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The Zoom Wedding She Never Planned For

[image provided by Kate Brooke Photography]

When I first saw Sophia’s post in the Pittsburgh Wedding Community Facebook group, I thought how courageous she was for deciding to still get married on her original wedding date in early April 2020 while inviting immediate family members to attend via Zoom.

In her post, she included a couple of photos and, “Happy to answer any questions if anyone is faced with a similar situation!” It was so generous of her to offer help to other strangers in the same boat.

While I wasn’t a current bride, I had to reach out to her to hear all about her experience. I thought if I could help spread Sophia and Brandon’s wedding story, perhaps it would encourage and help another bride. During our conversation, Sophia is an incredibly kind and honest person to share all about her wedding planning, wedding day and rescheduled wedding plans due to social distancing.

If you’re facing some tough decisions right now as a bride getting married soon, I hope Sophia and Brandon’s wedding story encourages you to keep what’s important to you about your wedding day and still help everyone remain safe during the Stay at Home and social distancing orders.

[image provided by Kate Brooke Photography]

Q: At what point did you decide to cancel your original wedding date?

So Brandon and I were engaged in September 2018, and I immediately booked Heinz Hall and Soldiers & Sailors, and then we booked our caterer, florist and bakery a little later.

The week after my bachelorette party in early March was when things started to fall apart. Heinz Chapel called on March 12 to tell me that all weddings scheduled there through the end of May were cancelled. Right before that, my engine light came on and my leftovers in the work fridge got thrown out, so I definitely cried when I got the call. It was just a bad day!

The news was really rolling out that week about the coronavirus and the Stay at Home orders and social distancing was clearly pointing to cancelling our wedding in April. By probably March 16, we officially decided to postpone our wedding plans until Labor Day weekend. We rescheduled the dates with our venues, updated our Knot website and said more details to come as we figured everything out.

I was actually kinda glad that it was clear that we should and would not have our wedding in April, so that was a simple, although not necessarily easy, decision.

Q: So you decided to push back your ceremony and reception events to September. What made you decide to still get married on your original wedding date, April 4?

Our pastor really helped us focus on what was most important to us on our wedding day by asking us, “Why do you want to get married?” From there, we decided to go ahead and get married with our immediate family present via Zoom. It wasn’t fun to give up the initial experience of my dad walking me down the aisle with all of our friends and family members there, but it was the right decision for us.

At first, we thought we could still have a small ceremony with less than 10 people, but then we dealt with the visualization of such a happy day without being able to hug or touch our family members. We went back and forth a lot, but ultimately the conversation with our pastor helped us confirm that yes, we still wanted to be married on April 4.

Q: What was that conversation like, telling your families that you were still exchanging your vows April 4 but they were only able to be there through a Zoom conference call?

My parents understood. I was talking with my mom so much about it that month prior that she knew were my thought process was with everything going on. My sister, who’s also my Matron of Honor, lives in Hawaii, so she wouldn’t have been able to fly in for our driveway ceremony anyway.

Brandon’s parents wanted to come to be there and still social distance, but we had to do a reality check. If they were present, are they really going to be able to not hug us on our wedding day? They were watching all the same news we were, and it’s not that we didn’t want them to be there with us. At the end of the day, I think they understood why family couldn’t be there, although it was still difficult.

Q: How was the planning process for your vow exchange with just the two of you and your pastor?

Well, we talked to our pastor the Tuesday before April 4, so we had less than a week to pull our small ceremony together. We scoped out Frick Park on Friday, but it was SO busy! We didn’t want to be a spectacle in Frick Park with us, our pastor and our computer, so we decided to just do it in our driveway. There’s a pretty tree in bloom, it would be private and we’d have wifi to ensure a good internet connection for the Zoom.

That Friday, I also went to Trader Joes for flowers and made my bouquet, his boutonniere and a couple of arrangements. I decided to wear the dress (originally from BHLDN) that I had from all the way back to my high school graduation. My actual wedding gown seemed a little grand for the driveway setting, so I thought I'd save it for September. Friday was also when my college housemates sent us a heart-shaped pizza!

[image provided by Kate Brooke Photography]

Q: What was your April 4 wedding day like?

It was surprisingly nice! We did attempt to not see each other that day. He’d close his eyes whenever I had to be in the same room. We took turns getting ready. I did my hair and make up in the guest room, and I had to consult my mom on what jewelry to wear because I wore a different dress than the wedding gown I originally picked out.

We set our ceremony time for 1 p.m. Our original ceremony time would have been 3:30 but we didn't want to wait all day! A photographer friend took photos of us and our driveway ceremony, and thankfully it was nice enough that we could do everything outside instead of in our living room.

Our immediate family were invited to the Zoom, about 10 people total on the Zoom video. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with having dozens of people trying to figure out Zoom and that stress. We decided to keep it simple.

By 1 p.m., Brandon was out in the driveway with our pastor. I snuck out a different door of the duplex that we never usually use, so I could walk around the house and still walk up the driveway to where Brandon was standing.

I peeked around the corner and was like, “Are you guys ready?” before walking down the “aisle.”

I didn’t have time to visualize what I thought it would look and feel like to get married in my driveway, but I honestly didn’t feel that weird. One of the things that made it fun and less foreign-feeling was that our family was able to talk with us. Usually guests don’t talk after the bride walks down the aisle, but there are no rules when you get married in your driveway! My brother was like “Hey, Fia! You look really pretty!”

We got married, talked with our families on Zoom and took some photos together (thanks to the amazing Kate Brooke Photography!). Our neighbor brought us a bottle of Prosecco, and my amazing work friends delivered a basket of everything we needed for a wedding meal. There were plates, napkins, a tablecloth, cloth napkins, champagne, wine, cute little wedding signs, fake plants, and a huge bag of takeout from Alta Via-- just everything you could think of that would be at a wedding reception meal. It made everything extra special!

Q: What were the best and the most difficult things about having a “social distancing” wedding ceremony on your original date?

It was difficult to not have my dad walk me down the aisle or have our family with us in-person. But everything else worked out so well with rescheduling. We were able to reschedule both of our venues, Heinz Hall and Soldiers & Sailors, and our caterer, DJ, florist, bakeries, pastor and photographer. Heinz Hall refunded us for our original date and then didn’t charge us for the rescheduled date in September!

I think one of the good things about how it all worked out is that we don’t have the stress of the waiting game now. If we had decided to wait until our families were sure about coming to Pittsburgh safely, we could have been waiting and unsure for so long.

Everyone-- vendors, family and guests-- has been very gracious and flexible with rescheduling, I think in part because they feel so bad for us!

Q: What advice would you give to other brides in similar wedding planning situations?

I’d say, think about why you want to get married and what’s most important to you as a couple-- being married, having your family and friends there with you, whatever it is to you.

I’d also say maybe wait and see if the quarantines are lifted without losing too much money or your own sanity. It would be really frustrating to change your plans and then those weddings would be able to take place after all. However, I also completely understand and support those who do decide to change dates, save deposits and keep everyone safe. There’s no right or wrong in this, so long as you’re doing your best to follow guidance on gathering sizes and social distancing if you are having a wedding celebration in these times.

For us, there was also an aspect of faith and honoring God in our decision-making to be married that was a priority. The big party and celebrating with all of our friends was also important to us. The wedding ceremony and reception aren’t going to look like we originally thought, but we’ll still have both elements that mean the most to us.

Q: Anything you’d do differently if you could go back and do it again?

We’re so glad we did it. So glad! I don’t think there’s anything we’d change because everything worked out so well. The emotional work of getting married and becoming husband and wife is already done. I think with our ceremony and reception in September, we can more appreciate and focus on family and talking with them. We’ll just enjoy the party with everyone when that time comes!

[image provided by Kate Brooke Photography]

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Special thanks to Sophia and Brandon for sharing their Zoom wedding story with us and to Kate Brooke Photography for permission to include her images from their wedding day in our blog.

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