Change of Plans: Forget Our Dream Wedding—We Bought a Home Instead

“We opted for what we felt was a more practical dream: owning a place.”

change of plans

Art by Cristina Cianci

As a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, couples all over the world are having to make a very difficult, and often heartbreaking, decision to cancel, postpone, or adjust their best-laid wedding plans. To share their stories—and, hopefully, help our readers process this admittedly emotional and fluid situation, we are asking those affected to share their "Change of Plans" stories in their own words. Below, Hannah Freedman tells her story from Brooklyn, New York.

A destination wedding felt completely right for us. Not only did Neil and I get engaged on a hotel room balcony at the very end of January 2020, but travel has always been the sometimes planned, sometimes serendipitous thread that tied us together. 

We met out of pure coincidence thanks to a trip. He had just moved back home to South Dakota from Los Angeles and started a job with the state tourism department. Just two weeks in, Neil was asked to be an extra driver for a large group of travel journalists. Sure enough: I was one of those journalists and spent a week riding shotgun as he gave me a tour of the state. When he mentioned he’d once bought a last-minute plane ticket to travel around Europe for two weeks, I knew we were kindred spirits.

But it wasn’t until we bumped into each other again when he was visiting a friend in New York that we really hit it off. From there, we spent a year dating long-distance, often meeting up in various cities across the country, from New Orleans to Denver. He got to know my parents when we all decided to trek across Thailand together, and even after he’d moved to New York, he often joined me on various work trips, allowing us to sightsee our way from London to Antigua together.

So it was only natural that our first thought was a destination wedding, though I wanted to take it a step further and turn it into a vacation wedding. I had grand plans of a small group of our immediate family and closest friends jetting off to a far-flung locale where we would all stay together in a gorgeous villa in the Caribbean or a château in France. In between wine tastings or beach picnics, we would have a casual but beautiful ceremony. I loved the idea that we’d be able to share our passion for travel with our loved ones. And that we wouldn’t just have one night to think back on, but an entire week of fond memories to cherish.

I loved the idea that we’d be able to share our passion for travel with our loved ones. And that we wouldn’t just have one night to think back on, but an entire week of fond memories to cherish.

But just as we started to look into the logistics of planning a group getaway wedding, COVID-19 hit. First, our trip to Europe where we had planned to scout locations was canceled. Then our engagement party. Then our entire year of travel plans, wedding-related and not. Used to flying halfway around the world once a month, suddenly we were confined to spending every waking moment in our 500-square-foot Brooklyn apartment. 

For the first time in our relationship, we were completely grounded. I mean that in every sense of the word. Like so many others, the pandemic forced us to reevaluate our priorities and really assess our long-term plans and goals. We quickly realized that as much as we missed traveling, we were also enjoying spending more time at home together and that we wanted to have more permanent roots in New York. Only leaving our apartment for short walks for several months underscored how much we needed some extra space        

For the first time in our relationship, we were completely grounded. I mean that in every sense of the word.

Though we’d dreamed of gathering friends and relatives to celebrate with us in an alluring setting, we opted for what we felt was a more practical dream: owning a place. We changed gears entirely and decided to use the money set aside for our wedding as a big chunk of the down payment for a condo in Brooklyn. 

We swapped vacation rental sites for real estate alerts; traded in on-site tours of wineries for virtual open houses; turned our wedding expenses spreadsheet into a mortgage calculator; and gathered a list of movers instead of vendors. 

Gone were the plane rides to faraway cities, but we quickly discovered renting Zipcars to explore new neighborhoods in our own backyard could be equally exhilarating. We roamed new-to-us avenues with picturesque brownstones, dollhouse-like Victorians, and soaring skyscrapers, stopping along the way to point out what might be our new, go-to coffee shop or to fantasize about neighbors someday inviting us for dinner on their porch. Finally, we found the one and moved into our own slice of paradise in September. 

It’s not lost on us that we were extremely lucky to only be in the initial stages of thinking about our wedding when COVID-19 hit, so we hadn’t put any money down on a venue and didn’t even have to formally move our date, which made it much easier for us to make such a massive change. But after a few months of settling in, we’re more thrilled than ever that we made the switch.

It’s not lost on us that we were extremely lucky to only be in the initial stages of thinking about our wedding when COVID-19 hit.

Now, instead of one special night or even a week, we’ll hopefully be creating memories here for years to come. Thanks to the second bedroom we now have and a pullout couch, vacationing friends and family will always have a place to stay with us. And we can’t wait to take them on a tour of our favorite local finds in our new neighborhood. 

We still plan to have a small, casual ceremony with our closest friends and immediate family when it’s safer to do so. But instead of on the beach in Bermuda or on a hillside in Tuscany, it will be on our new, private roof deck, overlooking the city we’ve come to love and appreciate more than ever over the past year. That feels more right than ever. 

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