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Real Life: Celebrating love in the time of Covid

A global pandemic didn’t stop Bassingbourn couple Helen Angell and Ben Merrill tying the knot. Helen, a Tumour Immunologist at AstraZeneca, and Ben, a Supply Chain Manager for Tesco, enjoyed an intimate ceremony with close family at Longstowe Hall

It all began. . .

We met in May 2018. Our first date was at Grantchester Meadows for a walk by the river.

A high altitude proposal

Helen: The proposal was a very, very, VERY big surprise! We were up in the Lake District on holiday. The first day we climbed the sheer face of Mellbreak; lots scrambling and a relatively difficult ascent. It had the most breathtaking views at the top; they kept getting better and better! We stopped for a rest in a little nook to admire the views. Ben went to get ‘snacks’ from the bag, and then he was on one knee saying just the most incredible things - and then popped the big question! It was a moment I will never forget.

The venue

We got married at Longstowe Hall in Cambridgeshire. It’s a beautiful country house, not far from where Ben grew up. We instantly knew this was the venue for us; the house, the gardens and the lake are all stunning.

Dream dress

I bought my dress from the lovely Emma at Shade Bridal in Nottingham. I instantly fell in love with the Eddy-K style, it was perfect!

A ‘lockdown’ wedding

There was much uncertainty as to what would or wouldn’t be allowed at the end of August 2020, but it was soon apparent that a wedding of 150 people wasn’t going to go ahead. So, with heavy hearts, we made the difficult decision to postpone the full day to 2021. However, in a world which doesn’t stop for Covid, for us, getting married to each other was so important. We therefore decided to go ahead with a small ceremony with our immediate family.

A few obstacles

A lockdown wedding wasn’t without its challenges! We needed to make many changes; from social distant seating plans, to reducing the ceremony and not being allowed readings. Until moments before the ceremony, we weren’t sure if we could get married outside due to the rain. An inside ceremony would have meant guests in facemasks, and Helen not being able to walk down the aisle.

Covid also played havoc with our groomsmen’s waistlines; despite shop fittings only months before, somehow two of the suits didn’t fit on the day!

The wonderful wedding team

Even when facing such challenges, we have been so impressed with the love and care of those who supported us. Longstowe Hall were fantastic throughout; owner Mercedes and William went above and beyond to ensure that we had a perfect wedding. Simon and his team from Cambridge Dining Company helped plan how to serve the gorgeous food at our small champagne reception. Whilst Helen wasn’t allowed a makeup artist, Sam from Miss2Mrs Makeup kindly gave Helen a wedding makeup tutorial via Zoom! Helen’s friend and hairdresser Rosie, from Everyone’s Looking Rosie, was wonderful from beginning to end, stepping into roles far beyond a hair stylist! We are absolutely delighted with our wedding photos from the amazing duo Lina & Tom, who have transitioned from our photographers to our friends.

The lockdown guest list

Given the restrictions on numbers, we were limited to inviting just our immediate families. All of our guests who were not able to attend have been unbelievably kind and understanding. For us, family is the most important thing. We feel so very lucky to have such wonderful families, who have supported us every step of the way. With parents over 70, Ben’s elderly grandmother, and Helen’s niece - who has leukaemia - everyone was on strict lockdown before the big day, to make it as safe as possible.

An intimate affair

Overall it became such an incredibly intimate and emotional ceremony. Despite everything that 2020 has thrown at us, looking back we had the most amazing wedding day; it was truly magical. We are excited to celebrate with our wider family and friends, whenever that may be.

Our favourite moment

We frequently go walking through the grounds of Wimpole Hall (National Trust) estate, a location which has special memories for us. Not having a full wedding reception gave us the opportunity to take more time for just the two of us. We headed to Wimpole Hall for a stroll to our favourite spot.

Pictures by Lina & Tom. Find out more at linaandtom.com

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