Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.
Globe-trotting media personality and Raven X Metier hat designer Lucas Raven and primary school teacher Chris Flanagan first met one Friday evening in Qatar. Lucas had traveled from Dubai and was waiting in the hotel bar for a friend. The friend sent a message apologizing because his meeting was running later than expected, so Lucas ordered a glass of wine and sat by himself in the busy bar…until “this man sat next to me, and we started talking,” Lucas remembers. “Now, he’s my husband.”
After that fateful encounter, Lucas and Chris dated for two years and traveled the world together. While on Easter holiday at the Maia Resort on Mahé Island, they admired the sunset from the pool. Lucas kept telling Chris about how this view and hotel was paradise and that this would be the perfect place to propose, if only he had a ring. Chris chuckled and said, “Well, that’s really too bad!”
To Chris’s surprise, Lucas whipped out a velvet box from his pocket. “Don’t get excited now,” Lucas told him. “It’s just a set of cufflinks.” They both laughed.
But when Chris opened the box, he soon saw that it wasn’t a set of cufflinks…but an engagement ring. He quickly stopped laughing! Lucas asked Chris to marry him, and he replied with an emphatic “Yes!” Tears of joy were shed, champagne was popped, and parents were called over FaceTime.
The Dubai-based couple began planning their wedding for April 2020. By March, however, the spread of COVID-19 erupted and intensified. “We just knew we had to reschedule it,” Lucas recalls. “So we moved it to June, hoping that it was going to be over. It wasn’t. Finally, we saw a window to do it in September, but we had to set it all up in private as a more intimate setup than what we had in mind.”
The new venue was none other than a remote castle, situated in the rolling green meadows of northern Ireland. As soon as Lucas and Chris saw this venue, they knew they had to have their wedding here. “As the world around us was trying to recover from the turmoil, we created our universe there and then,” Lucas says. “All the doubts and worries of uncertainty melted away. As soon as I walked into that castle, I forgot that 2020 was happening.”
The couple forewent a wedding planner and instead leaned upon Chris’s large Irish family for their guidance and assistance with the big day. “They helped move mountains to make it happen,” Lucas says. Chris and his family handled most of the wedding planning, while Lucas took care of the designer suits, shoes, cake, and honeymoon itinerary.
While planning the wedding looks for himself and Chris, Lucas turned to his fashion industry connections. “My dear friend Varoin Marwah, a Dubai-based menswear designer, had shown me some pieces from his latest collection prior to his digital show. I was so inspired by his velvet suits that I asked him to design our wedding tuxedos.” Varoin was so honored that he not only designed the sumptuous tuxedos, he also gifted the outfits to the grooms as a wedding present.
The guest list was just as stylish, featuring mavens in menswear design. “Among them were the Milan-based Napolitano brothers, the Bencivenga.” Two months before the wedding, though, the brothers called and said they could no longer attend the wedding but had a contact in Dubai who would take the grooms’ measurements. “We ended up with two looks!” Raven says. He convinced Chris that they should have an outfit change for the reception.
They completed the wedding looks with their wedding bands, purchased from the gold souk, “one of the best jewelry markets on the planet,” Lucas insists. They engraved their names and wedding date into their rings.
Due to the virtual circumstances of planning a 2020 wedding, the cosmopolitan wedding party members were left to their own devices for attire. “I made it rather easy for them, though,” Lucas adds. “Black suits for men and a white suit for the only lady in my entourage. I provided the blue bow ties to match my blue velvet tuxedo.” Chris similarly gifted green ties to his entourage, perfectly matching his own green tuxedo.
Lucas gifted his groom a vintage pair of cufflinks, a subtle throwback to the earlier proposal. In the hustle of preparing for the day, Lucas didn’t realize until the morning of the wedding that he didn’t have any cufflinks for himself! Chris’s father generously took off his own, so Lucas could wear his pair. Makeup artist Vimi Joshi added the final finishing touches before it was time to walk down the candlelit aisle.
On September 5, 2020, Lucas and Chris married in an intimate outdoor ceremony. Their minister and celebrant, Lorna Weir, officiated the ceremony by telling the couple’s love story. “It was the most personal ceremony ever,” Lucas avows. “She didn’t read anything from the Bible or quote any religious verse; she told a story about us, who we are and how we met, and how the odds of being in a country where who we are is deemed illegal, love shined through.”
The ceremony was so moving that Lucas was brought to tears, which is uncharacteristic for him. “I don’t even cry at funerals,” Lucas confesses, “but I did at my wedding.” The emotional day was brought to a climax when Chris surprised Lucas and sang during the ceremony.
Afterward, the newlyweds joined their guests for rounds and rounds of pictures. They savored the experience of seeing their smiling loved ones from so many far-flung places in the world like the Philippines and Germany in one place. In between champagne flukes, Lucas and Chris absconded to their suites for a quick outfit change before joining the reception.
The grooms sliced into their custom cake by Dublin-based baker Jen Rojas. “It was the most amazing wedding cake I’ve seen and tasted,” Lucas gushes. “She handcrafted the destinations where Chris and I have been and painted them all over our wedding cake.” The cake flavor was Guinness, Baileys, and Rocky Road, which were purposefully chosen as culinary homages to the country. “It was surprisingly delicious,” Lucas declares. “Most of my friends haven’t been to Ireland before, so to give them such an Irish experience was very special.”
Looking back on this fairytale day, Lucas and Chris cherish reliving their wedding. Lucas’s only regret was that he couldn’t savor the day more. “I never got the chance to take it all in and just breathe,” he reveals. “It was one ceremony after another.”