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Couple become the first to have wedding at Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone since lockdown began

Since the country was plunged into lockdown more than 100 days ago, many of us have had to cancel plans we had long looked forward to.

For many happy couples, dream wedding days were a heart-breaking victim of the national shutdown - with ceremonies cancelled and many rearranged for dates months or even years later. But there was joy in Maidstone this afternoon.

Gayle Turrell and Andy Thompson tie the knot at the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone, with a maximum of 26 friends and relatives
Gayle Turrell and Andy Thompson tie the knot at the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone, with a maximum of 26 friends and relatives

Today's easing of the Covid-19 restrictions couldn't have come at a better time for one couple as it means they can tie the knot on the day they had originally planned.

Gayle Turrell and Andy Thompson were the first couple to be married at the Archbishop's Palace in the town since the lockdown began back in March.

It was all a bit of a sudden surprise, because even though they had kept the booking just in case, they only found out the ceremony could go ahead on Wednesday.

"We had cancelled the reception," Gayle said yesterday. "But we never cancelled the ceremony because we hoped it would go ahead."

The couple, who live in Wrotham with their three boys, had to make last minute plans to be ready for the big day, with borrowed rings featuring at today's happy occasion.

Gayle Turrell and Andy Thompson were one of the first couples to get married after the nation went into lockdown back in March
Gayle Turrell and Andy Thompson were one of the first couples to get married after the nation went into lockdown back in March

Social distancing rules also mean changes to the wedding, with Gayle, 50, being given away by her eldest son, 17-year-old Toby - rather than her father - since they are part of the same household.

Andy, who runs a building company, expressed his disappointment that the planned reception at the The Moody Mare in Seven Mile Lane would not be going ahead.

The 48-year-old said: "We aren't going to be having the 300-people wedding reception, but I'm glad we can do the wedding this year, next year is going to be mad.

"We were preparing for the worst, the Archbishop's still had to be assessed and meet criteria for social distancing, but they phoned us on Wednesday and said we could have 26 guests, so it's fantastic."

Safety measures included hand sanitiser for the congregation and chairs spaced out so everyone could remain at a safe distance.

The new Mrs Thompson also said readings and music was not allowed during the ceremony, so as to minimise the risk of spreading any virus.

Although there were fewer family and friends present than hoped, there will still be a chance to celebrate - with a socially-distanced garden party at the happy couple's home this evening.

And the cancelled reception? Now it will be a huge get-together next spring when Andy's sister and her family will be able to fly in from Australia to toast the union - even if it is a little later than first hoped.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone


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