No chapel. No hundred guests. No canapes or dodgy dance floor moves. No tactfully keeping uncle Frank away from the bar. Just two people who love each other, sitting in a car outside a florist in Preston.
Welcome to drive-thru weddings in the age of COVID. Would you like vows with that?
“The idea was obviously a response to COVID-19,” says I Do Drive Thru co-founder and licensed celebrant, Zena Lythgo. “Our four founders are all Melbourne-based celebrants, and with the new restrictions, we suddenly needed to do weddings in a safe way. So now you can elope without leaving your car.”
I Do Drive Thru might have started as a quirky response to global catastrophe, but it’s quickly morphing into a lucrative little movement.
Zena says, within two months of launching the business in Melbourne, the team were running drive-thru weddings in every state in Australia. A few weeks after that, on the back of some good press, they got a call from a celebrant in Las Vegas. Soon they had six US locations up and running, with plenty more coming down the pipe.
“It’s kind of comical, really,” Zena says. “We started the concept as a sort of spin on Las Vegas, and now we’re doing drive-thru weddings in several US states. We’ve even had a couple of copycat businesses pop up, which I guess is the sincerest form of flattery. The whole thing’s been a wild ride.”
The global wedding industry is estimated (or at least, was estimated) to be worth around $300 billion. Now? Who knows. The tough restrictions, particularly in states like Victoria, have really strangled not just venues, but the thousands of florists, photographers, caterers, planners and other small businesses that make up the multi-tiered wedding machine.
Zena says it’s been tough to see COVID sweep through what is, really, an essential industry. “People don’t realise that marriage is an essential service in Australia,” she says, “and not just for the obvious romantic reasons. Some couples need to advocate for their partners in medical situations, or handle visas, wills and estates. This lockdown is actually the first time in Australian history that marriage, at least traditional marriage, isn’t legal.”
Luckily, I Do Drive Thru has stepped up to fill the void. Couples can choose to get married in their car (the team have a list of approved drive-thru venues in each state) or hire a limo (to make things a bit more fancy). You can tie the knot in front of two witnesses and a celebrant, or (in some states) have up to 20 guests. The team also run more traditional, car-free ceremonies, depending on local legal restrictions.
It’s not exactly the wedding industry we thought we were going to get, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Especially for couples who are trying to juggle deposits and invitations during a pandemic.
“Every wedding is special,” Zena says, “but some of our drive-thru ones have been amazing. We had one couple who pushed their wedding forward because of COVID, then their mum couldn’t fly from interstate, then Stage 4 lockdown hit and they had to bring it forward again. But we had a beautiful ceremony in Carlton Gardens, and everyone was there on Zoom, and you realise that it doesn’t matter what the obstacles are. When you’re there, it’s just about two people in love.”