12 Wedding Pros Share Heartwarming Stories and Lessons Learned From Resilient COVID Couples

Love is not canceled.

covid couple

Photo by Kir Tuben Photography

In the wake of canceling, postponing, and drastically altering wedding plans, couples have been forced to rely on their team of wedding professionals more than ever. From wedding planners to photographers, these vendors have been put to the test and have gone above and beyond to carry out some version of their clients’ vision for their wedding day. Through it all, they say they've discovered some silver linings.  

There is a tremendous shift in focus toward people over things—the tears in the eyes, the words of praise and love, and the celebrating of people are what matters most.

“While there have been many stress-inducing decisions and conversations, the end result of focusing on how and why to bring people together is so refreshing,” notes Valerie Gernhauser, wedding planner and owner of Sapphire Events and Ruby & Pearl Events in New Orleans. “There is a tremendous shift in focus toward people over things—the tears in the eyes, the words of praise and love, and the celebrating of people are what matters most.”

While many things were canceled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, these heartwarming stories shared by wedding professionals prove that love most certainly wasn’t. 

“I truly admire the couples that make the very hard decision to move forward rather than postponing, they show true resilience.” 

“At one of my most recent weddings, we decided to place value at the communal dining table. This signified the heart of the couple and their families. By creating such a beautiful and intimate space, it encouraged the family members to settle in and share stories of the bride and groom and connect in the most intimate way possible. You can learn a lot about a couple while partnering with them during the priority discovery process. Some will select to place the most value on the ceremony and its sacredness. While others value the time spent at the dining table with the most important folks in their lives, and most of the intention and energy is positioned here. I truly admire the couples that make the very hard decision to move forward rather than postponing, they show true resilience.” —Lea Stafford of Lea Stafford Events in Oakland, California 

“The silver lining is knowing that we can make our couples feel like they had the wedding of their dreams during such difficult times.”

“At our 10/10/20 wedding, the bride and groom were so in love with the reception area that they didn't even want to walk all the way in. The groom said, "Kia, you took my breath away"— that was really touching. The bride said, "It was beyond her dreams." The silver lining is knowing that we can make our couples feel like they had the wedding of their dreams during such difficult times...We have played a big part in making our couples happy and creating an amazing experience during a pandemic, and I've learned that family was extremely important to them. Your closest family and friends will travel if they can to celebrate with you. It was extremely important for our clients to create an unforgettable experience for her family and friends. The overall experience was very heartwarming, and we are grateful and honored that our client's look to Kia Marie Events to help make these specials moments come to life. —Kia Marie of Kia Marie Events in Chicago

“One of the bride’s nieces was so enchanted by the band’s playing that she brought a flower to the keyboard player and thanked the quartet for their beautiful music.”

“One of my couples had originally planned a 300-person wedding for fall 2020 but was forced to postpone the big celebration. In the meantime, they didn’t want to wait to get married and hired me to plan a backyard celebration at the bride’s parents’ home in August. We had fewer than 30 guests and the whole affair felt so intimate, meaningful, and special. It’s been a very hard year for the wedding industry, so the vendor team was especially excited—and also a little nervous—to work a wedding during such a difficult summer. Later in the evening, one of the bride’s nieces was so enchanted by the band’s playing that she brought a flower to the keyboard player and thanked the quartet for their beautiful music. It was a small thing, but it meant so much to the band and was truly heartwarming. Both the musicians and the couple have connected with me to let them know how special that moment was, and it’s a memory I know everyone will treasure for a long time.” —Kate Reavey of Chicago Vintage Weddings

“It took telling the couple that it was possible for them to realize they didn't really want to wait.”

“I started working with Amanda and Corey almost two years ago to the date of their wedding this September—then COVID happened and no one knew what fall 2020 would hold. After multiple discussions, the couple wanted to find out if they could shift everything a full year. It took telling the couple that it was possible for them to realize they didn't really want to wait. With absolutely no guidance from the state and things changing every day, we turned their 150-person wedding into a micro wedding for 19 guests. It was almost like planning an entirely new wedding—we kept all the same vendors, but brought in tenting, catering and everything else needed for a private event. The funny thing about the location of the wedding being at their home is that they must have toured dozens of venues. While finding a venue that matches the couple's vibe is important, home weddings always have a special sentiment. For Amanda and Corey, this couldn’t be more true. Corey is actually a real estate agent who met Amanda when he showed her what is now their home and ultimately their wedding venue.” —Danielle Rothweiler of Rothweiler Event Design in Verona, New Jersey

“It felt so much more personal because we were only focused on the two of them with no external distractions.”

“I was supposed to attend a 200-plus person wedding across the country for one of my friends, but with the pandemic getting increasingly worse she decided to elope in Lake Tahoe. She invited her close friends and family to watch the ceremony via Zoom. She is very creative and sent everyone a wedding package that included a bottle of champagne, a pair of champagne flutes with their name and wedding date on it, confetti, and a polaroid camera so we could take pictures and document their day from afar. I had never attended a ‘virtual wedding’ before and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and how romantic and fun it was. It felt so much more personal because we were only focused on the two of them with no external distractions. It was stress-free and intimate and the reception was the best part. Since there were so few of us there watching from afar, we all did a personal toast to them which was really special for everyone—something that we never could have done at a large wedding.” —Ranu Coleman of Azazie

“Once the guests arrived, they realized it was actually their wedding.”

“One of my couples decided to host a micro wedding but chose not to disclose that the celebration was their actual wedding to guests. They invited 25 of their family and friends to an 'at-home BBQ,' but once everyone arrived, they realized it was actually the wedding! It was small and intimate and full of great toasts and speeches. The toasts were actually reversed for the couple, who toasted to honor those in attendance. They wanted everyone in attendance to realize how important they were in their lives. The big celebration is rescheduled for next year, but why put your life on hold when you can continue and honor those you love?!” —Joann Gregoli of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli

“It was a heartwarming sense of reassurance that they made the right decision.”

“I’d been working with a Houston-based couple, Casandra and Bowie, prior to COVID with magnificent plans to hold a weekend of festivities at Bowie's father's cabin in Estes Park, Colorado. When COVID hit, Cassandra and I had numerous conversations about the right next steps. As an ER physician in a former COVID hotspot, there were fears of work travel bans as well as what postponing their wedding would mean for Bowie’s father and other aging family members. We paused plans but when Colorado began allowing outdoor events, we decided to proceed on July 24th, adjusting the guest count to fewer than 70. It was an emotional and highly intentional celebration honoring their commitment to marriage. At the beginning of the ceremony, they presented each of their special guests with fresh flower bouquets, corsages, or boutonnieres while their officiant read a tribute to each. One special guest was Bowie's father, who watched from the home's upper deck to remain safe and protected. Exactly one month from their wedding day, he passed away peacefully at home with Casandra, Bowie, and other family members by his side. Each couple has unique circumstances that play into their decision to hold or postpone their wedding plans. In Casandra and Bowie's case, it was a heartwarming sense of reassurance that they made the right decision and can always reflect on the memories of his presence and in-person well-wishes upon their marriage.” —Lindsey Sachs of COLLECTIVE/by Sachs in Boulder, Colorado

“The bride excitedly exclaimed, ‘This is better than I could have imagined or planned! All the people that truly matter are here.’"

“I've been fortunate enough to work with couples who have graciously and beautifully pivoted their wedding plans under unfortunate circumstances. One such story is a big wedding that was supposed to happen the last weekend of June this year. They ended up proceeding with their scheduled wedding date and cut down their list of about 150 to just 35. They embraced the situation with socially distanced seats at the ceremony and very much spread out tables during dinner, gave out customized hand sanitizers, and created homemade face masks for guests. The father of the bride held back tears in his eyes during his speech to his daughter and said, ‘I know this isn't the wedding you wanted.’ Later on, when I mentioned the wedding was incredible to the bride during a conversation over dinner, she excitedly exclaimed, ‘This is better than I could have imagined or planned! All the people that truly matter are here.’” —Mikkel Paige of Mikkel Paige Photography in New York City

“A day they imagined so differently turned out to be the most intimate and personal representation of them.”

“Ian and Maxine were supposed to have a big wedding at 501 Union in Brooklyn but decided to move their wedding to a more local intimate setting in Jersey City. The day was different than any wedding I have planned, and nothing like Ian and Maxine imagined. One of the best moments was when they got ready together in their home...Ian was pouring whiskey, Maxine was making a meat and cheese plate and their photographer Justin Johnson and I were hyping up their bridal party! They did their first look outside of their home and walked to a local park to say ‘I do.’ On their way to the park, cars were honking and people were cheering them on. Later, they had an intimate dinner on the rooftop of a pizza place with their 35 nearest and dearest family and friends. They ate pizza, had a sweet first dance, and listened to friends tell stories about them. At the end of the party, they went home and had a mini photoshoot in their at-home garden. A day they imagined so differently turned out to be the most intimate and personal representation of them.” —Veronica Polce of Veronica Joy Events in Hoboken, New Jersey

“Their first kiss as husband and wife was met with eruptions of cheers and car horns from the neighborhood."

“With their plans for a larger wedding celebration postponed due to COVID, Ruani and Cortney decided they didn’t want to wait to tie the knot. They held a beautiful, intimate Jersey City elopement at home on the date of their ninth anniversary surrounded by their nearest and dearest…as well as some friendly passersby. Pedestrians stopped in their paths and neighbors peeked out their windows to watch Ruani and Cortney commit their lives to each other. Their first kiss as husband and wife was met with eruptions of cheers and car horns from the neighborhood! In the couples' own words, ‘Our stoop felt like an obvious choice for our wedding venue because it made logistics easy to coordinate, and it enabled us to be outdoors to mitigate health concerns. It also felt poignant to be able to get married on the doorstep of our home, where we’ve shared so many important moments.’” —Devin McGurgan of Mile Square Moments in Hoboken, New Jersey

“Everyone there realized it was the people at the wedding, not the quantity that mattered.”

“One of our couples planned what they thought was their dream wedding in a large tent in Carmel, California for over 300 guests. They ended up instead with a small and intimate family-only wedding for 24 guests and that turned out to be the actual wedding of their dreams. As we navigated through the challenges of COVID, we replanned four different locations with each one ending in challenges and restrictions. From day one, our bride wanted to get married in the courtyard of her family home at the top of Camel Valley, but it was too small of a space. In the end, after four location changes, we were able to hold the wedding ceremony in the redwood forest, which was truly magical, and the reception at the bride’s home will now hold so many more memories than it ever could have. Everyone there realized it was the people at the wedding, not the quantity that mattered.” —Sara Fay of Sara Fay Egan Events in Dallas, Texas

“They married themselves in accordance with Pennsylvania’s self-uniting marriage law.”

“On August 8, 2020, Lara and Carlos said ‘I do’ amongst 32 of their closest family and friends. We had the ceremony live-streamed for those who couldn’t attend, including the mother of the groom who is a physician in Miami. What was really special was the fact that Lara and Carlos didn’t have an officiant—they married themselves in accordance with Pennsylvania’s self-uniting marriage law. It’s something I’ve never seen before and was nothing short of sweet.” —Carla Friday of Details Made Simple in Westfield, New Jersey

“Despite the involuntary roller coaster ride these two went on, they still ended up with a heartful and genuine day, filled with love and laughter.”

“Annie and Evan were originally planning to get married in front of 250 of their friends and family in September 2020. However, as the months passed and the virus spread, we started to see the writing on the wall: We needed to change gears. In addition to the virus raging, Annie’s brother had joined the army and would be starting boot camp in the fall. Postponing the wedding wasn’t an option: Annie and Evan wanted their brother there, and Evan was also receiving offers to work overseas. For these reasons and more, the couple decided to downsize their wedding, moved it up a month, and changed the location to the backyard of Annie’s childhood home. As we inched closer to their plan B wedding date, Annie couldn’t stomach the idea of hosting a party for 100 amidst the chaos in the world. As a frontline worker, she had witnessed firsthand just how devastating the virus could be, so we moved on to Plan C: an elopement. With their nearest, dearest, and most immediate family present, Annie and Evan had a coastal Southern California wedding on a rooftop in Santa Barbara. Despite the involuntary roller coaster ride these two went on, they still ended up with a heartful and genuine day, filled with love and laughter with their closest family and friends. It was much different from how they originally planned to tie the knot, but when all was said and done, they felt that this day represented their relationship and commitment to each other best.” —Brooke Avishay of Orange Blossom Special Events in Van Nuys, California

“I sat in the front row during the vows and had the pleasure of seeing the couple's friends and families texting in words of love and congratulations on the live stream.”

“One of my April couples had to postpone their wedding indefinitely and asked me to reach out to them at the end of the summer when they felt they'd be ready to reevaluate their plans. They decided to elope, and I arranged for a live stream of the ceremony so that their families could tune in from afar. I sat in the front row during the vows and had the pleasure of seeing the couple's friends and families texting in words of love and congratulations as they officially tied the knot! It was such a special moment, not just because I was able to play a part in their elopement, but also to be able to share in the joy with their families. It brought me to tears and it is a highlight of my entire year. I can't wait for them to reunite with their families for the ‘sequel’ celebration in the future!” —Valerie Gernhauser of Sapphire Events and Ruby & Pearl Events in New Orleans

“My first COVID wedding went from 300 guests to 19, and ended up being the sweetest of all."

“My first COVID wedding went from 300 guests to 19, and ended up being the sweetest of all! We had the ceremony in the front yard of the groom's parents' home. The couple had their first dance on the front porch, and the reception was filled with the originally invited guests driving by with signs on their cars and honking their horns! The couple handed out tiny bottles of Champagne along with a cupcake to celebrate the day. A huge party is planned on their first anniversary to celebrate their first year of marriage and hopefully...the END to COVID! —Patti Hasting of P. Hasting Design, LLC, in Pine Mountain, Georgia

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