"It literally meant everything to us to have everyone there"
A couple got married in front of more than 200 people in a drive-in wedding ceremony.
Guests watched the couple tie the knot on a screen while they sat in their cars on a 500-acre Essex estate.
Roma Popat and Vinal Patel got around the Covid-19 restrictions of 15 people at weddings when their guests watched the four-hour wedding while sitting in their cars.
The wedding was held directly in front of a small number of immediate family. Guests watched from more than 100 parked cars.
Guests from all over the world also watched the live footage of the wedding at Braxted Park in Chelmsford.
After the ceremony, Roma and Vinal toured the grounds in a golf buggy, waving while parked-up friends and family honked their horns.
The wedding took place on October 2, 2020. Guests received a hamper containing snacks as well as safety instructions, anti-bacterial hand gel and bin liners for their litter.
During the drive-in wedding, guests could order food from a website to be delivered by waiters. However, they were only allowed to leave their vehicles to use the toilet.
Roma said: “Both of us had the most amazing day and we have since had so many calls and messages from guests saying how much they enjoyed the experience and felt part of it.
“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.”
The couple were originally supposed to get married in April but the lockdown forced them to postpone it until October.
Roma continued: “At the time, we did not understand the severity of the situation and were still holding out hope that we could have a re-arranged wedding for 700 guests, as originally planned.”
When weddings and receptions were limited to 30 people, the couple came up with the idea of a drive-in wedding.
Roma said: “A lot of our family and friends were saying they would like to watch coverage of our ceremony in small groups in their gardens.
“We then thought, why not have a mass screening instead in a Covid-compliant way?”
The couple did prior research by going to a local drive-in cinema.
Roma said: “We saw how people were parked and how the technology and food ordering worked.
“We spent more time looking around us than watching the movie and thought the whole thing was amazing.”
When their revised wedding date arrived, the wedding gathering limit had been further reduced to 15.
Roma said: “We both come from big families. It meant we each had only our parents, siblings and a set of grandparents able to attend the ceremony in person.
“It did not sit right with us that so many other friends and family were not able to be there and we wanted them to be part of our celebration. Our guests all dressed up still even though they were only in their cars.
“We had two big screens showing the ceremony and it was surreal when we then processed through the middle of the field on the back of a golf buggy to give our guests a wave.
“They went crazy. Everyone was honking their horns and cheering us. It was incredible. We had a live Zoom feed for everyone else all over the world, as far away as India, America and Canada.”
Vinal added: “We did not want to let Covid stop us marrying.
“We were determined to get on with our lives and soldier on and make the best of our wedding and Roma did an incredible job of re-arranging it over the past few weeks.”
Luxury wedding planner Saheli Mirpuri helped the couple. She said:
“This year has been so difficult for couples wanting to wed.
“Celebrations don’t come much bigger than traditional Asian weddings and so it was a challenge to help make Roma and Vinal’s big day so special.
“We’re delighted with the success of the drive-in, which was a creative way to ensure that guests felt they were with the couple on the day, and to have worked with so many amazing suppliers to bring everything together.”