By Jenny Noyes
But with the lockdown now extended to at least August 28, the couple are beginning to regret that they didn’t fast-track their nuptials to the weekend the restriction was announced. If they had, they could have started their lives together by now.
Instead, as devout Christians who, for religious reasons, are not prepared to move in together until they are married, the lockdown has left them in limbo.
Under the public health order, marriage – as in the legal ceremony, which requires a minimum of five people to attend – is banned. It’s a significant change from last year’s lockdown rules in NSW and other states, when legal marriages could still go ahead with a tight limit on attendee numbers.
The couple’s minister, the Reverend Roger Fitzhardinge from Fairy Meadow Anglican Church, said he had been able to hold funerals with 10 people in the past two weeks, but weddings with even fewer people had been deemed unworthy of exemption by the government – a decision he branded “absolutely illogical, ludicrous and careless”.
“All they want is to be married. All they want is to be able to make their promises. And if it’s on a live stream, that’s fine.”The Reverend Roger Fitzhardinge
He said members of his church were “absolutely distraught at the thought that they can’t make their vows before God and each other simply because there’s an arbitrary prohibition on gathering”.
Mr Fitzhardinge said the rules appear to have been made with a focus on wedding receptions, not legal marriages, but the couples he refers to don’t care about the reception party.
“All they want is to be married. All they want is to be able to make their promises. And if it’s on a live stream, that’s fine,” he sai“I’m talking about, you know, five or six people present. Fewer people than I see at Aldi every day.”
The issue “doesn’t apply to millions of people in the state”, he said, “but for the people to whom it does apply, it means everything to them”.
Esther Wong and Jono Lukins, from Sydney’s north and inner west respectively, are in a similar predicament, and have been looking into ways to get around it so they can move in together as planned.
“We’ve cancelled our honeymoon and the wedding plans, and we’re just fighting to be allowed to get married at this point,” Ms Wong, 25, said. They’d hoped to be able to say their vows from Ms Wong’s parents’ home with their pastor on Zoom, she said, but found out the idea would breach the Marriage Act.
The only other option for them is to not be married legally, but to hold some sort of ceremony that will satisfy their religious beliefs. They’re now looking into how that might work.