One of the first couples to marry after lockdown enjoy their big day

Till social distancing do you part: One of the first couples to marry after lockdown enjoy their big day… in a deep-cleaned church with hand sanitiser passed around the few guests

  • Heather McLaren and Tom Hall were one of the first couples to marry after lockdown restrictions were relaxed
  • They had been due to celebrate their wedding day just days after the coronavirus lockdown was imposed
  • Couples sat in ‘clusters’ at a safe distance from others and witnesses had to sign register with different pens
  • Guests were also made to sanitise their hands at the church entrance and singing was not allowed

When they began planning their spring wedding last year, neither Heather McLaren nor Tom Hall imagined that hand sanitiser would be passed out to guests or that their witnesses would have to sign the register with separate pens.

But yesterday, surrounded by their closest family and friends at St George’s Church in Leeds, the couple were delighted that, after months of uncertainty, they were able to tie the knot at all.

Among the first couples to get married after restrictions were relaxed, Heather and Tom had been due to celebrate their wedding just days after lockdown was imposed.

Guest list: 1 Rev Lizzy Woolf; 2 Bride Heather McLaren; 3 Groom Tom Hall; 4 Bride’s brother Duncan; 5 Bride’s mother Gillian and 6 father David; 7 Groom’s mother Janet and 8 father Andrew; then the couple’s friends: 9 Steven Dixon; 10 Tim and 11 Jessica Riman; 12 Tim and 13 Grace Hill; 14 Miriam Hurley; 15 Dav and 16 Hannah Williams; 17 Ellie Mae and 18 Dan Hebdon; and 19 Alex Booth

Happy couple Heather and Tom take their vows – a safe distance in front of rector Lizzy Woolf. They had hoped to marry at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh with 120 guests before enjoying a party afterwards, but were forced to scrap their plans when restrictions came into force

Tom and Heather during their wedding ceremony in Leeds, with guests seen socially distancing under the new measures 

Guests entered and exited the church one at a time and each seat had a name label on the back to avoid people sitting down where others had sat

Heather and Tom pictured holding hands at their wedding. Receptions are limited to just two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors

Guests wearing face masks take a selfie during Tom and Heather’s wedding at St George’s Church in Leeds

Heather and Tom pictured socially distancing from other guests during their wedding in Leeds

The newly married Mr and Mrs Hall, Tom and Heather, pictured after their wedding at St George’s Church in Leeds. Ceremonies have been capped at 30 guests while receptions are limited to two households indoors

They had hoped to marry at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh with 120 guests before enjoying a party afterwards, but were forced to scrap their plans when restrictions came into force. 

Worse still, as devout Christians, Heather, 28, and Tom, 29, did not intend to live together before marriage so besides video chats, they have barely seen in each in months.

Speaking together from their Leeds home last night, they said: ‘It wasn’t what we had planned but it was completely unique and really special. I know everyone’s wedding day is memorable but this one feels particularly memorable.’

When the Government announced plans to ease the restrictions on weddings, St George’s, where the couple are regular worshippers, scrambled to make preparations for their wedding.

‘Ten days ago, we didn’t think this would be possible,’ Heather said. ‘But everyone at the church has been so wonderful.

‘They deep cleaned the church and set up a webcam so other friends and family could watch from home.’

The ceremony was pared back and singing was not allowed. Guests were also made to sanitise their hands at the church entrance.

Rector Lizzy Woolf, who officiated at the wedding, left notes on the register to indicate where each person should sign because she could not stand next to them. 

Tina-Lynn Birch and Billy Bryant are pictured above are pictured above at their wedding ceremony in the Priory Church of St Peter, Dunstable, Bedfordshire on July 4

Guests not permitted to be inside take pictures from the window during Tracie Kenny and Neal Arden’s wedding ceremony in Ironbridge, Shropshire

Tracie Kenny and Neal Arden are pictured above at their wedding ceremony at The Best Western Valley Hotel, Ironbridge on July 4

Gary Cheng and Sakiko Honda walk outside and celebrate after getting married at Marylebone Old Town Hall in London this morning. Wedding venues reopened today after having been closed for over three months during the pandemic

The wedding of Terry and Lindsay Armstrong at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Civic Centre. The new relaxed rules on social distancing mean some couples are finally able to say ‘I do’, as weddings are once again permitted in England

Louise Arnold-Wilson, right, and Jennifer, left, who were married at Runcorn Town Hall Registry Office at one minute past midnight as the lifting of restrictions came into effect, in what is thought to be the first post-lockdown wedding

Rupert Pearce (centre left) and Rebecca Pearce (centre right) celebrate after getting married at Chelsea Town Hall in London

The newly married Mr and Mrs Bones, James and Lucy, hold hands and raise their arms after their wedding in Ingram, Northumberland

Suzy Capogrossi (left) and Armando Capogrossi (right) celebrate after getting married at Chelsea Town Hall in London

The wedding of Terry and Lindsay Armstrong, both pictured, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Civic Centre today

The wedding of Terry and Lindsay at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Civic Centre, pictured with their 10-year-old son Jack Armstrong

James Travers and Stuthi Srinavasan in Kings Road after their wedding at Chelsea Town Hall, London

Guests entered and exited the church one at a time and each seat had a name label on the back to avoid people sitting down where others had sat.

Couples sat in ‘clusters’ at a safe distance from others.

‘We were sent a very long email with all the health and safety rules several days before the wedding which we had to read very closely,’ said Heather, a PhD student at the University of Leeds.

When the ceremony was over, guests were ushered out one at a time and the church was deep cleaned to prepare for another ceremony later that day.

Heather and Tom are now planning to have a honeymoon getaway to the Lake District in October and will throw a party for all their other guests next year.

‘We obviously would have loved to have our party with all our friends and family,’ Heather said.

‘But it’s lovely to be able to just spend some time together as a married couple.

‘It was the kind of wedding we never could have imagined. But it was magical nonetheless.’

Wedding guest Christian Wilmot livestreams as Gary Cheng and Sakiko Honda say their vows as they get married at Marylebone Old Town Hall today. It comes as wedding venues in England reopen today

Gary and Sakiko sign the registry as officials, a photographer and a guest look on as they get married at Marylebone Old Town Hall today in London

Gary and Sakiko walk up stairs past a one way marker after getting married at Marylebone Old Town Hall today

Bride Tina-Lynn Birch uses hand sanitiser before entering the Priory Church of St Peter, Dunstable, Bedfordshire

MR Richard & Mrs Julie Dunne’s socially distanced wedding in Gloucester. Members of different households must maintain social distancing

Tracie Kenny shows her wedding ring to her parents watching from outside after her marriage to Neal Arden at their wedding ceremony in Ironbridge, Shropshire 

Chantelle and her groom, Matthew Greene, during their wedding ceremony at St Nicholas Church in Harwich today

The newly-wed couple, who are one of the first to marry since lockdown, kiss as they celebrate their marriage in Harwich

Guests throw confetti over Chantelle Haygreen and Matthew Greene after their ceremony in Harwich, Essex

Future Bride, Sharni wears a face mask as she tries on wedding dresses in Blush bridal boutique on July 4, 2020 in Leigh-on-Sea

Britain comes back to life…

By Ian Gallagher Chief Reporter for the Mail on Sunday 

Midnight

All the shops along Hylton Road in Sunderland are in darkness – all, that is, except Cloud 9 hair salon, a beacon of activity.

Karen Colledge-Scott, 55, slides into a chair, face-mask drawn, for her first haircut in five months. Hovering at her side, salon owner Debra Anne Adamson, 49, assesses Karen’s unruly mane and promises a transformative blow-dry, colour and cut.

Normally, says Karen, the two women talk holidays. Tonight they share lockdown stories. It’s been as tough for Karen, a florist, as it has been for Debra and both are relishing the chance to get back to normal.

For the foreseeable future that means 12-hour shifts for Debra. ‘I am booked up now for five weeks,’ she says from behind a plastic visor. 

‘Karen works really hard and I just couldn’t fit her in at a convenient time. So I said to her, ‘You know what, why don’t you just come at midnight?’ It seemed the perfect solution.’

Smart new look: Three young men have their hair cut at Savvas Barbers in Streatham. South London, after the rules surrounding lockdown were relaxed yesterday morning

As she works, Debra says: ‘I am still getting used to this. I am out of practice and I’m going slower to begin with, but it feels so great to be doing this again. This is what I am supposed to be doing.’

During lockdown, Debra battled to keep her business alive. She even gave away 100 free bottles of hair dye, leaving them outside her home for customers to collect.

‘I didn’t want clients going to supermarkets and getting dye that might have given them a reaction,’ she says. ‘We have a lot of clients who are a bit older, and so getting their hair dyed was really important.’

2.30am 

Karen declares herself delighted with her hairdo. ‘It looks lush. I absolutely love it and feel a million times better,’ she says before thanking Debra and heading home to bed.

‘You don’t realise how much it means to get your hair done until you’re deprived of it,’ she adds. Elated but weary, Debra locks the door of the salon, but with 12 clients booked in for later in the day, she will return at 7.30am.

6am 

The holiday exodus is under way. As congestion grows, lorry driver Jason Leake tweets that caravans and camper vans have taken over HGV rest areas at Taunton Deane services in Somerset. 

‘Nowhere for HGVs to park and take a break as this lot have taken over the place,’ he says. ‘The volume of traffic including caravans overnight has been worse than a bank holiday.’

At last, we do: James and Lucy Bone after marrying at St Michael and All Angels, Ingram, Northumberland

7am 

At the Victoria Cafe, opposite Victoria railway station in Central London, waitress Sara Abdalla is finally taking orders. Never has she felt so gladdened by the hiss of an egg on a frying pan or, more importantly she says, to watch customers walk through the door and actually sit down. ‘We’ve been doing takeaways but it’s just not the same.’

At 7.10am, the 80-year-old manager – known to all simply as Luciano – breezes in, stops suddenly and breathes in bacon fumes with a satisfied grin. ‘It’s been a long time coming,’ he says. ‘Let’s get to work.’

Chris White, 43, from Peckham, South London, says: ‘I went into town because I wanted to have a look around, then I came here while I was waiting for my train. It’s just nice to be able to sit down and have something. It’s been far too long.’

8am 

Appreciative murmurs greet the opening of Westminster Cathedral’s wooden doors. Waiting since 7am, around 30 worshippers file inside, among them Mary O’Meara, 60, who before lockdown attended Mass daily.

Inside she finds most of the pews cordoned off, with only every fifth row available for worshippers.

Expressing a widely held sentiment, she says: ‘Yes, they’ve had services streaming online, but it isn’t the same at all.’

Before the day is over, the largest Roman Catholic church in England and Wales and the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster, will have performed four Masses and heard lunchtime and evening confessions.

Father Daniel Humphreys welcomes his flock with enthusiasm. ‘We are really pleased to be able to have Mass with a physical congregation,’ he says. ‘Among the clergy, there’s a great sense of joy, a sense of relief, a sense of… I don’t know if it’s peace but certainly normality.’

9am 

Across the country museums and galleries are opening their doors, among them Bletchley Park, the principal centre of Allied code-breaking during the Second World War. Identical twins David and Daniel English were given tickets for their 23rd birthday in March but were unable to use them because of the pandemic.

Systems engineer David, from Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, says: ‘We couldn’t wait. We got up at 6.30am and managed to get here when it opened so it is quiet. We were so excited as we’ve been in the house for months and now we can finally enjoy our present.’

In common with other museums, a one-way system is in place. Visitors book tickets on the website and are then allocated a pre-timed slot to ensure people are let in in waves of three or four. Front-of-house staff wear plastic visors and there are Perspex screens at reception.

9.04am 

The Silver Slipper amusement arcade at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk – open for just four minutes – greets its first customer. On a weekend break, Jessie Henry, 46, and daughter Jenny, six, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, try their luck on a pick-and-grab machine, winning a cuddly elephant.

‘We were planning to go for a walk on the seafront when we saw the arcade was open,’ says Jessie.

‘We have been cooped up for so long, only going out for exercise. It’s just nice to get out and do something different.’

The great getaway: Drivers of motorhomes and cars find it slow going on the southbound M5 at Exeter. The holiday exodus is under way. As congestion grows, lorry driver Jason Leake tweets that caravans and camper vans have taken over HGV rest areas at Taunton Deane services in Somerset

9.20am 

The first campers arrive at Caffyns Farm in Lynton, Devon. Beset by gusty winds and fog, the 160-acre farm, mentioned in the Domesday Book, does not – for now at least – present the idyll many were expecting.

But despite a 210-mile dawn trip from Burbage, Leicestershire, Jane Booton and her partner Neil Todd, both 38, emerge from their car laughing along with seven-year-old twins Cayden and Conner, still in dressing gowns.

‘We’ve been desperate to get away,’ says Jane, a teaching assistant. ‘We’d normally wait for better weather but at least we’re here.’

Once the weather lifts, they will savour breathtaking views across the Bristol Channel and explore secluded coves. They are staying with other family members including Phillip Godfrey, 41, also from Leicestershire. ‘I brought ID in case we were suspected of coming from the Leicester lockdown area,’ says Phillip. ‘We’ve heard of friends having holidays cancelled.’

The group are planning a barbecue party with chicken, kebabs and belly pork, washed down with Devon cider. ‘There’s just one worry. It’s a new tent,’ says Jane. ‘We’ve never put it up before. Should be fun in this wind.’

Campsite owners Colin and Jill Harman lost £70,000 worth of sales during lockdown. ‘And we had to throw away £4,000 of food and beer,’ says Colin. ‘A couple of people have asked us to guarantee there will be no risk. We can’t do that.

‘There’s a risk with any shared facility. But we’ve worked hard to keep people safe and there has to be some personal responsibility.’

10am 

First on the Wicker Man rollercoaster – the main attraction at Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire – are adrenaline junkies Kim and Marc Roe, both 40, from Wolverhampton and their 11-year-old son Tristan.

Marc says: ‘I’m so glad to be the first person to ride Wicker Man today – I’m a massive fan.’

At the Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear, families follow the socially distanced orange spray-painted starfish markers towards the entrance.

Trudi Kennair, 37, from nearby Whitley Bay, and her four-year-old son Luke are among the first customers. As Luke’s excited eyes search the glass tanks for sharks, his mother explains: ‘There was so much excitement about this in our house, it was just like Christmas morning – in fact there was considerably more excitement than if Santa had been.’

Truck driver Paul Shellabear, 54, reverently examines his pint of lager on the bar of his local, The Three Horses, in Keighley, West Yorkshire. ‘This is my first pint that hasn’t been from a can since March and it is not going to be the last,’ he says.

‘I’ve really missed this place and I’m looking forward to seeing some old faces and getting back to the pub banter.’

Tiler John Durkin, 48, agrees. ‘I’ve been Zooming from home with mates and having the odd can of beer, but there is nothing to beat a proper English pub atmosphere and socialising.’

Their musings are shared by thousands across the land, among them, Nigel Farage, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the first through the door of his local near Biggin Hill, Kent, when it opened at noon. 

By and large social distancing is observed, though few take their responsibilities as seriously as Bobby Kitson, 21, and his four friends, who arrived at The Wellington, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, wearing forensics-style suits and masks.

‘It’s making drinking a bit tricky – but we’ll get there,’ says Bobby, who works at Pinewood Studios.

1pm 

Dan Edison, 27, and his partner Callum Perry, 21, both wearing masks, arrive at the Odeon cinema in Norwich for the first film of the day – the fantasy adventure Onward. Customers must sit in their social bubbles, leaving three empty seats between groups.

Dan, who works in publishing, says: ‘I am quite anxious about going in because of everything that has been going on, but I can see that they are taking really strict precautions which is very reassuring.’

Callum, who works for the student union at the University of East Anglia, says: ‘It is nice to come out and get back to doing the things we love. It is all about trying to get back to normality.’

Tunnel vision: Lynsey and Chris Todd with 14-month-old Flynn at the Tynemouth Aquarium

2pm 

Wearing a bespoke silk duchess dress, a lace veil, and a mask to match, Debbie Curtis, 34, glides down the aisle of St John the Baptist Church, in Bisley, Surrey.

It usually seats 90 to 100 people but only 14 witness her big day. What was planned as a big communal celebration becomes a quiet, more intimate affair. 

Debbie is given away by her widowed mother who has formed a ‘bubble’ with Debbie and her husband David Curtis, 44. A seating plan ensures that households remain two metres apart – with each bubble getting their own pew and being separated by an empty row.

With singing banned, the best man instead plays the banjo during the signing of the register. Despite the complications of holding a wedding during the middle of a pandemic, Debbie and David are eager to start married life. Debbie says: ‘We can still have the party next year. It’s a shame, but it’s a one-in-a-hundred year type of unforeseeable issue.’

2.45pm 

Stepping across the threshold of the White Horse Inn, Exford, in Exmoor National Park, David and Noreen Paveley, both in their 80s, can scarcely contain their glee.

‘The thought of a break on Exmoor has kept us going,’ says Noreen, from Honiton, Devon, who has been shielding. ‘We’ve just been waiting for Boris to say the word.’

David adds: ‘We’ve been coming here for 15 years. We know all the staff – they’re excellent and they’ll take care of us. It feels very safe.’

3pm 

An exultant cry rings out across the vast, 1,200-seat Mecca bingo hall in Gateshead.

‘Yes!’ shouts the winner of the £109.80 jackpot.

‘My husband doesn’t even know I’m here,’ her friend confesses, carried away by excitement.

‘He thinks I’ve gone shopping but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.’

Another player, Marilyn Rutter, 67, who shielded for 90 days due to ill health, adds: ‘It’s like I’ve got my life back. There really is nothing better than bingo.’

Manager Angela Haggarty says that for some customers, ‘this is the first human interaction they’ve had for months. It’s not just about winning at bingo, it’s a social lifeline for many’.

Additional reporting by Peter Henn, Andrew Young, Jacinta Taylor, Nick Constable, Holly Bancroft and Scarlet Howes 

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