Jessica Birondo (32) and Nico Rovira (35) decided to postpone their wedding. The couple from The Philippines had been together for eight years before getting engaged. Ms Birondo moved to Australia in May 2017, while Mr Rovira stayed in The Philippines. He said the distance only made their love stronger. They were engaged late-2018, and spent 2019 planning the wedding.
When the couple finally reunited, they had no idea of the obstacles they would face.
“I arrived here in Australia to live permanently on 7 March 2020,” Mr Rovira said. “A few days after, 9 March, we attended a Before We Say I Do workshop with Robyn Donnelly, not knowing within that same week, 13 March — also a month before our wedding — we would make a difficult but necessary decision to postpone our big day.”
Before We Say I Do is a CatholicCare Social Services workshop for couples before they marry. The workshop looks at research that strengthens relationships. Ms Birondo and Mr Rovira were the last couple to do the workshop face to face before Mrs Donnelly moved it temporarily online.
“The timing of our workshop with Robyn couldn’t have been more perfect,” Mr Rovira said. “During this difficult and challenging time, we learnt to communicate and understand each other better, do small things often, repair our conflicts and we were able to tackle this challenge calmly.
“It was a very difficult period for us; lots of anxious moments due to the uncertainties. There were health concerns and issues with suppliers, and especially as a lot of our friends and relatives will be coming in from overseas.
“After much thought, we collectively decided along with our immediate family to postpone the wedding. It was hard but it was the right thing to do at that time. We managed to accept the reality that there are things in life that are bound to happen, and if it happens there’s nothing you can do because it is beyond your control.”
Ms Birondo and Mr Rovira will be getting married in 2021, but another couple have brought their wedding plans forward. Jessie Cairns (30) is in the Pastoral Placement Program in the Diocese and Jacob Barker (30) works at John Hunter Hospital.
The pair met at church just before Ms Cairns moved to London for two years. They dated long distance for 18 months. Mr Barker flew to Europe just before Ms Cairns returned to Newcastle a year ago, and proposed on a bridge at Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany.
They will be married in June, on the date previously set for their engagement party. The couple decided to bring the date forward after praying and discussing it with family.
“We definitely took the time to pray to discern whether we would do it or not. My worst fear was of making people feel like they were being left out,” Ms Cairns said.
Family and friends gave their blessing, which gave the couple peace of mind.
“Seeing how supportive everyone was, just reaffirmed that it was the right decision,” Mr Barker said.
After deciding to go ahead with the wedding when the capped number was five, they are looking forward to including more family in the ceremony after the recent government announcement to allow more guests.
They will live-stream the ceremony, recording it for those who can’t attend, and are also planning a celebration — Redo of the I Do’s — once restrictions are lifted.
In the parish of St Benedict’s Newcastle, Vicar-General Fr Andrew Doohan says the numbers show the difference between this year and last year.
There were four weddings in the parish in April last year. This year there has been only one.
One couple chose to go ahead with their wedding, with only five attendees — the couple, Fr Doohan, and two witnesses. Fr Doohan said he was celebrant, photographer and musician for the ceremony.
The date of 1 April was kept by the couple as it was exactly seven years since the day they met. They live-streamed the ceremony for those who couldn’t attend, and plan to have a reception once restrictions have been lifted.
Other sacraments have been put on pause, particularly baptisms.
In the month of April last year, there were 20 baptisms in the parish. Due to the ban this year until 15 May, there has been none.
Funerals have stayed much the same, with three in the month of April last year, and four this year. Although the number attending has obviously dramatically reduced, with only 10 people allowed during the month of April.
Fr Doohan is looking forward to the reopening of churches and the resumption of normal parish life as soon as possible.
To find out more about Before We Say I Do, go to www.catholiccare.org.au