Four weddings and a pandemic

Mark and Kristy Dunstan. (Vito Fisicchia)

By Luke Voogt

Kristy and Mark Dunstan’s wedding on Saturday was very different to how they first pictured it, following Victoria’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

But, as they tell Luke Voogt, “you don’t need hundreds of people to get married, you just need two people to love each other”.

 

“We should get married” was Mark Dunstan’s first message to future wife Kristy on dating app Bumble.

“Mark was very confident, but three years later here we are,” the new Mrs Dunstan told the Independent with a laugh.

On Saturday, July 4, they looked into each other’s eyes at the altar, despite COVID-19 wreaking havoc in the world around them.

Though they wrote their vows separately, they both started same, remembering the “beginning of the end” of their search for love in 2017.

They met over dinner at Mark’s, following their Bumble exchange, and Kristy remembered seeing his “smile and blue eyes” for the first time.

“I was taken away by Mark’s presence,” she said.

“We had an instant connection – I’ve never been so attracted to someone like that. It was a bit scary to be honest.”

“We were just so in tune with each other,” Mark remembered.

“She had such a kind soul with the perfect amount of sass.”

Despite Mark’s cheeky Bumble opener, Kristy was the first to focus on nuptials as the couple fell in love.

“Mark wanted to take things slow and I wanted to get married straightaway, basically,” she said.

Fast-forward to last August, they were travelling across New Zealand’s South Island in a motorhome when Mark decided to propose atop Franz Josef Glacier.

“I bought Kristy helicopter flights for her birthday,” he explained.

But miserable weather thwarted his plans.

“I had the ring in my jacket pocket the whole time and had to carry it around New Zealand for five days until I found another spot for a helicopter flight,” he said.

When they landed atop the 2475-metre Mount Aspiring, Mark finally popped the question.

“It was the most beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, it was really magical,” he said.

The proposal brought Kristy to tears.

“I don’t think I said yes on the day – I was very overwhelmed – I think I just nodded,” she said.

Last October they started planning their wedding, booking The Pier Geelong for July 2020 after they “fell in love with the views”.

“As a young girl you grow up dreaming of getting married and I was so excited to start planning straightaway,” Kristy said.

But then COVID-19 happened. “I shed a lot of tears,” Kristy said.

As restrictions tightened, they began the very difficult task of cutting down their 100-person list, while selling their house in Hamlyn Heights to build a new home in Ocean Grove.

“If we postponed we didn’t know if it was going to be any better down the track,” Kristy said.

“Everyone was very understanding of our situation.”

As restrictions eased slightly, they had hoped for a reception of 50 guests but eventually settled on plans for 20.

Then Victoria’s recent COVID-19 spike began late last month and the venue manager phoned to say they could only have 10 at the reception, including bride and groom.

“We were actually buying our wedding cake in Melbourne,” Mark said.

“There was a radio announcement that restrictions would tighten again and it was just another punch that we took.”

Together with The Pier, they came up with an ingenious method to celebrate their nuptials – with four receptions.

After a wedding ceremony with 17 guests, they sat down for lunch with parents and grandparents, eight in total, while Mark’s grandmother beamed in online from her nursing home.

They spent the afternoon with friends, dinner with siblings and the evening with another eight friends.

They allowed 30 minutes between each reception to ensure no crossover of guests and to allow staff to thoroughly clean and disinfect the venue.

Despite the long day, they never grew tired of the celebrations, according to Kristy.

“We felt so rejuvenated when a new group came in because they were so excited greeting us as a married couple for the first time,” she said.

“I was worried the room would look empty but it felt so full and warm because there was so much love.”

Last year the couple booked an eight-week honeymoon in Europe, which they still hope to go on in 18 months’ time.

“We were supposed to fly to Rome today,” Kristy said on Monday.

“It was pretty devastating to have the trip of the lifetime cancelled.”

They only received about $2000 of their $20,000 trip back in refunds, with the rest tied up in credits at hotels for when the pandemic ends, Mark explained.

“We realise a lot of people are in the same boat,” he said.

“We rebooked our honeymoon for Port Douglas two weeks ago because we thought the border would reopen on July 12. And then they pulled the pin on that!”

“Which we laughed about, because we’re just rolling with the punches,” Kristy said.

But as the Victorian COVID-19 situation worsened this week, the couple were “relieved” to have celebrated their wedding in such an “intimate and special” setting.

“We wouldn’t have got the same experience if we had a 100-person wedding,” Kristy said.

“You don’t need hundreds of people to get married, you just need two people to love each other.”

Mark, 32, and Kristy, 26, still have their jobs as a radiographer and a broking executive respectively amid COVID-19.

With leave booked until the end of July, they are excited to embark on married life together.

“It’s already good and it’s only day two,” Kristy said.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned during COVID-19, it’s that I’ve picked the right partner. He’s been really patient and supportive throughout everything.”

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