In the middle of this wild pandemic world, where much of life has basically been put on hold, simply thrown aside or upside down, something really lovely and incredibly special occurred recently in Ottawa.
In the beautiful and grand St. Patrick Basilica – a church which regularly holds hundreds of people – the union of two people committed to being together for the rest of their lives took place. And with a provincial restriction to allow public gatherings of no more than five people, they were joined only by the bride’s parents and the priest – Father Dennis Hayes.
Lucy Wallace, now Lucy Fitzpatrick, is the bride at the centre of this story. Her groom Simon played a supporting role!
Lucy and Simon became engaged in November and immediately knew they weren’t interested in a long engagement, so a May 2 wedding was planned. Within a month, Lucy had her dress, they had their church and their wedding reception location confirmed. The church was chosen because the two devout Catholics had started their dating life attending Sunday mass there together.
Thankfully, Lucy isn’t a bride who was obsessed with the minutia of colour schemes or flower arrangements, and that certainly made her COVID wedding journey easier.
Her two sisters Hannah and Sophie were going to be her bridesmaids and they too had their dresses picked out. But as they got closer to the date, sometime in early April, as COVID isolation continued, they became increasingly concerned about their early May date.
Initially, the engaged couple bandied about other dates in May and chose a couple of them, but then came to the conclusion it couldn’t happen before September – and settled on a Fall date – again finalizing that with both their church and reception venue. But as the days went by, it became increasingly apparent there was no guarantee a September wedding would or could take place.
And so the couple – who really just wanted to be married and to be together – decided to have their wedding in late May – which meant just five people in the church, only two people in addition to the couple and the Priest.
With incredible love and generosity, Simon’s parents Ann and Dave Fitzpatrick, who’d already seen six of their seven children married, told Lucy’s parents Peter and Julie Wallace they could both attend the wedding.
Such a lovely, generous gesture.
“What David and I wanted most was for the marriage to take place for the sake of Lucy and Simon. They and their happiness was our focus, even if it meant that we could not be present. Lucy needed her father to walk her to the altar and of course, Julie had to be there as well, in order to attend to and share in the joy of the bride, her first daughter to be married. We were very happy to let them be the witnesses,” Ann Fitzpatrick said.
But like many others, she watched the wedding via video from outside the church.
“It was pure joy. I was so elated for (my son) and for Lucy that they could finally start their life together,” she said.
I was one of the many watching, a passenger in a car on the way to a friend’s cottage, and I was able to connect with a live stream that showed the wedding from start to finish – from the moment her father Peter walked her down the aisle to the couple exiting the church to a crowd of friends and strangers cheering them on as the church bells were ringing.
And honestly, it was the most intimate wedding I’ve ever witnessed and I felt so fortunate to be able to watch it.
This isn’t to suggest the journey to a small wedding was easy during a pandemic.
When Lucy first realized her date had to be changed, and changed a couple of times after that – to realizing she would get married without even her two sisters there to share the experience, it was very difficult.
“I was a bit emotional, thinking, ‘Why me? What are the odds of this happening? I moved past it relatively quickly. For me, the most important thing is to be together, so let’s just focus on that,” she said, though at the time she didn’t realize there would just be five of them.
“And I do find with weddings, you can get so caught up with the smallest detail, and it can be so stressful, you have to keep bringing yourself back. We really wanted to be together, that was the most important thing.”
And it took a bit of convincing to get her family onside – hard for everyone because her sisters couldn’t be there.
That was also a concern to Lucy’s dad Peter.
“In the lead up we were all very concerned about Lucy’s sisters not being allowed inside the church for the ceremony. They were also Lucy’s attendants, but it all seemed to play out perfectly. The three of them had an amazing time getting ready together with music blasting and laughter. They helped get Lucy dressed and ready. They also were dressed in their bridesmaids dresses as if nothing was different. “They escorted Lucy to the front steps of the church and stayed there with friends and family to watch the live stream. They were right in the middle of all the action but in an incredibly intimate and personal way.” he said.
With Lucy’s grandmother Cathy Wallace in a retirement home and also unable to attend, the last stop before the church was for the family to visit her – all in their wedding attire.
“It was really overwhelming just to see my grandmother, sort of really bittersweet,” she said, “She was quite choked up, but she was very happy for me, we were there standing six feet apart with a fence between us, I couldn’t go into the other side, but it was still really special,” Lucy said.
(My parents, who passed away many years ago, were friends in Arnprior with Cathy Wallace and her husband Jack.)
“The day was perfect from start to finish I couldn’t have imagined it any other way, it was even better than I could have hoped,” she said.
Admittedly, walking down the long aisle of St. Patrick’s without anyone in the pews did seem a bit odd. But that was the only time she felt things were a bit out of sorts.
In the end, the intimate wedding, forced upon them by the pandemic, created a wedding – a union of two – few will forget, just as it should be. “It really just felt like such a blessing,” she said.
It really was.