Drive-in wedding in Essex bypasses coronavirus guest limit

With a global pandemic, heavy rain and a 15-person limit on nuptials to contend with, one couple decided there was only one way to do their big day: a drive-in wedding.

Roma Popat and Vinal Patel got around Covid-19 restrictions by letting 200 guests attend and watch the four-hour ceremony from the comfort of their own cars.

The pair got married in front of a small gathering of immediate family at Braxted Park, a 500-acre estate in Chelmsford, Essex, while friends and family watched on big screens from more than 100 cars parked outside. Another 300 guests tuned in via video link from around the world.

As is tradition with Hindu weddings, the groom made an entrance, travelling around the field before the ceremony and waving at guests, who still got dressed up for the occasion, from a decorated golf buggy driven by a member of venue staff wearing a face mask.

The couple, both 30, later toured the grounds in the same buggy to greet their guests, who honked their horns and flashed their lights in socially distanced celebration.

On arrival, guests were requested to stay in their cars unless they needed the toilet and were given hampers of snacks, antibacterial hand gel and bin liners for their rubbish. They could also use a website to order food to be delivered safely to their vehicles by waiters on Segways.

Popat and Patel were originally due to marry on 20 April and took the difficult decision to postpone the wedding until October after lockdown disrupted their plans.

Popat, a marketing executive, and Patel, an IT consultant, floated the idea of a drive-in cinema-style event as a joke to their wedding planner, Saheli Mirpuri, who specialises in luxury Asian events.

The couple, from north London, went to see the film Bad Boys at a local drive-in cinema to research how it might work in practice. By the time of the wedding, which was booked for last Friday, the limit on wedding attendance had been reduced again to 15 in government guidance.

“It soon had us all putting our heads together with enthusiasm to bring this wonderful, Covid-compliant wedding together in a way that could allow more than 15 guests,” Mirpuri said, adding that lockdown had been really difficult for her London-based company, Saheli Events.

“This year has been so difficult for luxury Asian weddings and celebrations in particular, but this was a creative way to still ensure that guests felt they were with the couple on the day, and we’re delighted to have worked with so many amazing suppliers to bring everything together.”

The bride said it meant everything to the couple that their friends and family were able to be part of the celebration. “When we had to postpone our wedding in April, we had no idea whether we would be able to get married this year or not,” Popat said.

“It literally meant everything to us to have everyone there, albeit in a slightly different way to the one we envisaged. It’s a day we’ll never forget.”

Alex Rayner, the chief executive of events at Braxted Park, said there was frustration at wedding businesses being unable to operate owing to government restrictions, and the venue was delighted to have overcome them safely.

“Within just three weeks we created a drive-in wedding … [enabling] the visitors in the cars to enjoy the wedding experience, albeit at a distance,” Rayner said. The venue has since received “a flood of inquiries to replicate the process”.


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