A marriage made via Zoom
It was not the wedding they had planned, but Sabrina Smith and Chris Cunningham were thrilled they had been allowed to marry at all.
They exchanged vows on Saturday before a handful of people at the Registry-General's office — the rest of their guests logged on to Zoom and watched from around the world.
“We had seven guests and they were all six feet apart,” said Mr Cunningham. “We all had masks on. The Registrar had the face shield on, all the [personal, protective equipment]; we had to get our temperature taken as we walked in the door ... it was surreal. It was really surreal.”
The couple met on Tinder shortly after Mr Cunningham arrived in Bermuda from Glasgow, Scotland, to work as a nurse at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.
They had set their sights on May 16 as their wedding date when they became engaged two years ago. Invitations were sent for their ceremony at the Unfinished Church and the tiniest of details arranged. And then came Covid-19.
“In March, we looked at everything that was going on around the world and we didn't know if his family was going to be able to get here,” said Ms Smith, 32.
“We just didn't know what was going to happen with flights and so we made the call really early.
“We knew by the time it got to Bermuda it was going to be close to when we would be doing things, so we made the call to postpone it.”
The tough decision led to “many cries”; also painful was that Ms Smith's wedding gift to her husband had been engraved with their intended wedding date.
A hope to salvage the day was dashed by the order to shelter in place, and the news that weddings were banned for its duration.
“Up until [May 6] we still didn't think that we could marry,” said Ms Smith.
“They hadn't told us that weddings were going to be [allowed] as part of Phase 1 and we thought that we'd have to start thinking about alternative arrangements.”
On May 8 came the official announcement that weddings and domestic partnerships would once again be allowed, as long as ten or fewer people were involved. Zoom offered the opportunity to share the experience with all of their invited guests.
“I had used Zoom for a virtual happy hour about a month ago so we set it all up and created a couple of group chats and things like that and sent a link out to everybody,” Ms Smith said.
The wedding dress she had bought in Boston was still there; Ms Smith scoured her closet and ultimately, chose a white dress she had worn to her engagement party.
Her husband proved the “superstar”, organising a cake, special masks and “an amazing sunflower bouquet” courtesy of Exclusive Events, the florists they had booked for their initial celebrations.
“Sabrina was really upset and I thought, ‘This coronavirus is taking our wedding day away, so I have to plan a way around it',” Mr Cunningham said.
“The vendors were amazing. If we couldn't have gotten married at the Registry we still were going to do the Zoom thing and just have an unofficial wedding with the minister on Skype — it wouldn't have been legal, but it would have been something. But because we did it at the Registry, it was so much better. It was fun.”
Celebrations following their marriage were muted as the couple “didn't want to take the mickey”. The big party will take place next year when they do the “whole wedding ceremony” and a reception on May 15.
“We think we might cancel the honeymoon,” Mr Cunningham, 32, said.
“The plan was we do the wedding this year and then think about kids next year. We're both in our early thirties now, so we're not willing to put that off for another year or so. We'll just have a holiday at some point.
“The big thing for us this year was that we actually got married because it kind of made us focus on the fact that the important thing about your wedding day is actually getting married.
“All the other stuff, it's amazing and awesome, but we were happy just to tie the knot.”
The two clicked immediately when they met three years ago.
“I am completely obsessed with Disney and Marvel and I met this guy that had all these Marvel tattoos down the side of his arm,” Ms Smith laughed.
“It was easy. It just flowed; just from the first date it was perfect.”
Mr Cunningham said: “To be honest, the first month for me in Bermuda sucked. I was missing Christmas at home ... she was the highlight of my day. I had someone to talk to and it turned out she wasn't a nutcase like most people are on Tinder.
“It was one of those things that I didn't expect to go anywhere, but after our first date — we had about eight dates in the space of two weeks.”
Saturday's wedding saw 81 log-ins on the Zoom call.
“It's more than we planned on having at the actual wedding,” said Ms Smith.
“It kind of worked out amazingly because people that we knew weren't going to able to come because Bermuda's so expensive, they were able to still share that special day with us.
“We've even said Zoom worked out so well we might still use it for the ceremony next year.”