Two Couples Share How COVID-19 Changed Their Wedding Stories.
The story of COVID-19 is now so common that it can be heard from the lips of 3-year-olds to 95-year-olds. It began in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It spread across the globe with a vengeance. At the time of this post, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has claimed the lives of over 258,000 worldwide and just under 72,000 in the United States.
Then on March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that people should cancel or postpone all events bringing together more than 50 people until May 15. What followed was state orders limiting gatherings to 10.
Our small team launched The Dowry in January 2020, with projections and a business plan that did not anticipate a global pandemic outbreak a couple months later. Our plans are certainly not the only ones that have been affected by the shelter-in-place mandates that started in March 2020.
Since 2018, engaged couples across the country have been fastidiously organizing and planning for their 2020 weddings.
“Prior to COVID-19, there were a projected 2.5M U.S. weddings planned in 2020. An estimated 15% (375,000) were scheduled for June 20, the second most popular wedding date in 2020.” – WeddingWire Newlywed Report
So what has happened to the weddings planned during these months of the coronavirus? More importantly, what has happened to the people at the center of the celebrations? The Dowry sat down with two different couples to hear their stories. The details are different, but resilience, determination and love are the common threads.
Has your wedding abruptly changed by the coronavirus? Are you in the process of postponing everything for a later date? Are you feeling discouraged by the current unknowns? Take a moment to read these two stories. We hope you are inspired by their strength and find some peace in their words of wisdom and advice.
Brittany and Chris met briefly years ago but didn’t start dating until they found themselves on the same group vacation in the Bahamas. One morning, on that trip in 2017, they snuck away to a secluded beach where they spent time walking, doing yoga and snorkeling. In March 2019, nearly two years later, they found themselves back on that same beach in the Bahamas where Chris proposed, capturing the whole moment from a drone that circled above their heads. Brittany was beyond excited, and before their plane touched down in Texas, she had already begun planning.
Brittany knew she wanted a spring wedding, which, conveniently, didn’t create any conflicts with her sister who was also engaged and planning a fall wedding. They secured the chapel on the Texas Christian University campus (Brittany’s alma mater) for May 16, and spent the next 12 months planning the wedding of their dreams.
When news of the coronavirus started to make its way to the U.S., Brittany and Chris weren’t too concerned that it would change anything for them. Trained as a nurse, Brittany said, “When we originally started hearing the rumblings, I equated it to the flu.” It wasn’t until her bridal shower venue canceled all reservations in March that she realized how serious things might be. The CDC then announced restrictions on public gatherings of 50 people or more.
Busy with work and flooded with emotions, Brittany leaned on her wedding planner to call the vendors and discuss rescheduling The Fort Worth Club, chapel, band, photographer, rehearsal dinner and bachelorette party in Cabo. Everything needed to be addressed. “All of our vendors were so gracious. My wedding planner told me how the pandemic has united the entire wedding industry as everyone works together to find solutions.”
For a brief moment, they considered sticking with the original May 16 date and getting married in the empty TCU chapel. But it just didn’t feel right. They were facing the reality that the venues they had paid deposits on wouldn’t have availability until 2021. After a yearlong engagement, Brittany was heartbroken at the thought of waiting another year to get married.
“We were trying to avoid a fall wedding since my sister and her fiance were getting married November 6. We didn’t want to take anything away from them,” Brittany explained. “But before I could say anything, my sister assured me that if dates opened up she didn’t want us to turn them down because of her.” In the end Brittany and Chris were able to reschedule the chapel and reception venues on October 17. The date is just three weeks before her sister’s wedding in Florida.
Brittany and Chris still don’t know what will happen in the next few months. Rescheduling bridal showers and other celebrations are still on hold, but she wanted to share what stood out to her.
“My wedding planner made all the difference,” Brittany says, “She was able to handle all the conversations with vendors. We didn’t pay any of the standard cancellation fees and she worked all those details out. Being able to depend on her to manage the logistics, while I focused on work and a whirlwind of emotions, has been worth every penny.”
If hiring a professional planner is in your budget, it might be time to think about it. Having access to their expertise – as the entire country shifts and moves together through all the uncertainty and change – could eliminate a lot of worry and provide solutions you weren’t aware of. Brittany suggested that if there were disappointed brides out there who could bring a planner on to help them cancel old plans and make new ones, she really recommends it.
Brittany concluded, “Chris and I have had a lot of time to talk. Neither of us have expectations or an endgame in mind regarding our wedding. Not anymore. But with support from each other and our family and friends, and with one very understanding sister, we are excited to finally get married later this year.”
The Dowry sends our warmest wishes to Brittany and Chris when they tie the knot on October 17, 2020, and start their lives together.
Jenna, a photographer, and Cam, a videographer, told us their story via Zoom from their home in Fort Worth, Texas. The newlyweds sat close as they recounted their engagement and wedding. The sweet newness of their union wasn’t lost on me. But, truthfully, something about the calm energy they created together told me they would always seem like newlyweds.
They met briefly in 2016 but reconnected in January 2019 quite by accident. It didn’t take them long to start dating, and on January 25, 2020, they were engaged. With hopes of a quick engagement, they planned their wedding for April 3 in what Cam describes as “a series of practical steps to saying yes to this person.”
They booked The 4 Eleven in Fort Worth, a large industrial warehouse venue that accommodates large wedding parties. Plans were made for close to 350 guests. Cam explained, “We wanted to invite all our family and friends. Our main objective was to get as many of the people who love us there and allow them to celebrate with us.” All the big decisions were made: Jenna’s dress, the formal wear for Cam and the rest of the wedding party, the venue, and catering. With just eight weeks to plan a wedding, they weren’t wasting any time.
On January 20, 2020, the United States reported their first case of the coronavirus, and from there the disease spread across the country in just a few months. By March, in response to recommendations from the CDC and government, Jenna and Cam had to make cuts to their guest list. They started with 350 guests, then 250, then 100, then 50 ... “Having such a short engagement to begin with, I never thought I’d plan seven different versions of my wedding,” Jenna said with a smile, “but everything was moving so fast.”
By mid-March the couple had moved their ceremony to Cam’s parents’ backyard. With just over a week before their April 3 wedding date, they started asking themselves, “What are we waiting for?” With no hesitation, they moved their wedding up a week and started planning, thoughtfully, to create an intimate and beautiful backyard wedding with 10 guests.
Members of Jenna’s family were high risk and couldn’t come, so she drove from Oklahoma to Fort Worth with three close friends. They got ready in an Airbnb while Cam, his best friend and his brother prepped the yard, hung lights and cleaned the pool. “At first,” said Jenna, “it didn’t feel like my wedding day. I was just getting ready with the girls while Cam worked in the yard. But as the day went on and it got closer to our ceremony, I was so excited to get married.”
The couple married March 28 and livestreamed their ceremony for all their friends and family to watch and witness. Their small group of 10 ate dinner together outside, under strands of lights, at a big farm table. Jenna held nothing back and created a warm and intimate aesthetic that set the perfect mood for the evening.
Watching their wedding go from 350 guests down to 10, moving the ceremony to the backyard, and missing important loved ones on that day, Jenna and Cam were able to grieve through the process, support each other, and describe their day as “a blessing in the end.”
Both Jenna and Cam say that watching the livestream of their ceremony later that night and seeing all the comments roll in from so many friends and family will always be one of the highlights of the day. Later that evening a close friend sent the newlyweds a link to a video she compiled with clips from many of their virtual wedding guests. “We laid in bed and watched it together, and it made us feel so loved and supported. We were weeping,” said Jenna.
Jenna emphasized the importance of doing what’s best for you. If that means you stick with your original wedding date and have a small wedding that complies with CDC recommendations, do it. If it means you postpone everything for a later date, do it. If it means you plan a reception later in the year, do it. Both Jenna and Cam, despite the restrictions, feel so content with how their wedding happened and feel so loved by their friends and family. The day was better than they ever could have imagined.
Jenna and Cam, thank you for sharing the story of your beautiful wedding day with us. We wish you all the happiness in your new life together!
We are deeply grateful to Brittany and Chris and Jenna and Cam for being so candid and sharing details from their experiences. We love how both stories, while vastly different, are examples of human kindness, generosity and resilience. No matter the way your engagement, wedding planning or wedding day changes or takes place, in the end, despite all the chaos, love wins.
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Brittany's photographer: Tracy Autem, owner of Lightly Photography @tracyautemphotography on Instagram
Brittany's wedding planner: Jamie Lemke with Tami Winn Events @tamiwinnevents on Instagram
Jenna's photographer: Averie Claire @averieclaire on Instagram