WEDDING planning turned into a nightmare for many engaged Oxfordshire couples last year as plans to tie the knot were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in March, couples looking forward to their special day were left in limbo as wedding venues started cancelling bookings due to infections rising.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson later announced that weddings could not take place, but couples remained uncertain about when they could reschedule their plans.

READ MORE: Oxfordshire cake maker says wedding sector was 'forgotten' during pandemic

For some, rearrangements have continued after the Prime Minister announced that all restrictions on weddings would be lifted no sooner than June 21.

Liane Mercer, 47, and Mark Clift, 32, from East Hanney, near Wantage have postponed their wedding five times.

They were supposed to say their vows in September 2018 but had to postpone due to serious health conditions that Miss Mercer was recovering from. Their next date was April 2019, but again this had to be rearranged due to health conditions.

Then the pandemic hit and their plans for April 2020 were cancelled as was their date in November 2020.

'Postpone again'

Miss Mercer said: “If someone told us that we would have to postpone again just four weeks before our wedding day due to a pandemic nobody would have believed it.

“The next date was reluctantly pushed on a bit further to give the pandemic time to pass so we went for February 21, 2021 which we also had to postpone.

Oxford Mail: Liane Mercer and Mark CliftLiane Mercer and Mark Clift

“So now we’re on our sixth date which is December 5, 2021 and nothing will stop this one even if it has to be just the two of us. We have been just totally gutted and really hoping that December 5th finally allows us to enjoy our wedding day with everyone we want there to celebrate with us.”

READ MORE: Couple get married over YouTube during coronavirus lockdown

The couple originally planned on getting married at Oxford Spires but changed venues to the Double Tree Hilton Hotel in Swindon, where they are getting a better deal.

Missed lockdown lifting

Another couple who have been trying to organise their special day during the pandemic is Jonathan Metcalfe, 50, from Oxford and Kate Cook, 43, from Greatworth.

They were meant to say ‘I do’ on June 6 last year in Greatworth but moved the date to June 12 this year. However they will have to postpone once more.

Miss Cook said: “When the lockdown easing was announced we got excited. Then when it was finally broken down, realised we missed the lockdown free zone by one week.

Oxford Mail: Jonathan Metcalfe and Kate CookJonathan Metcalfe and Kate Cook

“Totally frantic, that very night we went about calling our vicarage, the florist, the marquee company, the caterers, the hairdressers, the wedding cake makers, the photographers, the string quartet, the band and booked them all in for July 3 this year.

READ MORE: Couples left in wedding limbo amid coronavirus outbreak

“We are thrilled. But will ensure we, our friends and family do as best we can to stick to the rules until then, otherwise, it’s all change again.”

Did anyone manage to get married?

Although weddings could not take place for the majority of 2020, there was a slight easing of restrictions after the first lockdown with ceremonies allowed to take place with 30 people only.

They eased further when the Prime Minister later announced that receptions could also take place for 30 people.

Some couples did therefore manage to get married, such as our reporter Indya Keen who tied the knot with husband Tom on August 28 in Banbury.

She said: “My husband and I are so happy we decided to get married last year. We originally planned to get married on September 2, but had to bring it forward a few days due to our registrar no longer being available.

“We had a beautiful ceremony at a church and a wonderful reception at a local pub - which we had only organised the week before due to the government’s reception announcement. We bagged an amazing deal there with our guests enjoying a three-course meal.

“But the celebrations don’t end there for us as we’re having our original reception planned for 150 guests when the pandemic is over.”

National restrictions got tighter again after the summer and the guest limit reduced to 15 people and no receptions were allowed.

READ MORE: Weddings restricted to just five people

Two more lockdowns followed meaning weddings were banned again, but people with exceptional circumstances could still tie the knot in a small ceremony.

Impact on wedding businesses

The wedding industry feels there has been a lack of support from the Government throughout the pandemic, but an Oxfordshire wedding photographer says he was more concerned about his mental health than the financial implications of cancelled bookings.

Dale Stephens, from Stanford in the Vale, usually shoots 60 to 70 full-day weddings, but by the end of 2020 had photographed 20, most of which were just a few hours long.

Oxford Mail: Dale Stephens. Pic: Des Dubber PhotographyDale Stephens. Pic: Des Dubber Photography

The 50-year-old said business has been tough but struggled more with the fact that he was no longer kept busy with work.

He said: “The hardest part of the last year was not the fact that I was hardly earning any money, it was not being able to actually work. It was the lack of work which tested my mental state more than anything, so I have had to find other ways to keep myself occupied.”

Mr Stephens did free photography work around his village including a doorstep portrait project and free family shoots for NHS workers.

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