My pandemic wedding: ‘Every second was nerve-racking’

Irishwoman Jennifer O’Connell describes her wedding day in her Singapore apartment

Jennifer O’Connell, from Meelick, Co Clare, lives in Singapore with her partner.

Seven weeks after moving to Singapore with my partner, we found ourselves getting married on our Singapore balcony, with two witnesses, the solemniser (registrar) and our families watching it all on Zoom.

We moved to Singapore in February. We planned to go back to Europe for a small wedding in London in March with our families.

But as lockdowns came into effect around the world in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, we realised our wedding would not happen as we had family members were flying from Spain and Ireland. I had been feeling worried for weeks about family travelling so it was a relief when it was cancelled.

We investigated our options – should we wait it out or try to get married in Singapore? Waiting was risky for me. I knew Singapore could show me the door once my visit pass expired in May. We quickly filed our notice for marriage in Singapore.

The government here were doing everything to avoid a lockdown and we managed to arrange our wedding for three weeks later.

Then Singapore’s lockdown, authorities call it the “circuit breaker”, was announced to start two days before our wedding. Our wedding was essentially cancelled. We asked if there was any chance we could go ahead, considering that we might be separated from each other once my visit pass expired. Singaporean Registry of Marriages kindly gave us permission to marry during the circuit breaker. We had to promise it would take place in our apartment and there would be no party.

The morning of the wedding came. We got up, got ready, put some bubbly on ice and set up the laptop. Our families were ready and waiting for us. They had cakes, bubbly and banners to celebrate with us. My mother decided that she would not be able to sleep so she stayed up all night to join our wedding at 4am Irish time.

Every second was nerve-racking as we knew this wedding could be called off at any moment. Singapore’s strict contact tracing meant that any one of us could have got a call to tell us that we had come into contact with the virus and needed to self-isolate immediately. Until the solemniser and witnesses arrived, we were walking on eggshells.

Our guests arrived and put us at ease by reminding us that it was supposed to be a happy occasion. We wasted no time and it was a record-time ceremony for the solemniser at 12 minutes. We quickly drank bubbly with the guests and they promptly left after 20 minutes. After the ceremony, we sat with our family on Zoom.

It was not the occasion we would have planned, but family and friends helped us make the best of it. Our families put together a wonderful video full of pictures and messages for us. We laughed and we cried, just like a real wedding. But after everyone had hung up, something dawned on me. I wondered when I would be seeing any of them again in person. Before Covid-19, we’ve always had the comfort of knowing we could get on a plane and see each other with a day if it’s really necessary. There are not many planes in the sky anymore and we don’t know when they will return to normal. It also worries me how expensive will it be.

I’ve read about the guilt Irish emigrants feel about being away from family during this crisis and I’ve felt it at every moment when discussing this situation with my family. Being so far apart has meant we’ve relied on friends or even the kindness of strangers instead.

But those friends have become our family. Our witnesses and the solemniser were not close friends or people we knew for a long time, but they agreed to leave the safety of their homes during a pandemic to help us out – we are forever grateful to them and their kindness.

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