What It’s Like To Be A COVID Bride.

The worst. (End of blog post.)

Just kidding, kind of!

On December 1st, when I said “yes” there was no way for me to know the roller coaster I would be stepping onto. I knew wedding planning would be crazy, I knew there would be stressful moments, I knew we’d have disagreements with each other and our family members, but nothing prepared me for what has come.

We busily began planning our wedding day, keeping it semi-small with just over 100 guests. The two of us loved the idea of an outdoor fall wedding so we planned our ceremony outside in a local park with the reception to occur in an enclosed shelter on the park grounds. Surrounded by trees and nature, we anticipated the colors to be beautifully changing on our wedding day; perfect and picturesque. Not only was this location gorgeous, it was so affordable!

Mid-March when COVID restrictions became a reality, I was hardly worried. I felt so much sympathy for brides in early spring but was confident we’d be out of the woods by at latest, July. I think a lot of us relate to this early on optimism. April thru June, I kept planning to a minimum. The pandemic had me completely unmotivated. But once June hit, I was back into planner mode. However, I was experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance. I knew COVID was bad and something we wouldn’t solve within a few months; but I also felt as though my wedding could proceed as usual.

It sounds crazy but that is legitimately the way I was processing things simultaneously. Until one day. All of the sudden, I just felt this overwhelming stress that there was no way the two of us could continue with our wedding, as planned. No one knows when this will be resolved.  Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that without a widely distributed vaccine, weddings and other large gatherings are not realistic.

And I spent a few days feeling really sad for myself. Feeling unjust anger at people who were married pre-pandemic. I couldn’t have my wedding now, and I had no way of knowing when our wedding (as planned) would be realistic. Devastating. I heard all of these sad/stupid things about love being cancelled in 2020 — and I had another mindset shift. That wasn’t going to be me. This pandemic will not cancel my love; it will just alter how my wedding looks. But all of that is just extra. What really matters about October 17th is that I am marrying a man whom I’ve loved for 7 years.

So with about 60 days until our wedding, we are pushing forward, with some seeeeerious adjustments. I refuse to have a day that puts our loved ones at risk, we will not pretend a party to celebrate our marriage matters more than people dying all around the world.

I debated sharing what changes we are applying, but I think for any bride navigating this time, it could be very helpful. So here, as of August 16th are the changes we are implementing (which are subject to change based on recommendations from CDC experts and local government restrictions.)

* Sadly, we chose to cut our guest list to around 60 people. Michigan currently allows events to have 100 people outside and 10 inside, (see here, #5 and #6.) We went under the 100 person limit to be extra cautious and to get ahead of any additional restrictions, should they come our way. It was devastating to make this decision but we had limited options. We started by removing plus ones for the people that were single or for the SO’s we didn’t have a close relationship with. After that, we were forced to move to friends and extended family. Our hearts broke every single time we had to remove someone, but we knew it was the best thing for us to do. And thankfully, everyone was so loving and understanding.

* We eliminated the indoor reception. Due to the executive order shared above, the county park has disallowed usage of the enclosed shelter on park grounds. Other than using this as a staging room for the bridesmaids, I was in complete agreement of this decision. The entire wedding will be held outside; I pray every single day that we are given a beautiful fall day! Instead, the set up we have for the ceremony will be where guests remain through what we are calling an abbreviated reception.

* From ceremony to reception, guests will be seated at cocktail tables of two, outdoors. As guests arrive, we have requested they wear masks. Masked ushers will show them to their table, where they will remain seated for the duration of our wedding celebrations. They will be seated with a person from their household and each table will be 6′ apart. If anyone gets up from the table, they will be asked to put the mask back on their face.

* Speaking of masks, they are non-negotiable. If one guest doesn’t want to wear one, we expect them to stay home. This isn’t up for debate. The ideology of “if your mask works, why do I need to wear one” is not one we are willing to discuss. Out of respect for all the changes my fiancé and I have had to make, we are truly hoping people won’t make this more difficult on us. And we aren’t anticipating it, thank GOD.

* We are having “an abbreviated reception.” This means we have chosen to eliminate the dinner hour and wrap up the reception around 6pm. We were sad to cancel the delicious catering we’d eagerly booked, but it was the safest decision to keep people at their tables and reduce contact opportunities. We are, however, keeping donuts and apple cider as a light snack. Additionally, we’ve chosen to keep the DJ for ambiance music, and allow the formal dances (father of the bride & bride dance, mother of the groom & groom dance, and of course bride & groom dance), but will not allow any guests dancing. How can anyone maintain social distancing while dancing?

* Lastly, we asked our guests to provide an email address on their RSVP card. This was done to ensure we could provide any needed updates to the guest in the weeks prior to the wedding. Bryan and I intend to send a detailed plan to each guest so we can all be on the same page on the itinerary of the event. We are doing this so there isn’t a safety concern simply due to a miscommunication. This might be over the top, but I’ll do it to keep my loved ones safe.

To some, you’ll furrow your brow and think  “this doesn’t sound like a wedding” or “this is weird” and guess what, YOU ARE CORRECT! It doesn’t sound like a wedding; it IS weird. But in a way, I’m really thankful for the changes. For one, several people have told me smaller weddings provide breathing room. You have more time to enjoy the moments with your new partner and soak it all in. Keeping our reservation at the park also means that aspect of what our wedding would look like can stay the same. In addition to that, Bryan and I have plans to make a reservation at a fancy restaurant and celebrate following the wedding, just the two of us. No expense spared. We’ve never done that, and I’m so looking forward to it.

In so many ways, this season of wedding planning has been a nightmare. I’ve had stress induced bad dreams, I’ve cried, and I’ve wished for any other scenario for my wedding. But honestly, now that it is all coming together, I realize how blessed I am to be starting a life with my best friend. And that is the only thing that matters.