Virtually yours: Guests celebrate civil partnership with video call to ceremony

A couple from London have become civil partners at a ceremony watched by their family and friends via a video call amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Formally dressed virtual attendees popped bottles of champagne as they watched Joshua Bicknell, 32, and Jessica Coates, 31, become partners at Islington Town Hall through video conferencing software on Saturday.

“We had to mute them because they were a bit too excited,” Ms Coates told the PA news agency.

“I guess you always hope that your wedding day, or civil partnership day, is memorable, but I guess this one was memorable for more than one reason – it was definitely the most unique ceremony we’ve ever attended.”

Mr Bicknell added: “This is not life carrying on as normal, but it can still be special and still be unique and you can still connect with family and friends.

“It can be a new normal and we can still enjoy life I think.”

Coronavirus
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

The couple had the small ceremony planned for the past six months but initially cancelled it on Wednesday, before reversing their decision at the last minute.

After a phone call on Friday, council registry staff agreed to host their partnership ceremony the next day – the last day possible at the building until Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Two witnesses, Mr Bicknell’s cousin and her girlfriend, joined them in person, but they told other family and friends to stay away to adhere to social distancing advice.

“Both of our parents are over 70 and in high-risk groups, and several other of our attendees have young children,” Ms Coates said.

“It was quite important to us that we weren’t putting anyone at risk.

“My mum is only a mile away but I told her not to come.”

Coronavirus
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

The couple walked for 30 minutes from their home to the town hall to avoid taking public transport, before walking to Highbury Fields to celebrate in the park with their witnesses.

Mr Bicknell said: “We’re really happy it went ahead.

“There are so many other ways you can connect as a community, and as a family, these days so we wanted to celebrate that – it was fun and the registrars took it in really good heart.”

The couple had been due to travel to Italy to celebrate their partnership with friends and family in June, but said they expect the to trip be cancelled.

New legislation which came into effect on December 31 means heterosexual couples across England and Wales are now able to enter into a civil partnership if they do not wish to marry.

Asked how they felt to have cemented their relationship under the new legislation, Ms Coates said: “It feels fantastic.

“For us it was important that we were celebrating our unity but in an equal way; that we are coming together as partners and as people rather than based on our genders.

“We got engaged two years ago and we’ve been waiting for a long time for the civil partnership law to come into effect before we got partnered because we felt it was more reflective of our relationship than traditional marriage.”

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