- Lian Anstey and Scott Ternent knew they wanted to get married six weeks after they met, planning to elope.
- Nationwide Covid-19 restrictions meant they couldn't register their marriage at Home Affairs in March as they initially planned.
- Once wedding restrictions were lifted, the couple made an appointment and got married with two witnesses present and their families on video call.
Among a snaking line outside Home Affairs – in the midst of irritation, restlessness and despair – a starry-eyed couple, head over heels in love and bursting with the excitement of getting married stood.
It was on 18 August 2020 when Lian and Scott tied the knot at the Barrack Street Home Affairs in Cape Town, but they had wished to have this modest ceremony months earlier.
We are all aware that the pandemic we are facing has come with many limitations. Couples who wished to have a wedding ceremony – big or small – were also faced with the reality of Covid-19 restrictions standing in the way of their big day.
In the ultimate desperation to formally profess their love to each other, Lian and Scott found out they couldn’t get an appointment in March and had to wait in line, once restrictions were lifted, as the state officials worked through the backlog of couples wanting to get married.
But Lian’s story with her, now, husband Scott – you can bet – is nothing like the other couples wanting to get married mid-pandemic.
“We had a bit of a crazy story, we met in January and we got engaged six weeks after we met,” says Lian. “It was a complete whirlwind love story from the beginning and we just wanted to run away and go to Home Affairs.”
The moment that brought them together was Scott needing assistance with moving a chair up a flight of stairs. “From his side he instantly knew, he was just head over heels … I turned around and said ‘we’re going to be best friends’,” she says.
And adds: “We never left each other’s side, we didn’t spend an evening apart. That was in January, then we went into lockdown weeks later. We knew immediately after six weeks that we were [getting] married. I actually said to him, let’s get married and he [agreed].”
As they were about to book a date, the President instituted a lockdown. After trying one Home Affairs after another they were turned away, so the pair decided we socially isolate together in a remote cabin in the Western Cape.
“The minute lockdown was announced we contacted some friends that have a farm and we said ‘can we go live in the cabin in the mountains for next three weeks?’. So it turned out we were alone in this cabin with no electricity and lockdown got extended by five weeks so we were there in this sort of karoo environment and we really got to know each other very well as you would in that situation,” says Lian.
However bleak, this setback gave them some time to not only plan their day at Home Affairs but to also develop a deeper connection while out in nature together.
“I met his family through all the FaceTimes, we [spoke] everyday, he met my family so that’s the extent that we know each other’s closest family,” she says.
Once the restrictions on marriages were lifted the newlyweds were quick to make their marriage appointment. “We just wanted to do it immediately,” says Lian.
After securing a date they heard they weren’t allowed more than two witnesses because of Covid-19, so Lian asked her best friend, who also doubled as photographer for the day.
“I was really blessed because he’s quite good at photography and he was my witness, otherwise he would’ve never been able to be inside the room, so that was really lucky for us.”
Their second witness was Scott’s brother, who doubled as a videographer as he video called the couple's parents to experience the wedding virtually.
“He had two cellphones with my family in the UK and my husband’s family in Australia who were all watching on video. We were so devastated we couldn’t have them there and they were saying please wait [but] we couldn’t wait, we were so excited. Thank goodness they could be here on video and we were allowed video.”
While in this magical bubble, Lian and Scott couldn't avoid the inevitable mishaps that come with visiting Home Affairs.
Giddy with joy, the couple overlooked the rainy weather and ran into Home Affairs, hopeful. But their appointment wasn't recognised and after fighting for the security personnel to let them in, they retreated and waited in line with the rest of the people visiting the offices.
Lian and Scott outside Home Affairs. Photo: Gerrit Olivier
Lian recalls: “We were so nervous that maybe it was going to ruin our experience but once we were in there it was so perfect. I thought the person who did it would be a bit rude or short with us but actually was so cool. She understood the value of what we were doing and how we were excited and she allowed for that excitement. When you're stripped of a big wedding all that was left was the love and excitement."
Lian imprints her finger prints to the Home Affairs documents. Photo: Gerrit Olivier
While there was no church building or confetti raining on them as they left, they ran out of Home Affairs overflowing with happiness, just married, heading to their car.
Lian and Scott leave Home Affairs. Photo: Gerrit Olivier
"I think for us it's amazing that we could find such joy and love within this time and I think that when so much has been taken away from us – you couldn’t see your family, you couldn’t be with them – I think what you’re left with is knowing the most important things to you and how are you surviving especially … we just had the most important things, food, warmth, love and when you realise that, actually we’ve got so much.
"That’s why I think the Home Affairs wedding echoes all of that and we said, yes, you could look at Home Affairs as being such an ugly building, you’re by yourself. You think all of that but actually it just shows that all you need is that love and that light, that joy can be in these times – you don’t need to have that massive wedding to realise that."
Lian jumps for joy outside Home Affairs. Photo: Gerrit Olivier
Elated to have finally married her best friend, Lian says having a positive mindset made her realise how this was her most romantic life event. She treasures the epic moment of herself wearing a mask, in her wedding dress, leaving Home Affairs.
"I’ve been to so many weddings and I would never change what we did, ever, and I wouldn’t change when we did it because this will be a time and memory – you never forget your wedding, obviously, but you’ll never forget one during corona."
Have you hosted or attended a lockdown wedding? Tell us about it here.
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