all their guests could enjoy, liaising with florists, DJs and Pizza vans, meticulously organising their table plans and much more.
Imogen, a primary school teacher originally from Winchester and whose mum still lives in the City, said “After we got engaged we wanted to get married straight away. We didn’t see the point in waiting as we wanted to move out of London, buy a house and start a family.”
Planning for their big day started in earnest. Every weekend was taken up with meetings with suppliers, sorting the wedmin and making decisions on how their big day would run – but they loved it. By the time February 2020 arrived they were all set with only the final touches to be completed.
Ben, who teaches at a secondary school in Camberwell said “we started to think that that there could be a problem in mid-February when the news began to be full of Covid-19, but we hoped that we still might be able to go ahead in some form”. With the help of The Grange team they discussed multiple options so they could still get married : from having a much smaller gathering in one of the other venues on the estate, to an intimate ceremony on the portico of The Grange with just the 2 of them, 2 witnesses and the registrar – with their Mums watching from their cars the car park.
But then came lockdown on the 23rd March and it became clear that nothing would be happening on 4th April, either at the Grange or anywhere else in the UK.
Imogen said “We were heartbroken – we were set on being husband and wife by April so that we could start the next chapter of our lives together. But, in some way, it was a relief to know that we had no choice. The endless planning and re-planning, with a lot of alternative decisions was really tough. We went through the classic stages of grief: denial, frustration, sadness and finally acceptance when we started to see a positive way forward”.
Ben said “our suppliers have been amazing. As soon as we knew that our wedding day would need to be postponed they all got in touch saying that they wanted to stick with us and that they would be flexible and adapt to our changing plans.”
On 4th April Ben and Imogen staged their own wedding in the garden of their flat. They dressed up. Ben put on a suit, Imogen a white dress. They walked down the aisle to their wedding song, said their vows, exchanged rings, cut a cake (which was actually Ben’s birthday cake from the day before) and even had a first dance. Their family and friends had asked to join them by Zoom, but they wanted it to be just the two of them – intimate and something only they shared. The weather was stunning and their neighbours toasted them at a social distance. As they mourned what should have been, they were still able to have a happy day. Ben and Imogen will never forget 4th April 2020, but not quite for the reasons they were expecting.
Ben and Imogen are now planning an autumn wedding in the full knowledge that it might not be able to happen, or may need to be modified … maybe only 30 guests for a ceremony, a rolling wedding over the weekend, with small groups of guests at a time… or even a socially distanced outdoor wedding with umbrellas for all the guests in case it rains. All they can do now is play it by ear, safe in the knowledge that if it’s humanly possible The Grange and their suppliers will make it happen.
For Ben and Imogen, as for so many of us, there are still many unknowns, not least when they will return to their schools. But with those unknowns come opportunities to do something different. Despite the upheaval that the Coronavirus roller coaster has created, they feel closer than ever and are determined to get married in whatever shape is available to them. They both agree that the last few months have really shone a spotlight on the fact that at the heart of the preparations for their celebration is a couple who want to spend the rest of their life together. Their path to wedded bliss hasn’t been and won’t be straightforward, and there will definitely be more twists and turns (masks and gloves as wedding favours anyone?). But whenever it happens, and in whatever form, their wedding will be fabulous, unique, and perfect for them.
The Grange Hampshire’s Top Tips for Navigating the Uncertainties of a 2020 Wedding
1. Accept your fate as early as possible – make a decision and take back some control
2. If things have to change make sure you have a check list of everyone you need to let know
3. Communicate early and find an easy way to stay in touch
4. Focus on what really matters, your relationship and your love
5. It doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. Create some bonus pleasures e.g. your own symbolic wedding on the day yours was supposed to be
6. Don’t fight against what you cannot change. Use the problem to give you some inspiration to do something different.