A few days ago, I was scrolling down my Insta feed when a post caught my eye. It was from Louise Elia, founder and creative director of Eliya the Label and ETL Active.
She was sitting amongst bunches and bunches of beautiful flowers. She captioned the pic: “DIARIES OF A COVID BRIDE”.
I had to know more.
The caption is long, so I’ll sum it up for you. Louise and her fiance Yianni have had their wedding plans forcibly postponed four times throughout the pandemic. It’s been not only a heart-breaking process for Louise, but also a financially difficult one.
This photo was a reminder of the impact a snap lockdown and living through a pandemic has on our everyday life. It also highlighted the mental strain these can have on life moments that were supposed to be filled with joy.
But Louise’s post was about more than that. Amazingly, she was able to turn this devastating situation into an act of kindness by inviting people to slide into her DM’s to nominate people who really needed some flowers in their lives right now.
Understandably, the post went viral, with heaps of people sharing Louise’s kindness all over social media. It’s more uplifting than ever to see that people who are suffering from the impact of COVID are still able to rise above their own pain and help others.
Not only is Louise an incredibly generous bride-to-be who has been through a lot throughout the past two years, but she’s also an inspiring business owner who loves to champion other women in business.
We wanted to know more about her story, so we reached out to Louise to get the whole picture.
LR: Firstly, how did you meet your fiancé?
LE: My fiancé, Yianni, and I met over seven years ago now, while we were out at a bar with quite a few mutual friends.
This was during a time when we all used to go out to the same bar most weekends, so you’d always see the same similar faces. I noticed him a couple of times but he seemed like that charming type that I felt like a lot of girls would have been drawn to. I knew that because I was one of them, so I didn’t give him much time of day and I was quick to judge him at the start.
He initiated a conversation with me and I was drawn to his persona, his intelligence and charm. I just remember him being so attentive to me and our conversation, and it was as if nobody else was around.
I literally knew I was going to fall for him after our first date, it was magnetic and I remember leaving the date and thinking to myself, “Oh boy this guy is so perfect”. We were both in denial, which was kind of perfect because when we expressed how we felt and the walls went down, we both fell in love straight away.
We’ve loved unconditionally from the first day and that’s what makes our love story so special.
LR: What was the proposal like? Did you expect it?
LE: The proposal was so incredibly special. We went to Port Douglas in December 2019 for a end of year break and he proposed to me at the resort we were staying at.
He planned an entire “mock up” dinner at one of the restaurants, but little did I know, he had booked out the entire restaurant on the other side of the resort and had a candle-lit pathway onto the alfresco area where he would be waiting to pop the question.
He went to the bathroom at the first restaurant and then a waiter came and got me and asked if it would be OK if they took some photos of my partner and I for the resort website. I didn’t really think much of it because they said Yianni had agreed to it in passing to the bathroom.
I got out of my seat and followed the waiter to the other restaurant and then I could see Yianni waiting for me at the end of the balcony area in front of the water and my heart dropped to the floor. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it was the most beautiful and emotional surprise.
LR: How has COVID impacted your wedding(s) and what impact has that had on your mental health?
LE: COVID has taken a massive toll on both of us. Never in a million years did we think that we would have to fight so hard to get a marriage over the line. Our original wedding date was January 23, 2021, which we had to postpone in late 2020 as we couldn’t meet any suppliers or obviously plan a wedding.
We decided to postpone to June 5 this year, which was a challenge, as we wanted to maintain all our suppliers for the new date. I was lucky enough to have my bridal shower and hens party in April and May. Things were looking great on the COVID front and we were so confident that we would have our wedding in June.
At the end of May (10 days before our wedding) we entered snap lockdown 4.0 in Melbourne and our world was turned upside down. We had to contact over 18 suppliers and try to cancel fresh flower orders which were being imported from overseas.
This is just a quarter of the messiness that has occurred since. There have been spreadsheets, half payments, venues trying to lock us in, interstate relatives and close friends to coordinate with and not only our own disappointment, but that of everyone involved.
During some lockdowns, it has actually been illegal to become man and wife, which although I know that restrictions are in place for reason, is honestly just heartbreaking.
Changing a date five times is one thing, losing thousands of dollars is another thing, but not being able to have the legal right to marry someone you love is just beyond heartbreaking.
LR: What gave you the idea to give your wedding flowers away via Instagram?
Yianni and I were so sick and tired of feeling so defeated by this whole experience. We were always losing and left feeling miserable over our circumstances. But Yianni kept reminding me that there will always be others who are worse off, and he really inspired me to make the most of our bad situation.
I knew my florist was going to contact me on Monday (after giving me space over the weekend to deal with the bad news), and I had already briefly discussed the prospect of making up bunches of the fresh flowers to sell if the wedding couldn’t go ahead.
After seeing how much support people were showing me during my difficult time, I decided that I would donate a big portion of the flowers to people in need, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t need a pick me up right now?
After I put the post up on Instagram, it blew up instantly and got shared so many times… and the flowers started selling instantly. People wanted to support me because they could see that I was going to be passing on that goodwill gesture to others. Its the ripple effect and boy was it powerful. It made me realise how powerful an image is on social media can be and spreading good vibes was contagious.
I sold over 60 bunches in less than 24 hours which made back about 70% of the floral bill, and then I gave away the rest. I had hundreds of people messaging me telling me the stories of how their friend/loved one needed their day brightened. I got through as many as I could with the bunches that I had remaining and I spent two whole days hand delivering bouquets to people. My dad also helped me deliver the rest, and he met some incredible people along the way.
LR: Did anything positive come out of this experience for you? Has it changed your perspective or taught you anything about yourself?
LE: I couldn’t believe how many people are behind Yianni and I, praying and hoping we get to have our wedding. I feel like we have a community cheering for us right now and I know when the day comes when we can get married, it is going to feel a hundred times more amazing than it ever would’ve before.
The bunches I delivered as donations to people going through tough times moved me the most. I haven’t cried as much as I did doing this. Hearing peoples stories and seeing how much a simple, small gesture like delivering them a bunch of flowers could have such a positive impact on someones day, was the most rewarding experience for me. This week has changed my perspective on life.
Some of the amazing people I delivered to include a middle-aged woman who had just lost a husband to pancreatic cancer a week ago and can’t plan a proper funeral due to lockdown. Another, a single girl living alone who is struggling to pay her bills. Another, a first-time mother-to-be whose husband wanted to surprise her.
I also delivered to a couple struggling to fall pregnant with failed IVF treatments, an elderly couple who have been unable to have family visit for weeks and even one of my very own staff members who is a single mother in 14-day isolation due to being at a Tier 1 exposure site.
Everyone is going through their own battle, so be kind and support your neighbour. People are so powerful when we come together and are there for each other. I have never felt so satisfied with my life. There is no better feeling than giving to people in need and spreading positivity.