Butcher couple get married on fourth attempt on Christmas Eve
- Credit: Paul and Joe Flatt
After three failed attempts to get married this year, Matthew and Sophie Middleton began to wonder if it just wasn't meant to be.
Their original plans for May 8 were ruined by the first national coronavirus lockdown, before cancelling their second date on August 8 as the pandemic picture started to improve, in the hope that they could invite more people a little further down the line.
But as the situation worsened again, their plan for an October ceremony soon became unfeasible. Their gamble had failed to bear fruit and it was getting more difficult for them to stay positive.
"It felt like it was becoming a chore for us," said Mrs Middleton, 23. "It's not supposed to feel like that."
The couple, from Harleston, planned a December 30 ceremony, with the intention of inviting a select few guests in person and holding a Zoom call so that others could watch remotely.
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But just a week before their big day, the news broke that Norfolk would move into Tier Four from Boxing Day – their plans had been ruined once again, and they took it hard.
"We were more gutted that time than we were with the first original wedding date, because it was so close. On that same day I got messages and calls saying my flowers and everything else had arrived, which was tough.
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"At this point we really started wondering if marriage wasn't meant to be for us."
Later the news came which would change all that – they were given the opportunity to get married the following day, at 5pm on Christmas Eve, and they decided to go ahead with it with less than 24 hours to go until the ceremony.
But it wasn't so simple. The couple are butchers at family firm Pepperells Meats, based on the outskirts of Harleston, and Christmas is one of the busiest times of year.
"We were in the throes of the busiest Christmas we've ever had. It was absolutely manic," she said.
"We worked until 2am on Christmas Eve, the morning of the wedding, to get orders ready for customers, while dealing with flooding at the back of the factory. The car park was like a lake, and our van drivers got stuck out and about trying to make deliveries.
"We went home at 2am to get some sleep before going back to work at 6.30am, ready for customers to come and collect Christmas orders. I finished at about 12.30, my mum finished at 2pm and Matty finished at 3pm to get ready to get down to the church to get married at 5pm.
"I didn't feel like I was getting married at all until I got to that church, and then suddenly we got there and it was real."
The ceremony took place at the Grade I-listed St Mary's Church in Redenhall, a place which carries a special significance for the pair.
Mrs Middleton said: "That church is really important to us. Matthew's mum passed away in 2014 and she's buried in that church, and my grandad is buried up their too so it was really important to us that we got married there.
""I had originally planned for this big wedding, but what we had was so magical and perfect. The weather was terrible and we were both exhausted, but when we walked into the church it was dark outside, but the candles were lit and the lights were dimmed. It really was perfect."
The build up to the ceremony was unusual –and the days following it were no different. After enjoying Christmas Day with family as measures were eased, the county went into the toughest local restrictions the following day.
But she said she is delighted that she can live with her husband in lockdown, and that they have finally been able to tie the knot after so many disappointments this year.
Even though they would have preferred to have a huge celebration with all their family and friends, they know that they will be able to do that at some point in the future.
"Getting married was all that was important to us. The big celebrations can wait until further down the line, when it's safe," she said.