Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Love in the Time of COVID-19

Your guide to socially distanced weddings

Our coverage of what’s new in wedding planning this spring had to be significantly different because, well, what’s new is COVID-19. How do you plan a wedding when there is so much uncertainty surrounding large gatherings? We asked one couple who recently tied the knot in mid-March how they handled it, and we also have a few engagement stories that address what the planning process continues to be like for them.

Finally, we looked at one of the most significant components of weddings for many couples— choosing a dress. If you’ve been through the process before, you know it involves multiple fittings and alterations, all of which have had to be rescheduled due to the virus. But that is starting to change, as our story on Atlas Bridal shows.

If you’re in the middle of wedding planning in a COVID-19 world, hopefully, these stories of positivity and rolling with the punches will motivate you to focus on what matters most— celebrating new beginnings with the love of your life.

As always, if you have wedding stories to share, contact Erin Holden at eholden@adamsstreetpublishing.com.

Your COVID-19-era wedding planning may have just gotten a bit easier. Lt. Governor Jon Husted recently announced that catering and banquet centers will be allowed to reopen, as long as they are able to meet certain safety precautions. Those include keeping tables 6 feet apart, not allowing groups to congregate within the space, and prohibiting a gathering of more than 300 people. To see the full set of guidelines for these centers, as well as other sectors, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Mary Ann Wojton and Mike Watson

The bride, groom and their guests. The newly married couple has no regrets about their intimate, home-wedding experience.
The bride, groom and their guests. The newly married couple has no regrets about their intimate, home-wedding experience.

With all the stress that goes along with wedding planning at the best of times, it takes a couple who knows how to roll with the punches to stay sane in the midst of a pandemic. Though Mary Ann Wojton and Mike Watson expected their wedding day to be a low-key affair to begin with, the rapid spread of COVID-19 made it increasingly clear that they’d have to make some changes. It meant going from 130 guests at Maumee Bay Lodge to only a handful of close family and friends at their home.

The wedding date was set for March 21st, a date with great significance for the couple.

“I was really married to the date, because it was close to the equinox,” Wojton explained. “It means the beginning of spring, equal partners, and starting over again. So I really didn’t want to change the date.”

In early March, the couple reached out to their guests, stressing that the most important thing was everyone’s safety and health, but that the wedding was still on. After all, Gov. Dewine’s mandate that no more than 100 people gather in one place did not apply to weddings.

But then Watson started to see firsthand the precautions people were beginning to take out of concern for the virus. “Where he works at Schindler Elevators, they were starting these protocols for COVID-19 and everybody was wearing a face shield,” recalled Wojton.

It was at that point that the couple decided they’d have to move the ceremony elsewhere, and that they’d invite no more than 25 people. The eventual verdict was that it would be best to have the ceremony at their home, which would be led by an officiant who couldn’t physically be there because someone in her congregation was being tested for COVID-19.

“The ceremony was done on Zoom and it took all of 15 minutes,” said Wojton. “The minister did an abbreviated sermon kind of thing, we did the vows and we were done.”

The original plan was to have family and friends bring food to Maumee Bay Lodge, to have friends create a music playlist, centerpieces and other decorative aspects of the wedding. In the end, Watson and Wojton (MAW², as they like to call themselves because they have the same initials), hosted about seven guests in person and Zoom attendees. They ordered a cake and appetizers from Costco with a contribution of a fruit dessert from a friend. Then, when the whole thing was over, they took their dog for a walk like it was any other day, a detail that reflects the newlyweds’ outlook on marriage.

“The wedding ceremony is only a small part of the marriage,” Wojton said. “For us, it’s more like every other day holds the important stuff.”

Wojton’s advice for couples who are in the midst of planning during COVID-19 is to “keep it simple. It’s a small part of your life together in the scheme of things. I do think that getting married during all this makes us feel that we’ll be resilient because we survived the pandemic.”

Bridget Harrington and Damon Drew

Photo Credit: Photography by E
Photo Credit: Photography by E

When did you become engaged? February 2018

At what point did you first realize you might have to postpone your June wedding to November due to the virus? Damon had asked me to reach out to our reception venue (The Summit) when Gov. Dewine first closed schools. At that time, I was a little anxious, but since we had a June wedding it seemed so far away that we thought we couldn’t possibly be affected by the pandemic. The Summit eased any worry I had by letting us know that they were no longer accepting any new reservations during the crisis just in case any existing dates needed to change.

Then I started to see big events change their dates: The Kentucky Derby (May), The Tony Awards (June), and even the Old West End Festival (June). It wasn’t until I watched my first 2pm COVID update with Gov. Dewine and Dr. Amy Acton on April 2 that I started to panic. Dr. Acton had mentioned that, although we were reaching the height of the pandemic, we’d have a much slower downturn and that this would most likely continue into summer. So I sent an email to The Summit looking for potential new dates.

Logistically, what was that like? I’m sure it wasn’t easy working with different vendors to make that change. I decided to tackle each vendor in order of importance to us as a couple. We emailed our reception venue, photographer, and church first. Once we confirmed a new date with those three, I contacted all the other vendors asking if they were available— luckily they were— and I only had to wait to hear from two vendors. I’ve been planning our wedding on Trello (which I highly recommend!) and created a “COVID-19” card that had a checklist of all the vendors I needed to reach out to.

Has what’s going on with the COVID-19 virus made it difficult for your bridal party and guests that are special to you to commit to attending? I know that can be a difficult factor in all of this. We have a small bridal party, so that made it easier to change the date and keep them all involved. For close family, we made sure to confirm the date with them as well. For guests, we sent an email out mid-April announcing our change and mailed out a new Save-the-Date. Since we’re now having a November wedding, we’re hoping this gives enough time for guests to plan.

What have you learned from this experience, and do you have any tips for engaged couples that are going through the same thing? You have to do what’s best for you as a couple. This is a tip that you always read while wedding planning, but is even more important now. For us, we want to celebrate with family and friends, so I believe we will continue to push the wedding further out if that’s what is needed to get everyone together.

Also, you have to be flexible. We originally wanted to have our honeymoon immediately after our wedding, but we realize with the current situation it will be better to wait a few months, maybe even a year.

Photo Credit: Photography by E
Photo Credit: Photography by E

Ceremony: St. Mark Lutheran Church

Reception: The Summit

Photographer: Photography by E

Hair/Beauty: Heather Zarour/Lotus Beauty Loft

Day of Coordinator: Bee For A Day

Videographer: JONA Creative (a Josh Nagel Productions Company)

DJ: My Amazing DJ

Cake: Wixey Bakery

Linens: Tables by Design (coordinated through The Summit)

Transportation: White Knight Limo

Decorations/Floral: DIY and The Summit

Room Block: Park Inn (pending confirmation)

Erin Niswander and Kurtis Alexander

Photo Credit: T.E.P. Studios
Photo Credit: T.E.P. Studios

When did you get engaged? One year ago (May 5, 2019). He took me out in a boat on Lake Erie and stopped in front of the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse to pop the question. It was the most perfect weather that day, so we then took the boat over to Put-In-Bay to celebrate.

How did you go about planning for the wedding? Having a Type A personality, I immediately started planning after we got engaged. Within a month we had all of our major wedding vendors, including the venue, booked for October 10, 2020. My parents’ wedding anniversary is October 11, and honestly, my fiancé is really bad about remembering dates, so 10/10/2020 seemed like the perfect date for us!

How are you dealing with possible changes that may need to be made due to the pandemic? When coronavirus first came around, we kept talking about how thankful we were that we decided on a fall wedding. But now the date is getting closer and there is talk of a second round [of COVID-19] coming in the fall. So, as of right now, while I have almost everything booked, I have also contacted all of the vendors and clarified what would happen if we decided to reschedule or needed to cancel.

If it comes down to it, we will still get married on our original date, probably in our backyard, and then we will have a reception at a later date. If that is what ends up happening, I will still be as happy as can be. In the meantime, the not-knowing is the worst part.

Describe your “plan B” backyard wedding look like in your mind, and what are some changes you’d have to make if that alternative becomes a reality? Right now we both live in Toledo – we were both born and raised here – but we are actually moving soon to live near Devil’s Lake in Michigan. We would have just a small ceremony in our backyard with only close family and friends. We would still utilize almost all of the vendors that we have booked, but obviously, with altered amounts and time to account for the smaller ceremony.

With our new house we have some acreage, so we have plenty of room to set up the ceremony and a mini reception. A backyard wedding was actually our original plan, but (at first) we hadn’t found a house with enough space! (The plan is), when all is clear again, that we will still have our normal reception as planned at our current venue, with everyone that was originally invited.

Venue: Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center in Oregon

Photographer: T.E.P. Studios in Lansing, MI

Photo Booth: PhotoOp LLC

Videographer: Bliss Cinema

DJ: Decorative Sound

Flowers: Gardenview Flowers

Cake: Eston’s Bakery

Makeup: Shaylee Strauss

Hair: Janelle Faulkner

Decorations: Mager Designs

Dress: Belle Amour

Alterations: Jane’s Perfect Fit

Shannon Meyer and Jeff Jacobs

Engaged During COVID-19_ Shannon & Jeff

What was the original date of your wedding? June 13 2020— our nine-year-anniversary of dating.

When did the two of you decide it was time to change the date? May 1. We faced the music and asked the venue and musicians for a new date.

What’s the new date? November 7, the first date available for The Temple & Dueling Pianos.

How much of the planning had you done already, and what will change to accommodate what’s going on with the pandemic? 95% of the work was all done, even hypothetical seating charts.

How have your vendors been working with you during this difficult time? They are just as stressed, too, as their incomes have been greatly affected! Everyone is calm, cordial, and optimistic for a killer wedding reception with a new date.

What tips do you have for couples who are going through the same thing right now with wedding planning. Stay positive. Focus on the relationship and what a marriage actually means. If you can survive a pandemic and not knowing what’s next with your partner, the marriage— when it happens— will have a solid foundation.

Other aspects of your big day you’d like to share: I have already written out tags for 125 chopsticks that say “Shannon & Jeff 6-13-2020 Stickin’Together!” Ha! And now, with the new date, I’ll be able to buy a fur wrap from Roth Furs to wear with my dress, which is awesome and something I could not have worn for a June wedding.

Engaged During COVID-19_ Shannon & Jeff5

Bar: Premier Pour Bartending

Music: Dueling Pianos (Jake Pilewski & Tim Bauer)

Dress and alterations: Zinas boutique

Appetizers: Domo

Spa Day: Serenity salon

Catering and venue: Temple Shomer Emunim

Photography: LD photography

Atlas Bridal Shop

How the downtown shop is moving forward during the pandemic

Wedding Guide- Atlas Bridal - May 9th wedding

Operations Manager Tiffany Strock has been steadily working to make sure Atlas Bridal Shop stays on schedule with their dress consultations and alterations, but it hasn’t been an easy feat. The store closed on March 21, and, since then, roughly half of the brides they’ve been working with have decided to keep their original wedding dates.

“Of course they’re getting concerned that they’re not going to have a dress,” said Strock. “We’ve been promising these girls, ‘You’ll have your dress. We will figure out something.’”

For Strock, that has meant pulling files, checking in with brides, and rescheduling appointments (sometimes repeatedly) within an atmosphere of uncertainty as to when retail would open up. Luckily, the store’s seamstress has been steadily working on alterations for May brides, so Atlas is still right on schedule.

All brides with appointments at Atlas are required to wear a mask in the store, even during their try-on.
All brides with appointments at Atlas are required to wear a mask in the store, even during their try-on.

The store reopened on May 12 and will be proceeding with their regular working hours, though visitors will notice some changes to their protocol. Everyone in the store is required to wear a face mask, and brides will only be able to bring one guest for their try-on appointments, though when things go back to normal, Atlas will offer dress-reveal parties so that more guests can see the bride’s final pick when it is safe to have more people in the store.

The shop is also doing curbside pickup for bridesmaid and prom dresses to limit the number of transactions inside the store. That, plus the option for virtual dress consultations, has enabled Atlas Bridal Shop to stay safe while keeping the business running smoothly.

“One of the girls who did a virtual consultation with us is a nurse, so it was nice to just be able to connect with her and to do something hopeful,” said Strock. “It was something fun for her to look forward to because she’s dealing with so much right now.”

Atlas Bridal Shop, 4895 Monroe St., Ste. 101. Call to make an appointment. 419-474-9119. atlasbridalshop.com

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