Ennis native Anne-Marie Phelan is in a special position, after marrying her partner of 12 years, Colin Higgins, in the middle of a pandemic.
The couple tied the knot on October 18th at the Rowan Tree, to an intimate audience of 25, having originally sent out 165 invitations in the first week of March.
Anne-Marie talks to The Clare Echo about the precarious nature of marrying in the midst of a pandemic, the difficulty in limiting family and friends on the day as well as the importance of keeping your perspective on what really matters and the how a level 5 lockdown meant that plans for their big day went from two and a half years in the making, to 48 hours overnight.
Anne-Marie and Colin were engaged in 2018. “Back then there was no such thing as Covid. When we first started planning and making arrangements, that wasn’t a worry of ours at all,” she states. The couple were originally supposed to be married on May 1st. “Once it started to get nearer to the date, things became stressful. We were wondering, would it happen? People were asking us too. In March, we postponed it to October. There was 6 months then where it was out of our head a little bit. It was a numbers game all the time, we planned for 100 people. Then we planned for 50 and eventually down to 25,” she adds.
Anne-Marie and Colin had their guest’s safety to the forefront and wanted to do everything properly. After several months of uncertainty, they decided to put the foot down, “From when we postponed, we always said we would go ahead in October no matter what the restrictions are. Postponing the first time was hard. You have to let the original date slip by. It was going on so long and we have been together so long, that we just decided to go for it, no matter what.”
The guestlist cuts came in stages, Anne-Marie tells. Coming from a small family with no siblings, her half of the list was pocket-sized in comparison to her partner Colin’s. After assessing the list, they decided on bringing just immediate family and friends. “It wasn’t easy, but everyone was very understanding. When lowering it to 25, we nearly had to flip it and look at it in another way. It was no longer a case of who are we cutting off but who do you need to have there. We both felt like when we had our parents, his brothers and sister and our bridal party, we each had a handful of people that we really wanted there.”
Speaking on the service, Anne-Marie remarks that everyone described her as ‘the happiest bride they had seen.’ Walking into a reception of your nearest and dearest, with the stress of the previous few weeks put behind them made for a very relaxed atmosphere on the day, she confesses. “If you told me two years ago that I would have 25 at my wedding, I would be in shock,” she admits.
The lead up to the wedding was all consuming, where she recalls the stress of spending hours and hours on RTÉ’s Twitter page, keeping an eye on restrictions. Adding to this, once the couple received word of a Level 5 lockdown, panic began to settle in. Their original wedding date was October 22nd. Reflecting on the whirlwind of a weekend leading up to the wedding, she reveals, “We thought that if it was Level 5, then it was going to be brought down to 6 people. The Friday before was both of our last days of work. We rang everybody and brought it forward to Sunday. We went from planning it over two and a half years, to planning it in 48 hours.”
On a final note, Anne-Marie offers invaluable advice to any couple dissuaded by the uncertainty of Covid-19, “Try to keep your perspective on everything. It’s so easy to get caught up in the big day and wanting everything. For women it’s a thing that you always dream of but keep in the perspective that it is just a day. Focus on what’s really important. You are going to marry the person you want to spend the rest of your life with and you can still have those that are really close to you there on the day.”