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Catholic newlyweds honour Sacrament during Pandemic

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Catholic newlywed Grace trapped in Sydney – celebrates a COVID-era wedding with her friends and family interstate PHOTO: Supplied

Couples wanting to marry may feel discouraged by the restrictions on traditional celebrations imposed by COVID. But for young Victorian Catholics not even a pandemic has been able to deter them – even if it means making some compromises.

Siblings Dustin and Grace Hesse, who had planned their weddings before COVID, were determined to marry their respective partners in August – as planned.

the dream wedding I wanted wasn’t going to be a reality

Dustin was to wed his fiancée Chanel while Grace was to wed her fiancé Nick.
For Dustin and Chanel, who live in Melbourne, plans shifted with the rapid onset of restrictions.

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For Catholic couple Dustin and Chanel Hesse, who live in Melbourne, wedding plans shifted with the rapid onset of COVID restrictions but they persevered with what they believed to be the essence of the marriage sacrament PHOTO: supplied

“We originally had about 120 guests; then 50; then a list of 20. By the end, we were praying to have our parents attend,” Chanel told The Catholic Weekly.

But the closing of borders – which prevented Chanel’s family in New South Wales from attending – and then the onset of Stage 4 Restrictions, meant this was not possible.

“I began to realise the dream wedding I wanted wasn’t going to be a reality,” she said.
“I remember that hitting me … realising my family weren’t going to be present and I began to break down crying.”

Christ at the Wedding of Cana: Jesus’ first miracle and a moment where Christ transformed the lowly water of the guests into a rich wine. Similarly the simple ceremony of the Catholic couples honouring a love that conquers even the hardest adversity PHOTO Wikimedia Commons 17th Century painting ‘Hochzeit du Kana’ by Hieronymus Francken III

As uncertain circumstances loomed, Chanel and Dustin finished marriage preparation with their priest and decided to continue. “We had two days to prepare our wedding but everything just fell into place on the day of the wedding,” she said. Chanel and Dustin married on 5 August at Holy Family Parish in Mount Waverley in Melbourne in the presence of a priest, a maid of honour and the best man.

“While I still wish my family could have been there I think there was something so beautiful about Dustin and I receiving the sacrament,” said Chanel.

“If we can get through planning a wedding in two days during a global pandemic then you can throw anything our way.”

we knew that God would make a way for us

While Sydney restrictions are not as tough as Melbourne, Nick and Grace still faced challenges. Grace, who was working in Melbourne at COVID’s onset, left the state to be able to wed her beloved.

“To have everything stripped away was very hard,” said Grace. “But God gives you only as much you can handle.”

Doves and interlocking wedding bands symbolising the sacrament of marriage are depicted in a stained-glass window. Photo: Gregory A. Shemitz

Nick and Grace prayed the rosary daily in the months before the wedding – which they credit with giving them spiritual strength in dealing with the situation as they relied on providence and friends.

This pandemic will end and when it does we will celebrate with everyone

“We were obviously pretty stressed but we knew that God would make a way for us,” said Nick. “People really came together and came around us and people wanted to support us to get married on the day – and they understood the real beauty and the sacrament.”

Nick and Grace on the day of their wedding – The Feast of the Assumption – at St Thomas Beckett Church Lewisham PHOTO: supplied

Nick and Grace wed on the Feast of the Assumption – 15 August – at St Thomas Beckett, Lewisham, with a modest reception and iconic COVID-era Zoom speeches with family at the house of best man Michael.

Chanel said marriage during tough times might be “in her blood” as her grandparents wed under similarly strict conditions in WWII.  “I have no regrets. This pandemic will end and when it does we will celebrate with everyone,” she said.


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