WATCH: Meet Couple That Wed in Car Park Over Shanghai Lockdown

By Ned Kelly, May 6, 2022

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Back at the beginning of 2020, Australian Matt and Belgian Janelle were in Thailand planning their wedding... when COVID struck, and the nuptials put on ice. Two years, a pregnancy and a Shanghai lockdown later, they decided it was time to take the plunge, even if that meant a ceremony in their compound car park. We caught up with the couple whose love could not be locked down.

First of all, huge congratulations on the marriage! But back to the beginning, where did you first meet?
Thanks! We met here in Shanghai in the middle of 2017 and, after a couple of months dating, have been together ever since. We got engaged in December 2018 on a beach in Thailand, and have been trying to plan our wedding ever since! 

When did you first decide to get married? Any cancelled dates/plans along the way?
In February/March 2020 during the COVID flare up in China, we were actually in Thailand planning our wedding venue and working remotely. We had everything locked in for June 2021. However, as we all know, global borders remain a difficult obstacle to have a wedding abroad with our friends and family.  

After months of liaising with our various consulates, it was apparent that we could not get married in China and we would have to leave to get the paperwork sorted. 

As Janelle is nearly five months pregnant, we decided that it would be best to think outside the box a little and was recommended a website, marryfromhome.com, which officiates the wedding in the USA, and the wedding can be all hosted via Zoom.

Not an ideal situation, but it did the trick – the marriage certificate was emailed to us straight afterwards and the original is in the mail.

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Image by @jessierluer

When did you decide to go for the ‘car park ceremony’?
At first it was literally just going to be us getting married on Zoom with friends and family, and then it snowballed.

Two days beforehand, our lovely friends in Shanghai shipped a wedding dress, cake, flowers etc. to us, and we even held a virtual stag evening the night before. 

As we could move around our compound as of a week prior to the wedding date, a number of people within the building decided to make a big thing of it and have an actual mini-celebration in the car park.

As you can appreciate, everyone was looking for a reason to celebrate! 

After this celebration we went back upstairs and got married online with about 100 people dialing in from around the world. Special, but not exactly what we had planned all along!

So you managed to get your families involved?
Absolutely! They all had the link to the Zoom wedding and the after party too. We even had a couple of test rounds with the family first to ensure they all knew how to access Zoom on their phone or computer.

How did you manage to get guests along under the lockdown?
None of our friends outside of our compound could join us under the current lockdown situation in Shanghai. However, as we could easily move around our compound car park, some new friends from our compound were able to join.

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Image by @jessierluer

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Image by @jessierluer

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Image by @jessierluer

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Image by @jessierluer

Did the party carry on?
The car park party was just the beginning. Afterwards, we had a 30 minute call with family on Zoom, then the 30 minute ceremony in the US, and then we had a separate Zoom link for an ‘after party’ – complete with a first dance and cutting of the wedding cake – all in our lounge room.

It was quite the experience. 

So how did the legal part of getting married actually work?
As (since 2019) two foreigners can no longer get married in China, we had no other option than to look for another solution. Some consulates and embassies in China can marry foreigners, but unfortunately ours could not.

For this reason, we understood a number of foreigners in the same situation in China had been using this online website.

The process was all very simple, upload your identity documents, select two official witnesses to be on the call, and the officiant asked us to do a welcome, say some vows to each other and pronounced us husband and wife.

In terms of the legal documentation, we have a digital copy of the marriage certificate and the original is getting notorized in the US and mailed to us in Shanghai.

Any more conventional wedding plans lined up once this situation improves?
We are literally calling this one the ‘paper signing formality,’ and the real wedding and party will be in Thailand in 2023 or 2024!

As we have already paid the deposit for our wedding planner and venue, not much will be changing except for the date.

We have an enormous and beautiful villa picked out in Koh Samui, which will be a lovely spot to celebrate once this is all over!

Watch a video of Matt and Janelle's ‘car park ceremony’:


Video by AndyWeak

[Cover image by @jessierluer]

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