Katherine & Han, 6/19/20
Canceling a wedding in the middle of a pandemic is a strange, unsettling suite of feelings. In one moment, you feel so sad about saying goodbye to your wedding dreams. In the next, you feel guilty about feeling sad while so many others suffer. Layer on a perpetual confusion about pandemic life in general and you have the perfect recipe for a nice little emotional breakdown. Which is exactly what led to me sobbing in a corner store one afternoon when I couldn’t find medicine I needed for nasty case of food poisoning I was dealing with. At some point, being so overwhelmed at baseline made gracefully managing normal life inconveniences a bit challenging. However, I would have never guessed in that moment that canceling our wedding would lead to one of the most beautiful, unexpected experiences of my life.
There is no denying that canceling our original wedding plans stung. Since my husband is Dutch, we actually planned two events – one in Europe and one in the US – to allow for the involvement of our large families and circles of friends. Images of our families and friends celebrating together at a castle in the Dutch countryside, or here at the San Francisco Presidio, were firmly planted in our minds. However, all of this required a fair amount of travel and we have several loved ones who fall into the at-risk groups for Covid. We knew the right thing to do was cancel or postpone our original plans, but we still very much wanted to get married. We tried to focus on the many things we had to be grateful for (and we WERE grateful!) but this buried strong emotions instead of working through them. Eventually allowing ourselves to be properly sad (read: many tears) gave us the chance to get over what we couldn’t control and focus on what we could. So down the google rabbit hole of alternative wedding ideas we went! We eventually stumbled across Zoom wedding testimonials.
Their message was loud and clear: If you’re thinking about it – DO it. The results will be way better than you can imagine. Also, call a company called Wedfuly as soon as humanly possible and get on their calendar. Wedfuly got us a consultation right away and the rest is history.
“I loved getting to know your families.”
Deciding to not include family onsite resulted in some challenging conversations. The truth was that without being able to have both families onsite, we didn’t feel it was fair to have just one. We explained our decision, asked for their support, and communicated how important it was for us to involve them virtually. All ended up on board with the plan.
That played out in several ways. We orchestrated a multi-device (phone/laptop) processional and practiced the day prior with Wedfuly’s guidance. Our families in Oregon and the Netherlands decorated their spaces and walked down their own aisles. Our flower girls (who would be asleep before the ceremony started) participated via a pre-recorded video of the 2-year-old dumping rose petals on the baby’s head. Thanks to the matching ring boxes and a little practice, our ring bearer was able to throw the rings “to” us from his garden. My Oregon-based sister officiated our San Francisco wedding from the comfort of her yard while my brother-in-law played beautiful piano music from across the Atlantic. Our parents gave beautiful, heartfelt speeches and we crafted a parent tribute slideshow in their honor.
“The whole thing flowed so nicely!”
Our goal was to incorporate elements of an in-person wedding but optimize for a virtual experience. This meant a LOT of moving parts. Beyond the family participation in the ceremony we also had slideshows, a first dance, a group dance, toasts, and cake cutting. Giving guests slideshows to watch on screen while we worked through transitions in the schedule helped things feel fluid.
We operated off of an Excel spreadsheet that we shared with our Wedfuly consultant and families. It had each element, participant, time requirement, and extra notes (including music selections). This helped keep everyone on the same page. Staying coordinated required a fair amount of communication and practice but the pre-wedding interaction that resulted was a win for all.
“It looked like a real wedding!”
I really wanted the aesthetic of an in-person wedding, but almost didn’t hire a florist. I thought we couldn’t justify the expense with just the two of us here to enjoy it. But hiring one was the BEST decision ever! The flowers added unparalleled pomp and circumstance to the tiny backyard affair, and we were able to support at least one local business with our wedding.
We also created zones to make each part of the wedding feel distinct. Since we weren’t at a rented venue with time limits or decorating rules, we could do things our way and enjoy it for weeks after. Our ceremony “zone” was anchored with a wood arch that I built in honor of my late father and which was decorated with a luscious floral swag and dreamy drapery. Our “reception” zone featured a eucalyptus leaf curtain background, a “Just Married” sign, and a formal cake table. The homemade cake was decorated in the same palette as everything else.
“I felt like I was actually there with you.”
This was one of the most surprising comments of all. But as many guests explained, they felt like they could see and hear more than they could at an in-person wedding. Everyone got a front row seat and seemed to appreciate that. We put a lot of thought into how the experience would feel for our guests and made decisions accordingly. In the end we think it was a bit like watching a wedding on TV. We also scheduled “breakout rooms” after the reception, which are small Zoom groups that mimic reception tables. They allowed us to chat with all our guests in small groups and thank them for coming. While we chose less time/fewer people per room for more targeted attention, we recommend doing more time/more guests per room for a more fluid experience.
Technology and Wedfuly were the real MVPs here. We upgraded our internet to ensure a clear image and practiced camera angles and audio for each space well before the wedding. Although we used a laptop for the ceremony, we opted for a large screen at the “reception” and invested in a good camera and microphone for optimal audio/visual on both ends. Wedfuly was our guiding light throughout, with recommendations and feedback we couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
“You looked SO happy and relaxed.”
Getting married at home meant I could sleep in and have coffee with my husband in bed, perfectly relaxed. I did NOT have coffee however, because I was too nervous and coffee would’ve sent me through the roof. I took a shot of bourbon instead and proceeded to do my hair and makeup with steady hands. Doing dry runs of each before the big day maximized confidence and minimized complications. (Side note: Get magnetic lashes and thank me later.)
A dear friend was present to help us with logistics and take photographs. We needed more help than we anticipated. She reminded us to slow down and take in the small, precious moments that we will cherish for years to come. Having so much time to prepare things at the house meant there was very little to do on the day-of. This allowed us to enter the day with all the excitement and none of the stress.
In all honesty, we were initially nervous about people not taking the wedding seriously or having it feel awkward. Was the internet connection going to stall? Would someone forget to turn off their mic? But with enough preparation and Wedfuly’s expert guidance we were able to create an experience that was way more fluid than we anticipated. We also used Greenvelope digital invites, which allowed us to include (and update) detailed information such as a Zoom “how to” link, dress code information, and a request for guests to have a drink and a sweet treat available to celebrate with us. There were plenty of details that allowed us to scratch that wedding planning itch, plus loads of freedom to create an event perfectly tailored to us and our space. In the end, it surpassed every hope and expectation.
Some of the sweetest outcomes of our non-traditional wedding, however, were the many non-traditional ways our friends and family rallied on our behalf. They loved on us hard throughout it all, showering us with enthusiasm and encouragement along the way. Our families’ acceptance of this new concept, and their willingness to jump right in, made a huge difference in the day’s success. What we lost in our initial vision we gained back and more in the ways others showed up for us.
Leading up to the wedding, we often referenced the serenity prayer to remind us of the kind of marriage that we want to have. In searching for the serenity to accept the things we couldn’t change, courage to change what we could, and wisdom to know the difference, we discovered the many blessings of a virtual wedding. The only downside is that now we love our tiny apartment even more than we did before. And now we can never move!