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Love in the Time of Coronavirus: Weddings and Events Go Virtual

14:30 May 26, 2020
By: Clara Lacey

Even a global pandemic can't stop love, especially during wedding season. While stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions have made it impossible for couples to have the big traditional wedding they may have expected, many are forging on with their nuptials anyway by getting creative to share their happy day with more loved ones than ever possible before.

Greg Prieur and his schoolteacher fiancé Katie Young had been planning their April 4 wedding this year since November 2018, according to The St. Charles Herald-Guide. During that time, they saved up to buy a house and take a honeymoon, booked the vendors they wanted, and planned their dream New Orleans-themed wedding. When the coronavirus pandemic had escalated to the point of banning gatherings over 250 people, the couple was devastated and tried to adapt to limit the number of attendees and staff in an effort to salvage their dream wedding. As the public gathering limit kept going down until it was just 10 people, they realized that the wedding of their dreams wouldn't happen in the way they had hoped, and they postponed the celebration until July.

"But even doing that, we were crushed and didn't feel peace about the decision," Katie said. "There is so much uncertainty around us right now and the idea that we don't know what's going to happen with all of this, and there's a possibility that we may get to July and have to postpone again—we just wanted to be married."

Instead of trying to preserve their big planned wedding, Katie and Greg planned a new kind of wedding for their original date on April 4. They were married on the lawn of Katie's mother's house by her brother, who was ordained online. A socially distanced violinist accompanied the ceremony and La Louisiane Bakery made a smaller version of the wedding and groom's cakes the couple had planned.

Friends, family members, and coworkers helped out lending lights, décor, chairs, and photography skills. The immediate family sat spaced out on the lawn, while other friends drove by and neighbors stood in their yards to join in on the spectacle. The event was also livestreamed for the 500 virtual attendees. In the end, the virtual aspect of their wedding allowed them to share the special day with even more loved ones than they would have been able to given other circumstances.

"It was pretty amazing to have such a small, intimate ceremony but still be able to share it with all the people we care about," Katie said.

Katie and Greg aren't the only ones who just couldn't wait for the end of the pandemic to get married. As summer continues to approach, many couples who had planned their nuptials during peak wedding season now consider hosting virtual wedding ceremonies and celebrations.

One of the most noteworthy of these weddings was that of Elaine Welteroth, the New York Times best-selling author, Project Runway judge, and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue. According to Vogue, Welteroth and her now-husband, musician Jonathan Singletary, had been set on the date of May 10, 2020, for their wedding because of the personal significance of the date on Mother's Day. However, as the coronavirus pandemic escalated and the bachelor party had to be postponed, the couple struggled with accepting that their three-and-a-half-year engagement would not culminate in the grand wedding they had planned.

"But as the reality set in, both of us realized that we actually felt more 'married' to our date and to each other than we did to our big, exciting plans," Welteroth said. With the priority being saving the wedding date itself and just being married, the couple changed their plans to adapt to a "virtual quarantine wedding," with the couple on their front stoop in Brooklyn, New York—a space that has been sacred to their time quarantining in the limited space of New York City.

As a figure active on social media and savvy in the virtual world, Welteroth put her all into planning this new virtually connected wedding that would still allow loved ones to share her special day. Around 200 friends and family members, including the couple's officiating pastor from their home church, attended the wedding virtually through Zoom, and a small group of loved ones who lived nearby came to attend the ceremony while maintaining social distance. Concerned with the safety and health of all, the couple provided guests with gloves and masks and even wrote out their names in chalk on the sidewalk to ensure everyone kept six feet apart.

Despite the circumstances, the small event became something truly beautiful and joyous. A floral arch framed the front stoop, and a friend and DJ played music from the couple's curated wedding party playlist, for a virtual block party everyone could dance to, no matter where they were. In a time of perceived social disconnect and struggle, the wedding was a magical moment when all guests could connect from near and far to celebrate the couple.

As large events seem like a thing of the past at the moment, many event-planning companies are having to get creative in order to survive during this time. The Brooklyn-based wedding planning company Modern Rebel has shifted to helping with virtual coordination by helping with logistics like digital invitations, videos, DJs, and contactless deliveries of cakes and flowers, according to CBS New York.

"Virtual weddings are not void of logistics," Modern Rebel owner Amy Shack Egan said. "Like, if you've been on a work call, even with more than 10 people, you know that it's chaotic. And so what we do is take the stress out of it." This entails a technical rehearsal and creation of tutorial videos to ensure everyone can access the event virtually and that it can flow smoothly without technical issues.

Las Vegas-based company Cactus Collective Weddings has also struggled with maintaining an event business during a pandemic.

"We had over 40 weddings planned that either postponed or went in a different direction, and our inquiries are low because people just don't know what to do," owner McKenzi Taylor said. "My role as business owner has really transpired into being a listener and helper, even if they don't go the route of having our services, by helping them walk through what I see and having brainstorming sessions."

As a company that specializes in elopements and more minimalistic micro-weddings, Cactus Collective has helped those who don't want to wait to get married to transition to these alternative smaller ceremonies. An elopement or smaller ceremony doesn't just ensure safe social distancing, but it also is much less expensive and, for many, more intimate and deeper than dealing with the stress of a traditional wedding.

"We're really encouraging couples right now to consider having just themselves, the minister, and the photographer, but they're able to have some guests as long as they maintain social distancing and practice safety with wearing masks and anything else the CDC recommends," Taylor said."It just requires a little perspective shift. These small ceremonies don't have to be a disappointment. They can definitely still be luxe with a lot of elements you originally wanted, only smaller and maybe richer in detail or depth."

For those who cannot travel or still want to wait for to have their larger dream wedding, Cactus Collectives is offering wedding planning where couples can book their venue, photographer, florals, and other elements now and just choose the date of their service later.

"We're definitely getting quite a few responses to this," Taylor said. "I think what's nice about it is that people are really just in limbo right now, and they feel they need something to start moving forward. Even if it's not a date, they can still start the wedding-planning process."

Couples can make decisions about their future wedding now and even take advantage of some discounted rates vendors are offering because of the pandemic.

Another Las Vegas wedding-planning company has creatively offered a way for would-be guests to celebrate with couples who have postponed their weddings or decided to cancel and elope. Scheme Events works with clients to create celebration boxes to be delivered to guests and family members who cannot celebrate with the couple in person. The boxes are filled with confetti poppers or rice to throw, chef recipes and ingredients for all to make the same meal at different homes, wedding favors that have already been purchased but cannot be used, or USBs of wedding playlists or a prerecorded ceremony video.

While many couples and families are grieving the loss of the wedding they had planned, these celebration boxes offer some joy and connection while they try to figure out what to do or wait for this time to pass.

"It's a little bit of a waiting game, but I do believe that love is not cancelled, and we will celebrate eventually," Scheme Events owner Tara Federico said. "That's why the Celebration Box was invented—to be able to gently celebrate in a fun, unique, and clever way while we wait for the opportunity to gather again, which I know will happen eventually."

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