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Against all odds

Against all odds

  • Date26 February 2021

Over the past year, weddings across the country have been seriously impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and at Royal Holloway it has been no different. In a year that would have usually seen dozens of alumni weddings hosted on campus, only one couple made it down the Chapel aisle in 2020. The new Mr and Mrs du Pille take us through the twists and turns of their unconventional wedding journey.

Joella & Jack 4.jpg

When it came to choosing a wedding venue, the decision was easy for Joella Dawkes (BA Italian & Spanish 2012) and Jack du Pille (BA History 2009). Having met across the muddy Royal Holloway rugby pitches as students on a cold evening in 2008, Joella and Jack knew that their alma mater would be the perfect wedding venue for them. “Royal Holloway has always been special to us for our countless memories,” Joella says. “We had so much fun at university and the Chapel is breathtakingly beautiful. We are both Christians and a religious ceremony is what we always wanted. Being able to get married in the Chapel was just the icing on the cake.”

Joella and Jack originally booked their wedding ceremony and reception on campus for November 2020, shortly after getting engaged in 2019, with a guest list of around 150 people. Preparation was well under way when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and the first lockdown began in March 2020. However, at the time, the couple were unfazed. “Being completely honest, we were certain that our November wedding would not be affected and that it all would have blown over by the end of the year,” they recall. “We were so wrong!”

By mid-August, Jack and Joella decided that they wanted to get married despite the restrictions and they re-planned their day with only 30 guests to adhere with guidelines at the time. “It was quite hard and emotional to contact everyone who could no longer attend, but it was the right thing to do,” Joella says. “Jack and I did not want to put our lives on hold because of this horrid virus!”

As restrictions continued to tighten, the couple were forced to reduce their numbers even further to 15, including the two of them. They also changed the location of their reception to the nearby Runnymede Hotel due to changes to the space available at the university as a result of the pandemic. “Jackie, the Royal Holloway wedding coordinator, was incredible at helping us organise the ceremony with all the new restrictions in place,” Joella says. “We really are grateful to the team for keeping us going with their positivity and can-do attitude! Despite everything, we could still get married in the beautiful Chapel with my childhood pastor leading the ceremony so we were elated.”

Just when the couple thought they were all set to go, a final blow came when a new lockdown was enforced in November meaning they no longer had a viable wedding date. However, not ones to give up on their special day, they decided on a final attempt to rearrange everything for the 12 December.

Despite another lockdown on the horizon (which started the following Saturday) Joella and Jack were finally able to get married just before Christmas. Many aspects of the day were completely different to what they had originally planned but nevertheless they describe it as “one of the best days of our lives.

“Our friends and family live streamed the wedding from home so we still felt like everyone we had invited (and more!) were with us throughout the entire ceremony and the messages of love and support were overwhelming.

“I cannot get over the feeling I had when walking down the aisle in the Chapel,” Joella recalls. “It really is a beautiful building and walking towards Jack with my dad felt so surreal. We had fought so hard for this day and it was finally here. My dad burst into tears which then set me off. There are some hilarious photos of us looking like blubbering (but very well dressed) messes!

“At the reception at the Runnymede Hotel we had one large table overlooking the river for the 15 of us. Although not what we had originally planned, we had a very relaxed, fun, and beautiful celebration.

“Looking back, we are so chuffed. It was the perfect way to end 2020.”


Are you interested in getting married at Royal Holloway? Find out more here

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