Coronavirus: Let’s get virtually married, it will be good for morale – Alastair Stewart

Weddings could still go ahead during the coronavirus lockdown, says Alistair Stewart

Monday, 30th March 2020, 7:00 am
Could couples say 'I do' online?

A very dear friend of mine was due to be married on May 23. For obvious reasons, that happy day might not now happen – for the time being.

Covid-19 is front and centre of people’s minds and already many are recoiling at the prospect of ever again mingling in a crowd. It’s hard to say if that new phobia will pass, but we must focus on getting through this.

For now, what is certain is we’re all in the middle of a storm. Prince Charles’ diagnosis is a reminder that rich or poor, prince or pauper, we’re all affected by this disease.

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Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant

Businesses and people across the country are trying to adapt and get on as best they can. Far from being suffocated by isolation, we’re continually bombarded by digital innovations. ‘E-meetings’ are just meetings now, and life invariably goes on. Families are having online dinners together, friends sharing a glass of something remotely. Working from home is becoming the new norm.

And yet some activities by their nature cannot find a digital proxy. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sadly advised that only immediate family members can attend funerals. The City of Edinburgh Council has warned they’re under a massive strain at the moment to deliver death registrations to permit funerals to go ahead. Registration of births has been postponed until further notice.

In that legitimate doom and gloom, it seems intrinsic to harness positivity where we can. Not since the Second World War has public morale been cited as a concern in itself rather than a political trope. With some imagination, there’s no reason why marriages can’t go ahead.

The challenge is the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 requires the presence of the two parties to the marriage, two witnesses and a person authorised to solemnise the marriage. The Act was never written with digital variations of presence in mind, but there must be an appetite for it.

Would it not be possible to have a live stream of the couple signing their marriage certificate, invite witnesses and guests to join virtually with the whole thing solemnised through the internet? One large ‘Webinar Wedding’ might not be the special day people envisioned, but it would certainly be preferable to the heartbreak of cancelling thousands of marriages.

There will inevitably be some who abuse such a system. This seems possible with every measure the Scottish and UK governments are bringing in. Their level of goodwill is remarkable, and they genuinely are crisis measures to just get people through. This system won’t be perfect, but it would do for the time being.

If we consider that Boris Johnson and the Queen have moved their weekly audience to a phone call, something should and must be done about weddings. It’s not enough to postpone when we don’t know how any of this will last.

What will be needed is parliamentary discussion and quick legislation. The UK and Scottish governments have bigger fish to fry, but as times goes on – as this becomes the new norm – we’ll need to look at morale in a lockdown as surely as we do health.

What’s a wedding if not a statement before your family, friends and communities that you intend to stick by some in thick and thin? Now seems as good a time as any to prioritise them.

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant. Read more from Alastair at www.agjstewart.com and follow him on Twitter @agjstewart