The new coronavirus has changed everything about the way we live – including the way we love.
The feelings might be the same, but the process of how we date, fall in love – or even fall out of love and divorce – have all had to change.
The heart wants what it wants. For some that has meant tying the knot, even if you can’t be surrounded by loved ones.
Melburnian Klara McMurray and her three mates started I Do Weddings when COVID-19 hit. She says the four celebrants have never been busier.
When COVID-19 hit we lost all our work in one unceremonious week,” she said.
“So Mel came up with the idea at four o’clock in the morning to do drive-thru weddings. The concept is, the couple doesn’t need to get out of the car and we don’t need to get in the car.”
Micro-weddings turned out to be a booming business. The celebrants snagged their first couple within 24 hours of launching the website.
“People are choosing scenic places, sentimental places or at home in their yard or in their homes,” Ms McMurray said.
“We’re still getting lost of enquiries because we’ve found people want to do it this way.
People who have been together for years and years see this as a low cost, personal, unique way to do it.”
The concept took off in Melbourne, and Adelaide, where the team even held a wedding over the radio.
They are now organising drive-thru weddings in locations ranging from Darwin to Las Vegas, with Florida due to launch soon.
“We’re getting a lot of Monday weddings, it’s ridiculous. People are working from home, so they think ‘oh well, I’ll take the afternoon off and wander down the beach’,” Ms McMurray said.
“We had one couple, they were heavily pregnant and had just moved house into a construction zone.
They had the brickie organised for two o’clock, the wedding at three, and then she went off and had the baby at eight o’clock that night.”
Although social restrictions have generally eased – although not in Victoria – even when the distancing numbers went up to 20, they still had couples opting for small intimate events.
“Some are getting us to supply witnesses,” Ms McMurray said.
Danielle and Chris were married last weekend. Originally they wanted a destination wedding, surrounded by family and friends. COVID-19 put an end to that plan.
“I was talking to Chris about it a couple of months ago, he said ‘Look, I still want to do it, there will always be something’,” Danielle said.
The pair tied the knot aboard Puffing Billy, a heritage train and railway in the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne.
Although Victoria’s social restrictions had temporarily eased to 20, the couple decided to keep it intimate.
“It had become 20, but only just. So we decided to cap it at eight, and family only. Mine are in Queensland so we videotaped it for them because obviously plane flights are a risk,” Danielle explained.
“It was very, very hard to choose who came. I have several close friends I wanted there, but we just had to make the hard decision and said we would have a celebration later.
I think more than ever we needed something uplifting … I’m proud to have gotten married this year amongst the global change.”
On the other side of the love spectrum, many Australian’s have decided to call time on their marriages.
Financial pressures combined with spending too much time together stuck at home has created a disaster for many Australian couples.
Queenslander Ben realised it was over for him and Emily after spending days at home together. He had just taken on a big project, and she had lost her job.
“Basically I took on a pretty intense job, a fairly large project, I had a lot of responsibility,” he said.
I was home working in another room and she’s sitting on her phone, not working, not doing things.
“She said to me she felt like she didn’t contribute as much as I did, while I was working my arse off from seven in the morning to six at night.
“When you have to go to an office, if you’re separated, you don’t realise. But when someone is talking all day in meetings and doesn’t have the time, it made it harder. Then she wasn’t able to go anywhere so she probably felt more isolated.”
Eventually, the pair both realised it was over. The spilt was amicable.
“We had the conversation about it and she asked if I was happy and I said ‘I don’t know I’m just busy’ and she said ‘I’m not happy either’,” Ben said.
“I was thankful she bought it up because in my mind marriage is forever.”
The pair couldn’t divorce properly, because legally you need to be separated for 12 months so they looked at other options – settling on a financial separation agreement.
“We’re still friends, we still talk. We just didn’t have those feelings anymore, so it’s nice to know you can do something that settles your affairs and can get on with your life.”
RP Emery is a company that provides legal documents – for divorce or settlements. They said Ben and Emily’s story is common right now.
In fact, inquiries for their divorce and settlement service during COVID-19 lockdown has seen a 25 per cent increase.
If they’re not contacting – they’re certainly thinking about it.
The ‘divorce and separation’ page of their site has seen a 30 per cent increase as hundreds of couples look at their options.
“At the moment we’ve got a lot of enquires because people have been forced together for a reasonable period of time and you’ve got financial pressure causing couples to recognise there are cracks,” said director Ian MacLeod.
“We don’t want to see anybody’s relationship break down. We do our best to encourage people to keep things together … the first thing I say is ‘get counselling, try and keep it together’.
“But if you have a separating couple they can purchase a kit, we put them through the process of putting this financial agreement together. Then we put them in touch with a lawyer, who can provide legal advice through that document.
“For years and years, we’ve seen an increase in January to March and then it tapers off. This year it just kept going.
“We’ve put that down to added stress they’re under with COVID-19.”