Lea Abergel had been planning her wedding to fiancé Ruben Fellous since he proposed in January 2019. The dress was bought, the venue booked and 250 guests confirmed, but the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic (the UK is now officially in lockdown) meant Lea was forced to pull the plug on her big day.
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Lea and Ruben cancelled their wedding due to coronavirus
"We are devastated and heartbroken," the 24-year-old told HELLO!. "We had sent out save the dates months ago, and everyone had booked a flight out to Tel Aviv."
That's where it gets interesting. Lea and her partner live in Israel, while their families live in London and Paris. Just 15 days before Lea was due to say I do on 23 March, Israel closed the borders from France, meaning that no French citizens would be allowed into the country.
Lea and Ruben lost all of the money spent on the wedding
"I sobbed," said Lea. "That was more than half of our guest list. I had hoped that it would go on as most of my family live in London, but in time things got worse."
Sure enough, Israel went on to enforce a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving into the country from overseas- London included. Since her family were only arriving a few days before the wedding, this meant they wouldn't be out in time for the ceremony.
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Lea and Ruben were planning the wedding since January 2019
"This was the most important part for me," said Lea. "I can't imagine getting married without my parents and siblings." Despite missing the wedding date, her parents have decided to fly out and endure the quarantine in the hope of making this tough time less stressful for Lea.
Interestingly, though the country is implementing strict rules upon entry, there is currently no protection for local businesses or residents affected by the coronavirus outbreak, including weddings. "The venue manager was happy to go ahead with the wedding," Lea told us. "Because it was our choice to cancel, they are not willing to pay us back and we have lost 100 per cent of our fees." She adds that they've also lost the money they shelled out for everything from caterers to flowers.
In the UK, however, the chancellor has unveiled a £350billion package to help the economy, including grants of up to £25,000 for small businesses such as weddings.
Lea and Ruben are unable to afford another wedding of the same size
"We have decided to hire a lawyer," she added. "This is a situation that doesn't depend on us and it's unfair that we have to pay the price. We wanted and want to get married but we would be paying for 250 guests when over 200 of them are unable to attend because the Israeli government has closed the borders. Even if it isn't the venue's fault, something should be done to protect people who suffer the consequences."
As for her guests, Lea says that many have lost the money they spent on flights and hotels for their stay and, to add insult to injury, Lea and Ruben have lost money from their honeymoon, too.
"We had a trip booked to the Maldives for the week after our wedding, but now we won't be going since we won't be allowed back into the country without having to go into quarantine. We wouldn't be able to work during this time which isn't an option for us." As a result, the couple have lost half of their hotel fees (this was a standard reimbursement agreement, and not a practice enforced due to coronavirus), but luckily were refunded 100 per cent of their flight fees as the Israeli airline had cancelled all flights to Asia.
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Lea and Ruben are too upset to look into rescheduling at this point, but Lea says that they hope to get some of their money back which they may use on a smaller wedding since they wouldn't be able to afford another of the same size.
Her advice for any couples due to marry soon? "Make sure you have some sort of wedding insurance and protection if you haven't already booked your venue. I also became aware that a lot of people are apprehensive about being in crowds and touching like they would while dancing so, if I'm honest, I would avoid getting married within the next few months." And for any UK-based brides, the recent lockdown announcement means that there might be no choice but to postpone.
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