sundaylife

| 8.7°C Belfast

Coronavirus: We wanted to marry before either of us fell ill, says Northern Ireland nurse Jann Tipping who wed doctor partner at London hospital


Close

Jann Tipping, 34, an ambulatory emergency nurse at St Thomas', married acute medical registrar Annalan Navaratnam in the hospital's Grade II listed chapel last month, after cancelling their August wedding due to Covid-19.

Jann Tipping, 34, an ambulatory emergency nurse at St Thomas', married acute medical registrar Annalan Navaratnam in the hospital's Grade II listed chapel last month, after cancelling their August wedding due to Covid-19.

Rebecca Carpenter Photography

Jann and Annalan

Jann and Annalan

Jann and Annalan

Jann and Annalan

Jann Tipping, 34, an ambulatory emergency nurse at St Thomas', married acute medical registrar Annalan Navaratnam in the hospital's Grade II listed chapel last month, after cancelling their August wedding due to Covid-19.

A Co Down nurse granted special permission to marry her doctor partner at the same London hospital where they work has told how health fears convinced them to bring their wedding forward.

Jann Tipping (34), an ambulatory emergency nurse at St Thomas', married acute medical registrar Annalan Navaratnam in the hospital's Grade II listed chapel last month, after cancelling their August wedding.

With Annalan redeployed to the Covid-19 ward, the couple, who have been together for four years, wanted to ensure they were husband and wife, should either fall ill.

The frontline NHS workers, whose ceremony was live-streamed so family and friends could join in, hope to renew their vows in front of their loved ones at a later date, when lockdown restrictions have been lifted and both feel it is safe to travel again.

Jann, who moved to London six years ago to train to be a nurse, said personal circumstances and concern for their own wellbeing, and that of their families, had been paramount in their decision.

"We were due to get married in August in London and had about 200 guests coming to the wedding," she said.

"But my younger sister has muscular dystrophy and is in the high-risk category, so we didn't want her having to travel at this time. She's been shielding, even before lockdown restrictions were announced.

Close

Jann and Annalan

Jann and Annalan

Jann and Annalan

"Annalan is also asthmatic and, because we're both working in the hospital and he's on a Covid ward, we wanted to make sure we were man and wife. It was important to us to be married and to have that commitment with everything that's been going on."

After discovering that a registry office ceremony wouldn't be allowed, the couple approached the hospital chaplaincy team, who agreed to seek permission for the nuptials.

In early April, they were told the good news that their wedding could take place at St Thomas' chapel and immediately they set about rearranging their big day. Annalan ordered his suit from an online retailer and Jann, unable to attend a planned dress fitting, ordered three dresses to give her a choice - but their problems weren't over.

Close

Jann and Annalan

Jann and Annalan

Jann and Annalan

"One dress that was meant to come the next day never arrived, the second one was the wrong size and the third one had a big, dark stain on it. There were four days to the wedding and I still had no dress, so a local bridal boutique offered to loan me one. I sent them off my measurements and told them I wanted one with no lace, long sleeves and that wasn't low-cut. When it arrived, it was perfect," she said.

On the morning of their wedding day, April 24, Jann did her own hair, make-up and nails, with a little help from Annalan.

A close friend of Jann's, who had been originally lined up as a bridesmaid, acted as photographer and witness, alongside a nurse colleague.

With Jann's family from Northern Ireland and Annalan's relatives from the US and Sri Lanka watching remotely, Reverend Mia Hilborn married the pair in a "surreal but lovely" ceremony.

"When I was walking down the aisle, I noticed that Annalan's eyes had filled up, which isn't really like him as he's always smiling," she said.

"Obviously we would've loved our families and friends to have been there in the room with us, but it still felt very special... it still felt like a wedding.

"As we were exchanging our vows, my little nephew, who had been so excited about the August wedding, threw confetti at the computer screen. We missed that moment though."

Jann's father made a speech and then the happy couple danced to their favourite song, Cheerleader by JP Cooper.

"It was all so surreal, but we're just so delighted that we're married now and are really grateful to the hospital for allowing us to go ahead with our big day," Jann said.

"As soon as it is safe, we will give our loved ones a proper wedding experience. Perhaps we'll renew our vows. I'm the eldest of three sisters and I want to give my dad the opportunity to walk me down the aisle. Those traditions still matter to us."

Jann and Annalan, who became engaged last year following a surprise romantic proposal at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, are both back at work at St Thomas' - the hospital where Prime Minister Boris Johnson was treated for coronavirus - but they are looking forward to the day they can plan their honeymoon.

Neither husband nor wife can believe how many goodwill messages they have received since their story broke.

"We didn't expect so many people to be interested in it," said Jann. "For us, it just felt like the right thing to do at the right time."

Belfast Telegraph