Mark and I got engaged in southern Portugal in late October 2019 after three and a half years of dating, part of which was long distance. We were both a stage of life where we were ready to be committed to each other long-term, and Mark was willing to move to the U.S. to be with me.
Cue the start of the planning process. We agreed early on the wedding would be in England instead of the U.S. I was initially hoping to get married in London, the city where we met, but it was challenging to find a space we liked that was large enough, had the right amenities, and wasn’t astronomically priced.
Instead we ended up finding the venue Colehayes Park in Devon, just down the road from Dartmoor National Park. Colehayes Park is a Grade II listed manor house, had accommodation for 80+ guests to stay overnight, gorgeous grounds, and we’d get the venue for the entire weekend – Friday afternoon to Monday morning. Since we knew we’d have guests coming from abroad, this seemed ideal. Colehayes also allowed a lot of flexibility in how you used their space, what vendors you used, and how you wanted to structure your wedding weekend.
We had a welcome dinner on Friday, complete with a pizza truck, mini golf course, corn hole, and an open bar. On Saturday we had our ceremony followed by the usual drinks reception, wedding breakfast, cake cutting, and a night of dancing and drinking. A nice perk of our venue was that it had a games room in the basement, so we had two nights in a row of after-hours beer pong, flip cup, and pool that our guests could partake in. Sunday morning we saw off our guests with an English breakfast before tidying up before departing the venue Monday.
It was truly a beautiful weekend, and I was so pleased that everything we had thought through and planned for 22 months (!!) was finally coming to fruition. It actually turned out much better than I hoped for, and many guests told us they had a really wonderful time. We ended up with about 55 guests in total, which actually fit the venue space incredibly well and felt like a large enough wedding to us.
Obviously, as with many weddings over the past year and half, COVID-19 created a considerable amount of issues for us. We moved our wedding date from mid-June 2021 to late-August 2021 in February once it was announced that in both the U.S. and England people would be vaccinated by the end of July. I think we mistakenly thought that international travel would open up and the world would go back to normal by then, which obviously hasn’t happened.
We fortunately knew a few months out we’d be able to invite our full guest count (per England’s laws), but were left stuck waiting until a few weeks before the wedding for confirmation that vaccinated U.S. and E.U. citizens could enter the country without quarantining (albeit with taking a few COVID tests). The announcement came so late – it was initially thought to be announced a few months before the wedding – that by that point some of my guests had RSVP’d no. There were also a few of my friends and family who were weary of traveling internationally during COVID times, and one of my bridesmaids who lives in South Africa was unable to travel to England since South Africa is currently on England’s “red list”.
COVID-19 also meant that a lot of wedding vendors had either closed or changed their business. Our florist told us that she decided to stop doing weddings and the pizza truck we hired for the welcome dinner closed their business. Both told us pretty late in the game and it was a scramble to find someone new. We also had to find a new caterer and harpist when we changed our date.
As all things go though, we made the best of it. Our new caterer was a pleasure to work with, the harpist we had hired recommended a student harpist she knew, I was able to leverage our decorator for venue flowers, and the new pizza truck we hired was spectacular. I actually think I ended up much happier with these changes in the end.
Planning a wedding from abroad was not as hard as I thought it would be. The majority of my communication was done via email. In the entire 22 months we were planning the wedding, I visited the venue once. The only thing Mark did from the England end was have the cake maker mail cake to him to try. We never tried our caterer’s food and just went off reviews from others. Our venue did have a list of vendors it recommended, but you were free to pick your own. We also hired a wedding planner later in the process who helped us with the last two months ahead of the wedding and was the weekend coordinator. Mark’s mum (who lives in England) let me ship décor to her house. She’d take a photo when the décor arrived so I could see it, and then stored it for us.
We’ve now been married for just over a month. We’ve flown home, looked through our wedding photos (we’re in progress of getting them printed to hang in our home), read all of our wedding cards, stored our wedding mementos, and are enjoying being newlyweds. It feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders that we were able to pull off such a great wedding and can now resume our regularly scheduled lives.
Our next adventure is a fun one – planning our honeymoon! We decided to wait till after the wedding to plan it, and are planning to take the trip itself sometimes in the first half of 2022. We are hoping to go to either Fiji and New Zealand, Argentina, or Chile (or Argentina and Chile). It will depend on how travel rules play out as the year continues, but we are hopeful at least one of those countries will work out.
Do you have any questions about wedding planning? Where would you go for your honeymoon?