Facing the logistical challenge of an interstate wedding is daunting for any couple, but Lara Biggs and Andrew Factor had the added drama caused by COVID-19 lockdowns. Lara, 30, grew up in Sydney but moved to Melbourne in 2017 after meeting Andrew, 33, in his hometown during a visit in 2016. They were engaged a week before COVID-19 restrictions started in Melbourne last year, after Andrew proposed in a local park, ready with a bottle of champagne and a blow-up imitation ring. They promptly booked their wedding for December 2020 at Miramare Gardens in the northern Sydney suburb of Terrey Hills, where they could have the chuppah and reception at the same venue. A few weeks later, as the pandemic took hold and state governments introduced lockdowns, they changed the date to February 21 this year. At the start of this year Lara and Andrew printed their invitations for 300 guests – half from Victoria and half from NSW – but within days Sydney’s Northern Beaches went into lockdown over COVID-19 community transmission. “We decided that our wedding would be all or nothing with numbers,” said Lara, hopeful that interstate travel restrictions would be lifted in time, as a large contingent of Andrew’s family – totalling about 40 – planned to travel from Melbourne.
The Northern Beaches threat soon passed, but drama surrounded Andrew’s call-up planned for Elwood shule on February 13 when Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Melbourne would go into a five-day lockdown from February 12. Fearful of being stuck in Melbourne if the lockdown was extended, or forced into 14-day hotel quarantine on arrival in Sydney, Andrew and Lara decided to cancel the callup and drive to Wagga in the NSW Riverina district for an overnight stop. “We packed in 15 minutes,” recalled Lara, thankful her wedding dress was in Sydney awaiting her final fittings. “All our family decided to get out of Melbourne. Some drove with us to Wagga, others booked hire cars or caught flights to Sydney. “We had planned a kiddush after the callup at a friend’s home, and when that was cancelled we gave some food to friends and donated the rest.” Most of Andrew’s family left Melbourne before lockdown, enjoying an impromptu holiday in Sydney before the wedding. When Melbourne’s lockdown was over at midnight on the Wednesday, many guests rebooked flights to Sydney, some ending up on the same flights and creating a party atmosphere onboard. “Many of our friends were really looking forward to our wedding and made the effort to come to Sydney – for many it was their first post-lockdown wedding,” said Lara.
Once in Sydney the wedding preparations continued in earnest, with Lara having daily visits to her dressmaker for her fittings. Lara’s mum, Ellen, sewed together the tallits belonging to Andrew and his father to form a canopy on the chuppah, but because the call-up had been rescheduled to South Head synagogue for the day before the wedding, she could only finish sewing on the night before the ceremony. “Our caterer, June Edelmuth, allowed us to delay until the Wednesday before the wedding before finalising guest numbers,” said Lara. “And we had to change the seating plan on the night before the wedding. “But on our wedding day everything went smoothly – it made up for the hectic week before the wedding and the months in lockdown.” Lara and Andrew spent six days honeymooning at Lord Howe Island, a peaceful World Heritage listed island retreat only a two-hour flight from Sydney that is perfect for walking, cycling and relaxing and where tourist numbers are capped at 400 people.