How COVID-19 failed to foil our Clarence brides to be

IT WAS all going to be perfect. An Autumn wedding among the trees and blooms of her family rose farm, a year and a half in the planning scheduled for today.

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the wedding is postponed until next year, but Tahlia Benefield said there's still some upsides.

"I've got another year to spend more money," she laughed. "There's definitely more time to refine the plans.

"And (partner) Sam managed to get his bucks night in before the restrictions, whereas I didn't have my hens night, so he thinks he's getting another one next year."

The couple had planned the wedding since Sam proposed in 2018, and said their first thought of worry in February around how they get to their honeymoon in the Maldives.

Samuel Kemp and Tahlia Benefield at the Black Tie Ball for mental health at the Grafton District Services Club on August 25, 2018.
Samuel Kemp and Tahlia Benefield at the Black Tie Ball for mental health at the Grafton District Services Club on August 25, 2018.

"That was when international travel was becoming a problem, and we were concerned about the honeymoon first," Ms Benefield said.

"We were staying aware of what was happening without making any big decisions. They kept dropping the restrictions from 100 to 50, and we wondered whether we should change it to suit.

"But then it started to be 10, and 5 and it was an anxious time because we were so unsure, because everyone was unsure."

With some hurried emails and a few long discussions, Ms Benefield said the anxiety was taken away when they made the decision to postpone.

"We were like, do we put everyone else at risk, and the answer was no, so we made the decision and it felt so much better," she said.

"Once we made the decision it went from worried to oh well."

All that was left was to contact the myriad suppliers organised for the day, something which Ms Benefield said wasn't as hard as she thought.

"It was a couple of emails out, and all of the suppliers were contacting us saying they understood what was happening and were happy to work with us and change the date, which was unbelievable," she said.

"We sent out an email asking what day they were all free, lined them all up and came up with a date next April, almost a year later."

The collaborative approach from the Clarence Valley wedding vendors had been the one positive to come out of the situation, according to Yamba wedding celebrant Meg Dougherty.

"It's not just the celebrant the couples need to talk to, it's the venue, the photographer, hairdresser, it could've been a real headache for the couples," she said.

"But I think it's been really nice to here how people have really put the couples first, I think that's been the positive."

Yamba wedding celebrant Meg Dougherty.
Yamba wedding celebrant Meg Dougherty.

Ms Dougherty had 18 weddings booked from the March-May period, and she was able to officiate one before the restrictions came in, with the other 17 all postponed.

"I've been lucky that I've had two couples that I previously didn't know come and say they want to elope with the party of five restrictions," she said.

Ms Dougherty said the majority had put their weddings off until next year, without postponing to spring still watching the restrictions carefully.

"There's some still up in the air, mostly to do with overseas travel," she said. "One of my couples lives overseas, and a couple who have people flying in."

Ms Dougherty said the recent party of five restrictions it became tricky as it only allowed for the couple, their two witnesses and the celebrant.

"Most couples want their day recorded, and a photographer isn't able to come unless you're granted an exception," she said.

"Sometimes you can have the photographer act as the witness, but the restrictions are changing now so we can have ten people so that's not an issue."

Ms Dougherty said that there had been a lot of high emotion during the time, and she tried to put herself in their shoes, as had many others.

"There was one couple who have postponed four times to get their date, but it's been nice to see all the wedding vendors in the Clarence come together.

"For those I have married, I think another positive is that the couple has been able to strip it back, and really focus on just the actual wedding ceremony."

For Ms Benefield, she will keep her wedding dress secret "in a box somewhere" until the big day when the flowers at Benefield's Rose Farm again bloom as brightly as they would've done today.

"The place is looking amazing, that's why we picked to get married now - it's the best time of year for the trees and the roses," she said.