‘There were tears’: Venitta had a tough decision to make over her dream ‘big wedding’

There’s no such thing as less is more when it comes to a Lebanese wedding. Fireworks, drums and hundreds of guests on the dancefloor, the sound of high-pitched tongue trills filling the room. It’s the way things have been done for centuries, until now.Coronavirus has forced engaged couples to choose between commitment and culture — just ask bride Venitta Issa, and her mother Eva.”There were tears, yelling, neither of us felt like our perspectives were being heard,” Venitta said.Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from October 11 with our coronavirus blog.While Eva wanted her daughter to postpone until things returned to normal, Venitta didn’t want to sit in limbo.”One year we went to a wedding every weekend, it’s a way of life,” Eva said.”Being my only daughter, I didn’t want her to sacrifice on the big wedding and to miss out.”Venitta married her fiance Craig Lamrock in an intimate church ceremony in Mortlake on Saturday. Venitta’s mother Eva wanted her to postpone so she could have her dream wedding.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)The couple celebrated with 150 of their loved ones at a reception in Fairfield afterwards, with one person seated in each 4-square metres, as per social distancing requirements.Venitta’s Maronite Catholic upbringing meant she was unable to move in or go on overnight trips with her fiance before they were married.”We could have been waiting six months, or a year for restrictions to ease,” she said.”In the end I had to really think about whether it was about my marriage or the wedding I’d always wanted.”It was when Eva realised her daughter would be putting her life on hold that she relented.”While I’m sad not everyone will be there — I know she’ll be happy and won’t regret it,” she said. The couple didn’t want to put their lives on hold until restrictions ease.(Supplied: Ziad Alkhouri, A2z Weddings)The constant yo-yoing on restrictions for weddings have taken an emotional toll. During the peak of NSW’s coronavirus lockdown, weddings were capped at five people including the bride and groom.Read more about coronavirus:From 1st July, the social distancing restrictions were eased to allow an unlimited number of guests, as long as they could abide by the 4-square-metre rule.That was good news for Craig and Venitta, whose Fairfield venue can hold up to 400 people, even with the social distancing. The couple had to cull the guest list from 400 to 150 people.(Supplied: Ziad Alkhouri, A2z Weddings)But by July 24 — the day the couple’s 400 personalised invitations were printed — the NSW Government announced the number of people at weddings would be capped at 150.”I cried all day, I was so upset. It would mean having to slash my list of extended family and friends by so much,” Venitta said.”However, I knew that with 150, I could at least have our immediate family there so moved ahead hoping maybe it would go back to the old rule.”Steve Naamo who runs Paradiso Receptions, where the couple held their big day, said it had been particularly frustrating to see patron limits for conferences and pubs increase to 300 people, yet there had been no change for wedding venues since July. Eva and Peter Issa dreamt of a big wedding for their daughter.(ABC Image: Mridula Amin)His business is part of the Venue Coalition Group, a group of 50 wedding venues that have been in talks with the Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, about increasing the number of guests allowed in venues.”What we need is them to roll back to the 4-square-metre rule and do it now instead of giving empty promises,” he said. “It would ease so much pressure on these venues that host big cultural weddings and the devastated families. Just treat us fair.”Some of Venitta’s school teacher colleagues, who are not Lebanese, have balked at the size of her original wedding plans.”They’d ask if I’m just inviting everyone I know, but it’s not the case. My family is just big,” she said. Wedding guests had to abide by the 4-metre rule.(Supplied: Ziad Alkhouri, A2z Weddings)She said there were 97 people in their immediate family that they’re in contact with weekly. Her father is one of seven, and all his siblings have at least four children. Eva said Lebanese cultural obligations were at odds with social distancing restrictions. “In our culture, when someone invites you to their child’s wedding it’s only right and honourable that you invite them and repay the compliment,” Eva said.’Perfect’ day despite restrictionsThere was no dancefloor or street parades at the weekend, but Craig and Venitta still enjoyed their big day.”It was perfect. I didn’t feel like I didn’t get the wedding I dreamt of, Venitta said.Craig and his friends are not Lebanese, but his groomsmen learnt the Arabic Dabka dance for the wedding to honour the culture.”Having the restrictions ease to let the bridal party dance around us was great,” Venitta said.”While it wasn’t my uncles and aunties, having Craig’s friends dance the Dabka around us and everyone dance in their seats was special. Peter and Eva Issa were jubilant despite the wedding being a smaller affair.(Supplied: Ziad Alkhouri, A2z Weddings)And while the big weddings are paused, for the moment at least, Venitta’s father Peter hopes they’ll be back soon.”You never forget where you come from, and these weddings are a pillar of that culture,” he said. “They’re unforgettable.”What you need to know about coronavirus:

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