Dubai: It was not how they planned their big day. But, at least, all’s well that ends well for two pairs of lovebirds who finally professed their marriage vows on Monday, after weeks of delay due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Filipino expats Vanessa Panotes, 32, and Fretch Brian Pagaduan, 28, were supposed to tie the knot on April 30 in a civil wedding ceremony, followed by a big celebration attended by around 100 guests and a trip to Georgia for their honeymoon.
The second couple, Glaiza Mae Gevero, 27, and Prince RJ Paraico, 31, also planned a big gathering after their wedding that was initially set on April 2.
But the pandemic happened. Movement restrictions were imposed and big gatherings were banned to curtail the spread of the virus. Weddings at the Philippine Consulate in Dubai were canceled and the couples had to postpone and scale down their plans.
But then again, ‘true love waits’, as the saying goes, and the couples told Gulf News they actually utilised the downtime to build a stronger bond and ponder on their future.
“During the lockdown, we actually had more time to know each other,” said Mr and Mrs Pagaduan. “Unlike before, when we were both busy at work, we had more time to talk about things and plan our future,” they added.
The Paraicos also were able to draw up concrete plans and set priorities for their married life because of the ‘new normal’ ushered in by the pandemic.
Here comes the bride
The wedding day, however, was no less exciting for the two couples. Both brides wore the traditional white dresses and each one carried a bouquet of roses. The grooms too came in white, symbolising their pure intentions.
There were ‘selfies’ but no photographers were allowed, except for the two companions each couple brought with them to bear witness to their wedding, as prescribed by Philippine law.
Precautionary measures were also strictly observed. Everyone was checked by the guard at the gate for their body temperature before entering the consular premises. Face masks and hand gloves were required to be put on throughout the ceremony, and physical distancing was observed – except for the couples, who were allowed to sat, shoulder to shoulder, beside each other.
Only four chairs were placed in the hall; there was no other furniture aside from the small table in front of the couple, where they signed the marriage contract. A rostrum was set for the solemnising officer, who was at least three metres away from the couple. There were the Philippine and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) flags and only the portraits of the Philippine president and vice president served as the other witnesses to the ceremony.
Simple and more solemn
Civil weddings are now done one at time at the Philippine consulate, unlike before when Rizal Hall, where weddings took place, was filled to the brim with at least 20 couples and their witnesses.
Solemnising officer, Philippine deputy consul-general Renato Dueñas Jr., told Gulf News: “The difference now is we do the wedding one couple at a time. It is actually quieter and more solemn as it should be.”
“Before, the hall was crowded with more than 20 couples – because we had weddings only once a week. Now, we had to observe physical distancing but the good thing is the ceremony has become more solemn and more meaningful to the couples,” he further explained.
He added: “As for my advice, I hope they will be stronger in facing the challenges in life and have a real, lasting relationship as husband and wife.”
Start of a new life
Each ceremony was over in under 15 minutes. There were a few awkward moments during the wedding. At one time, one of the brides can’t decide whether or not to put the wedding ring with the hand glove on. One of the grooms also can’t decide to remove the mask before kissing the bride.
The couples also had simple receptions after their wedding, with only immediate family members and a handful close friends attending. Honeymoon plans were postponed and bigger celebrations will take place some other time.
But the marriage itself, according to the couples, was an indication that things will return to normal soon.
“Our weddings symbolised hope and the start of new life in the time of COVID,” the couples agreed.