For couples planning on saying "I do" or planning a wedding in 2020, the year took a much different turn than anyone could have expected. From the early days of the pandemic when not much was known about the virus and celebrations were postponed for just a couple months later, to couples adhering to new guidelines and hoping for weddings in 2021 and 2022, brides and grooms across the country have been in this together from the start.
Some pairs have chosen to exchange vows during a micro-wedding or virtual wedding, while others have postponed their wedding for next year and beyond – either waiting to tie the knot officially or eloping to make it official while they wait. One thing that all couples planning a wedding in 2020 have in common is that they weren't alone. Read on for one real groom-to-be's take on love during the time of COVID – from proposing when things were seemingly normal in the world to setting a new date (again).
Photo courtesy of Adam Schofield-Bodt
As we shuffled across the gravel of the empty parking lot towards the event hall, we affixed our disposable surgical masks. We were a few months into the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and we were committed to getting through our venue visits, no matter how frustrating. This particular location had been one of the first on our schedule, but after months of delay, this was now our fourth visit. We reached the front door and waited to be let in by the host. Our friendly greeting with the coordinator consisted of smiling eyes and apologies. No handshakes or lower face halves would be shared. As she walked us through the site of the venue, it felt exceptionally empty in its state of quarantine. The lakefront property was beautiful, but we couldn’t shake our fear that the future was unknown. We had already pushed back our tentative date once, before starting our visits. Now even that seemed overly optimistic. All over, weddings were being rescheduled and the coming year looked to be insane. How could we possibly plan or enjoy our wedding in a world like this?
It seemed laughable that when I had asked Katie to marry me, I imagined April as a reasonable ceremony month – “4” is her spirit number. "The Question" was posed back in December, before most people in America had ever heard of Coronavirus. I had woken her up before work on a Friday and told her to pack a bag: we had a flight that evening to Nashville. Despite being true New Englanders, the music mecca had become our favorite city over the years. "Broadway" had taken on new meaning for two theatre majors. I had hoped to propose the night we arrived; thankfully, I left myself some wiggle room. It was immediately clear that a Predators game had just let out, so Broadway would be packed. Sure enough, the balcony where I’d hoped to take a knee was filled with hockey fans. Just a few months later, I would be horrified to see such a display of social closeness. Katie was tired anyway, so in what would become a hallmark of our engagement, I postponed. The next afternoon, we emerged on the balcony and I got the answer I was looking for. After, we were greeted by a couple who had witnessed the whole event and managed to surreptitiously take a photo. They sent us the picture, bought us a drink, and hugged us as we left – another ancient tradition from the before times.
Photo courtesy of Adam Schofield-Bodt
In the days and weeks that followed, we celebrated with family and friends and began to imagine our ceremony. Even factoring in traditional holiday spirit, it was an exceptionally joyous December. By the time we started planning our first venue visits, concern over the virus had begun to spread, though not so much that mask wearing was customary yet. For our first trip, we went chins out. Our planned first visit was postponed, so the first venue we officially headed to was The Water’s Edge in Westbrook, Connecticut. Social distancing was not yet familiar phraseology, so we brought along my step-mom and mother-in-law to explore the gorgeous space with us. A beautiful reception ballroom overlooked the outdoor ceremony area, which in turn overlooked the ocean. Despite having seen no place else, we could immediately picture our celebration. My only "con" was that I worried we could smell the pool from the lobby. Which, in some way, was also a "pro" because it meant that there was a pool. Despite strong feelings, we couldn’t just pick the first place so we continued our search.
The spaces got emptier and emptier as our hosts got further and further apart from us, but despite the condition of the country, we managed to experience some wonderful Connecticut venues. We went to a bridal show at a rustic mansion by the side of a highway, a historic theatre venue in the middle of a city, our original first choice by the lake, and an elegant dining hall on the edge of a high-end golf course. We even squeezed in a visit to a place in The Berkshires during a vacation. But the stress of the search, coupled with the rising rates of the virus, led us to procrastinate further and our wedding planning books began to collect dust under the couch. We pushed our date back again to September, then again into 2022.
As summer came and the real restrictions arose, we found ourselves wondering if a party was even worth it. Maybe we just go to the courthouse and say the words. There seemed to be no normalcy in sight. Then, we were invited to a wedding – that of one of Katie’s bridesmaids, and it was a true COVID ceremony. Originally meant to be a destination wedding down south, all the plans had been scrapped and the ceremony was now 15 people (wedding party included) outdoors in Boston. Seats were spaced appropriately, guests all wore their masks, and the reception was held on the patio of a local restaurant. Despite the chaos, everyone had a wonderful evening and the love that radiated from the little gathering could be felt four towns over. We could not have asked for a better wake-up call. Here we were fretting over postponing an imagined celebration, while every day an entire community of couples was canceling or re-booking their fully paid-for weddings. We, it turned out, were the lucky ones.
The fall resumed our search, this time well-acquainted with the protocols for a safe visit. We looked at a few more locations, but in the end, we just couldn’t shake the beauty of our very first visit. So we returned to The Water’s Edge this past October for a second look, and we booked our wedding for May 14, 2022... Which means I won’t be a husband for a while yet; nevertheless we’re still the lucky ones. We have our venue, we have our health, and we have each other.