Chantell February* and Thabiso Mmatli* spent a few years saving up for their wedding, and Chantell had a bridal shower with friends and family in preparation for their union.
A week from now, the couple was finally meant to cement their relationship in a two-day wedding ceremony.
Then the coronavirus outbreak happened, and they received a call that they had never even imagined receiving. It was the management at their chosen wedding venue, Victoria Hall, in Germiston Lake, east of Joburg.
Unfortunately, the venue could no longer accommodate their white wedding scheduled for 28 March due to coronavirus restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa a few days earlier.
Details from the wedding invitation. Images supplied by Thabiso Mmatli.
"I was very disappointed as I had been looking forward to this day for a long time. But I understood the risks involved as well," says the bride-to-be.
No gatherings of more than 100 people are permitted. Chantell (37) and Thabiso (41) had booked for 200 guests, but they anticipated an overflow of about 100 more people. The venue wanted to be extra cautious and not take the risk even if they offered to trim their guest list. Their booking fee would be fully refunded.
But the cancelled venue is only a small portion of what was already planned for Saturday's white wedding.
"When we received the call, we had already paid most service providers because the wedding was only a few days away," Thabiso explains.
They had already paid for catering, the wedding dress, suits, cake, transportation, décor, flowers, and other services. Plus, it's no secret that additional unaccounted costs related to planning a wedding such as petrol, catering for meetings with the bridal party, etc. can mount up fast.
In addition to this, many of the service providers are Joburg based and would not necessarily be able to provide their services at a different location.
All these considerations meant the couple was faced with the predicament of whether to find another venue or cancel their wedding altogether.
They saw no other option but to cancel the white wedding.
"We want to protect our guests, and I don't think it would be a good idea to have a big wedding then after that people end up dying because of our event. I wouldn't want that on my conscience. Today I sent out cancelation messages to guests letting them know of the latest developments," Thabiso says.
The text sent to wedding guests. Images supplied by Thabiso Mmatli.
The cancellation has resulted in an estimated financial loss of about R80 000 for the couple. However, they are in negotiations with some of their service providers to recover some of the money or use their services at a later stage.
"The money that we will lose can always be replaced, but the lives that may be lost due to forcing matters can never be replaced. It is also key to remember that there are other people with compromised immune systems who may be gravely affected just by merely trying to make our day special," says Thabiso.
The couple still plans to go ahead with a small traditional ceremony at Thabiso's home in Vrede, Free State on Saturday, with only a handful of family members and guests. The ceremony was initially planned for Sunday with an open invitation to all family members, friends and neighbours.
They will still be able to use the photographer that they had already booked.
"The compromise is to appease our parents as they are of the African belief that weddings should never be cancelled," Thabiso says.
The couple will provide sanitizer and wipes at the gathering and, at a later stage, will make their marriage official at the Department of Home Affairs.
"We will still have a big white wedding one day, when the coronavirus is cleared," says an optimistic Chantell.
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*Names have been changed as the bridal couple requested anonymity.