Here at Brides, we're endlessly inspired by couples' real wedding stories. Each is packed full of unique details, beautiful dresses, and some of the most unique love stories we’ve ever heard. Now, after a year of elopements, mini ceremonies, and pared-down plans, we're feeling more inspired than ever.
Over the past 12 months, not only did these couples wed in special, totally personal celebrations, but they also navigated a global pandemic to make it happen. These couples made the most of the current climate, jumping through literal hurdles to declare their love for one another, and in the process, they reminded us that "love cannot be cancelled."
Below, 12 couples who captured our attention and inspired us when we needed it the most.
Masks for All
Thanks to COVID-19, Daniel Rojas and Daniela García's wedding plans came together quite last-minute. The couple leaned on their wedding planner, Tatiana Angel of CCC Event Planning, to organize their Miami vows, who even Facetimed Daniela from the flower market the day before the wedding and did all the arrangements herself. Their family remembers also helped out—loaning the bride jewels to officiating the ceremony.
In the end, Daniela and Daniel exchanged vows in front of just 10 guests at a friend's beachfront home. "Learning to let go has been a big theme for me throughout this time," admits the bride. "It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about what your big wedding could have been, and getting hung up on little details and things you wish you could do, but the reality is a lot has changed! And if you don’t learn to surrender to the times, and readjust your perspective, things are going to feel very heavy."
The Power of Love
If we had to choose one wedding of the year, this would be it. Over the summer, photographer Linda McQueen captured the above image of a bride and groom standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters in Philadelphia.
"It feels unreal to me," reflects McQueen. "I never would have thought that this moment would have happened." And frankly, it almost didn't. As McQueen explains, the bride, Dr. Kerry-Anne Gordon was waiting to walk down the aisle when protesters in Philadelphia passed by the venue. "Once she saw that she asked us to go get Michael [the groom] before he walked down the aisle and he just joined the protest along with her."
No Place Like Home
The hardest part of planning an elopement for Jill Lavoie and Daniel Thoburn? Deciding to do it! The Washington, D.C.-based pair was set to say “I do” in a romantic, urban celebration with 120 guests but when coronavirus pandemic cancelled their original plan, they came to a conclusion: They didn't want to put off being married.
They set a date, August 8, 2020, with the D.C. courthouse for a Zoom ceremony, and invited only one guest: Jill’s best friend, who served as the witness and ring bearer. They said "I do" in their Washington, D.C. apartment, then celebrated with a "reception" on a boat in Annapolis, Maryland.
“It wasn’t easy deciding to elope but we are so happy we did it,” says the bride. “Since it was the two of us, we got to pick our favorite places without having to think about logistics for 120 guests.”
Less is More
Four years after saying “I do” in a courthouse ceremony, Michaela and Love Almqvist decided the time was right to renew their vows—with something that felt a little bit more like a wedding. “COVID presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we couldn’t deny,” Michaela says of inviting eight guests to witness their vows. “The 620 Loft & Garden had always been a dream venue, so we jumped, and everything else fell into place with Fallon’s guidance.”
The vow renewal took place on July 9th—just one day off from their four-year anniversary on July 8th.“The ceremony was the most important aspect for us so we wanted a backdrop that felt just as epic as our love story,” Michaela says of literally framing the backdrop of the ceremony space.
While Javier Ruisanchez and Michael Dumaine's wedding photos by Hector Javier are inspiring, their "Change of Plans" story is even more so. The couple, who "fell in love at first sight" at a bar in Washington, D.C., planned to marry in Javier's home country of Puerto Rico and while their 2020 vows may not have been just as they had envisioned, that's exactly what they did.
"At the end of the day, we realized it was never about the big wedding celebration for us," Javier says. "It was simply about celebrating love, inclusivity, diversity. It was about giving hope to the community with a message that “love always wins.”
Actor Noah Reid had not one but two notable weddings in 2020: First, his character Patrick walked down the aisle on the Emmy-nominated sitcom Schitt's Creek, then, on July 25, 2020, he made it official with his fiancée Clare Stone, a psychiatric nurse and researcher.
COVID-19 threw "a bit of a curveball" in their plans, admits Noah. After much thought, the couple took social distancing precautions into consideration and forged ahead with a "miniature version" of their original plans, inviting just 25 guests to join them for a lakeside micro wedding, which included a surprise serenade from the groom (he is a musician, too!) and plenty of DIY projects by the bride and her mother. While different than their original plans, every aspect of the celebration was personal and unique—just as the couple had hoped.
With This Ring
Ezinne Okpo and Marleni Santana, a register nurse at Northwell Health-Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, halted any wedding plans amid the pandemic in mid-April. "By August though, we didn’t want to keep our lives on hold and decided to move forward with getting married," they admit. "We wanted to be sure to take all precautions, so a ceremony with just us two in Fort Tryon Park, near our home in Harlem, seemed like it would be perfect."
On October 16, 2020, even those plans changed with the couple ultimately moving their reimagined outdoor ceremony indoors to a friend's stunning townhouse in Brooklyn due to rain. They wrote their own vows, which were streamed on Zoom, and Ezinne surprised Marleni with readings from their sisters during the ceremony
"Hearing what my sisters wrote was something that was completely unexpected," Marleni recalls. "To hear them welcome Ezinne into our family and celebrate our love and commitment with their words was truly special and meant even more because they weren’t there in person."
A Pretty Pivot
The pandemic challenged plenty of the arrangements, but Caroline Worthy and Kevin Dyer ultimately said “I do” with the assistance of Caroline Dutton Events. “It is so easy to get caught up in having a party, but at the end of the day, it’s about the marriage and your family and friends,” she says.
This past summer, the couple created a July 4th-themed garden party that included Independence Day details—like American Flag cufflinks and Nashville hot chicken—and a choreographed first dance.
“During the pandemic and stress of wedding planning, one of our favorite things to do at the end of the workday was to put on some fun music and dance before and after dinner,” Caroline says. “We choreographed the first dance on our own. We were so happy to share that moment with everyone.”
Love on Top
You'd never guess it by the photos, but Candice Wilson-Olensky and Matthew Cherry planned their wedding ceremony in just one week! The couple, who first met at a film festival in 2016 and got engaged at home in January 2019 with only their pup looking on, married in Malibu with zero guests in attendance.
"Because of COVID-19, we opted to change our wedding plans and instead of postponing another year, we decided to have an ultra-intimate wedding ceremony with just us," Candice explains. "We will hold a reception with our friends and family near and far when things return to safer conditions."
A Family Portrait
After getting engaged in August 2019, Macy Orlowski and Spencer Ela planned to marry on September 10, 2020, in an epic destination wedding at the chateau in the countryside of France. However, at the start of COVID-19, they decided to postpone until 2022. Then, those plans changed again when the couple decided to move forward with an intimate elopement at the Santa Barbara courthouse.
"With the exciting news that we were pregnant, we knew we didn’t want to wait any longer to make things official and become husband and wife," Macy explains.
Double the Celebration
On March 21, 2020, Justine Victoria Roach and Hrishikesh Desai were supposed to wed in front of 200 guests at Ojai Valley Inn in California. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, those grand plans quickly changed course, ultimately transforming into an intimate garden ceremony with just five guests at the bride's family home. (The entire day was reimagined in merely one-and-a-half weeks by the couple's wedding planners Sarah Lowy, Jodi Cohen, and Quinn Heinrich of JOWY Productions.)
Despite the drastic dip in guest count and sudden location change, the couple's vision for the day remained the same: A vibrant celebration that united Hindu and Jewish traditions, accented by marigold orange and saffron yellow hues. "Every element of our day felt very personal from the location to the décor and, of course, our family guests," recalls the bride.
Once it's safe to do so, the newlyweds plan to celebrate their marriage again—this time with the 200-person soirée at Ojai Valley Inn that they had originally envisioned. Until then, they're spending their honeymoon at home under quarantine as husband and wife. "Do not forget that having each other’s love amid everything going on in the world is truly a blessing," they add.
Along for the Ride
While Harneet Sidhu met Sim Brar had to scale back their initial vision to follow safety precautions, they can't describe their July 4, 2020, nuptials as anything but "blissful." The two wed in a boho backyard ceremony, a longtime dream for the bride, under a floral-adorned pergola that her father built for the big day.
After, in the lieu of a classic reception, the newlyweds opted for an epic send-off, borrowing the bride's brother's vintage car and driving off into the mountains together. "Our sendoff was so special to us!" says the bride. "We had our family and friends light sparklers, wave glow sticks, and cheer as we drove off in my brother’s 1965 Impala SS."