I must have tried on almost every outfit I owned until I slipped on a white dress – the one with a small tea stain on it. But that was the one.
Finally dressed, I ran around my gated community to rob flowers from the garden, then plonked some of them on my head and used the others to cobble together a bouquet tied with a recycled ribbon from an old chocolate box.
On went my shoes and I hurried to the car to get married while I still had the chance.
When I look at the photo of me in my wedding dress, mask on and clutching my bouquet, I’m reminded how the feelings of the day over-rode any concerns I had about coronavirus. As a globetrotter I have lived through many world crises: riots in Thailand, earthquakes in Costa Rica and the threat of malaria and global recessions.
Getting married in lockdown would be just another story to share with the grandchildren – especially as my fiancee Pablo and I had only decided to do it two days earlier.
When we first spoke about getting married we had never wanted to make a big deal about our ceremony; it was always going to be a town hall affair, followed by a huge celebration at the beginning of April.
We had it all planned: over 50 British guests including family and friends were going to fly out and stay in Cadiz in Spain for a week, soaking up the sun and celebrating our special union.
In the lead up to the lockdown in mid-March, however, things were already looking bleak. Flights were being cancelled, guests were rescheduling all over the place and in the end I bit the bullet and called the whole thing off.
The last thing I wanted was to be a cause of people being quarantined, stranded and gravely sick. It broke my heart: a whole year of careful planning gone to hell in the course of one night.
Then Pablo phoned me out of the blue on a Tuesday while I was at work as a teacher and scrabbling to get organised to work from home. A ceremony slot had become available, most likely because so many other couples had cancelled – but it meant getting married in 48 hours or waiting until next year.
I didn’t hesitate. ‘Let’s do it now,’ I replied. With all the uncertainty of coronavirus and lockdown in our home in southern Spain, the only solid thing going on in our lives was that we loved each other.
When the day came, Pablo, being the casual sort, totally surprised me with his enthusiasm to wear his suit. I was so in shock that I forgot to say how handsome he looked!
I’d designed my original wedding dress with the help of a local dressmaker but it was locked away at her shop, along with my bouquet. The dress was beautiful, fusing Spanish and British styles, and it continued my family tradition of wearing something handmade.
It added to my heartache that I couldn’t wear it. But I still had the shoes and a cape I had intended for my special day, so in the end I more or less imitated my original outfit and I was pleased with how I’d styled it.
Pablo stressed gently that we needed to go, so I added some face glitter and red lipstick and felt sufficiently jubilant.
The Spanish authorities had banned more than one person from travelling in a car at a time so I considered ducking down but there was no way I was going to hide on my wedding day, and Pablo certainly wasn’t going to let me travel on the bus!
So we sped into town like criminals, brazen, with the windows open and huge smiles on our faces. A policeman almost strained his neck as we approached the town centre but it all added to the thrill.
At the town hall we watched as a pair of newlyweds came out of the hall doors, dressed in their normal day clothes. Their faces dropped when our witness, Julio, rocked up in a Second World War gas mask. We had been allowed two witnesses but no family or close friends so Pablo’s brother was our only other guest.
We were ushered to the back entrance by a tense security guard and I felt like Romeo and Juliet in a secret tryst. He told us not to touch anything, so I artfully steadied myself in my high heels using my elbows as I climbed the narrow staircase. There was nobody about as everyone had already been sent home. The whole place was empty and there was an eerie silence.
Our friend and local counsellor greeted us (without the two kisses that are customary in Spain) and led us to the great hall. He read out our vows as Pablo and I sat as close together as we were allowed. On one side was Pab’s brother, who was convinced that he was going to catch something and on the other was Julio, in his board shorts and gas mask, who really couldn’t care less.
As a Brit marrying a Spaniard a lot was lost in translation and for all I know I might have agreed to things I’ll regret! We’d been reassured that the pens to sign the papers were disinfected and that we were to not waste any time, so we signed our names, kissed, took as many photos as we could before the security guards had a hernia and gave us our marching orders back home.
We popped into my in-laws for a brief visit then went to a shop and got a bottle of Coke and Doritos to celebrate. We drank whisky and wine, danced our first dance on the patio and Skyped unsuspecting friends. We even did a professional wedding shoot (it’s handy being married to a photographer…).
In the end, it didn’t matter how we got married, just that we had. We both had a strong sense that it was supposed to be like this. One friend commented that she knew I’d do something unexpected and totally different for our wedding, but really wasn’t expecting this – we’d really outdone ourselves.
It genuinely was the happiest day of my life and the circumstances we found ourselves in only added to the sense of romance. I was the heroine in my own post apocalyptic story and Pablo was my hero.
I just hope after all this that we can be reunited with my family in the UK and our parents can finally meet each other. In the meantime, I’m really happy knowing that I’m locked down for life with Pablo.
My Life Through A Lens
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