Our Pandemic Wedding

by Kyndra Bailey
PLANNING

You know when you’re ten years old and you’ve just finished watching some cliche rom com with the cutest wedding of all time, and you think to yourself, “that’s it. That’s what my wedding is going to be like”? You know the one: big guest list, magical night filled with magical memories, dancing until the night ends, a big poofy cinderella wedding dress, the kind of wedding where everything goes right, and (at least for that night) there’s not a single care in the world.

Call me cheesy, but as a kid, I always thought that was what my wedding was going to look like. When my parents would talk about me getting married, there was always this assumption that it would be this big thing, reflective of how big of a life event getting married was.

But as I got older, I slowly realized that big, movie-esque wedding wasn’t quite what I wanted. The huge, 200+ guest list began to seem a bit overboard for me; “elegant” wasn’t quite my style, and, to be honest, I was never the biggest fan of dancing. I still low-key loved the idea of a Cinderella wedding dress, but I had seen enough episodes of “Say Yes To The Dress” to know there was a chance it wouldn’t actually be ~the one~.

All of this was confirmed for me when Trey and I got engaged after almost 5 years of being together. I started planning immediately. Seriously – on the night of December 23 I already had a list of things I wanted, possible venues, aspects that were non-negotiable, and of course – the things I didn’t want included in our wedding.

Within a week, we had our venue picked. Within two weeks, I had purchased my dress (spoiler: it wasn’t the ballgown dress I always imagined). Within a month, I practically had everything about our wedding planned out, and the save-the-dates had been sent. It was supposed to be a semi-casual wedding – something that reflected mine and Trey’s relationship.

We picked an outdoor venue with a barn for the reception site – something that would normally be used for super rustic weddings, but it felt romantic to me. And with the right decorations, the rustic feel could easily be turned down. We planned to have outdoor games: think giant jenga, checkers on the grass, and one of those really big connect four games. There was going to be a photo booth with some hella awesome props, and a self-serve popcorn bar since popcorn is one of our favorite things. For dinner, we planned a build your own burger bar with all the works, and dessert was set to be cupcakes from our favorite bakery. In a word, it was going to be perfect.

Of course (as we all know), COVID decided to rear its ugly head in mid-March, right after we had everything for the wedding planned out. I remember being stuck at home, trying to work, with my mind constantly spinning about what would happen to our wedding. I must’ve googled “COVID Wedding” about 50 times in the span of two weeks. My heart ached for all the couples who had their events postponed or cancelled because of state ordinance. I had concerns about our wedding being affected by COVID, but everyone assured me there was no way restrictions would last into July. (LOL)

When May rolled around, we still weren’t sure what to do. The state was slowly reopening, and it had looked like Texas managed to avoid any huge outbreaks. We knew there was no way we could have a normal wedding on our original date; we’d either have to postpone or make some major changes to our original plans. Eventually, we decided we were going to postpone – it was the only thing that made sense.

A couple of days passed and – being the majorly indecisive person that I am – I felt like we had made a mistake. I didn’t want to wait any longer to get married. The situation in Texas seemed to be improving, and I had actually seen pictures and videos of people successfully holding micro-weddings during the pandemic. I felt like we could do it.

So we backtracked. We decided we would keep our original date and make every change under the sun. No more burger bar, no outdoor games, no popcorn bar, no photobooth, no dance floor; masks and sanitizer for everyone; a majorly decreased guest list; and a shorter wedding overall. We sent out two types of invitations: one with the event details, and the other with live-stream details for the guests we had to uninvite. (The livestream turned out to be a major fail, which was completely on us. Future COVID brides: hire someone for a livestream if you plan to have one.)

Honestly, I felt good about our decision. Everything that we were doing made sense to me, and I felt good that we were still going to be able to make it happen. It wasn’t going to be quite what we imagined, but at the end of the day, getting married was the most important part.

We sent out the invitations right at the beginning of June; cases in Texas were steady, but never rising. The state went into Stage 3 of reopening shortly after we sent the invitations, and I remember making a comment to Trey that I didn’t trust anything. I knew the eased restrictions would lead to new cases, but the lag of the virus meant those new cases wouldn’t be reflective in statistics until a few weeks before our wedding.

Like clockwork, everything started to take a turn for the worst right at the end of June, two weeks from our wedding. To be completely honest, I turned into some kind of monster those last two weeks. Not in the Bridezilla “this needs to be exactly this way” kind of sense. I was overwhelmed with the stress and uncertainty about what was going to happen to our wedding. I was terrified we were putting our friends and family members at risk. I felt guilt about the fact that we chose to keep our date, and I felt foolish for not realizing things were going to get bad. I cried every single day leading up to our wedding (usually more than once per day). I was angry at the world for taking my dream wedding from me. I was honestly a different person those last two weeks. Writing this all out now, I don’t even recognize who I was.

Between tears and lots of texts to friend, everything was coming together. Somehow, someway, we made it to July 11 – but not without me first experiencing every single emotion under the sun.

THE DAY OF

Like the two weeks before, the day of the wedding was a blur. I woke up early to finish with any final touches and to put my bouquet together. (I had waited until the day of to put it together because I wanted it to look as good as possible.) I ran around like crazy trying to make sure we had everything we needed.

Eventually my sister and I left for our hair appointments. Once we got to that point, everything started to feel real. Through masks, my stylist and I talked about the wedding, the planning amidst a pandemic, and about Trey. It was weird, knowing I’d be getting married in a few short hours – knowing everything had been leading up to this moment. I can’t really describe it to be honest.

On our way back to the wedding, we got stopped by a train, which ended up stopping on the tracks. You’d think I would’ve been stressed by it, but honestly, it was the funniest thing to me. Nothing about the wedding had seemed to go right, and we had a blip with our photographer just that morning too. Really, it was only fitting that we had to reroute to get to the venue. I held my head high and did my best to stay positive.

Despite having to detour, we got back to the venue earlier than planned, so I took a bit of time to visit with one of my sisters who I hadn’t seen since December, and double checked that we had everything we needed. I walked my friends through what needed to happen with our decorations, and they were real troopers. (Our ceremony was in a shaded area in the evening, but they decorated in the scorching summer heat at 4 in the afternoon.)

We had to make a change in our schedule because of the blip with our photographer, so when I started getting ready, it was incredibly laid back. No rush, lots of laughter, and so many smiles. I was so thankful for it. My family members laughed and smiled through masks as I fumbled while doing my own make up. My sister took pictures of all the little detailed shots since our photographer wasn’t there yet, and every single worry I had about the day was gone.

Our photographer showed up right as I finished getting ready, and I went to do a first look with my dad. It was so so special to me; what can I say – I’ve always been a daddy’s girl.

(Side note: I wouldn’t call myself a traditional bride; I’ve always hated the origin of weddings being a thing where women were “given away” as if they were property. I call BS on men needing to “ask for permission” to marry from the father. And I kept my last name because I like my name as it is. But I do still have a close relationship with my dad, so doing a “first look” with him and having him walk me down the aisle were still musts in my book. So I guess it’s a both/and kind of thing for me: recognizing the misogynistic origins of many wedding traditions, but choosing to do some of them anyways. All this being said – to future brides: do what you want and don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks you should be doing. It’s your day.)

Next we did bridal portraits which was pretty uneventful aside from my having to drag my train around everywhere. It was a small one, but still a bit of a nuisance. Then our photographer told me to hang tight, cause she’d be going to take some individual shots of Trey, who was in a small space nearby.

While she was doing that, I helped my family and friends with the last minute set up things. We had to create a seating chart for the ceremony to ensure social distancing, but instead of creating a diagram (which I felt would have been confusing), we wrote everyone’s name on a balloon and placed it at their seat. That way they could see it from far away, and then the weight at the end of the balloon was a mini souvenir. Being the hand-letterer that I am, I spent my spare ten minutes getting everyones names onto the balloons.

Eventually it was time for our first look, and since Trey’s space was in a more secluded area, I went to meet him. My photographer walked me over to his space while my stomach did tilt-a-whirls. We were less than an hour from being married, and my whole body was shaking.

Trey’s space had two doors: one on the front, where I entered through, and one on the back, which led to a grassy area where no one else was. My photographer walked me into Trey’s space and said he was waiting on the outside, through the back door. She was going to go outside, and I would come out when I was ready. He would be turned around, and I was supposed to walk up slowly behind him, then tap him on the shoulder.

Those few moments in between when she left me alone in the cottage were some of the longest of my life. I was so giddy, and so ready to see him. I took deep breaths and stepped outside; I started crying as soon as I saw his back turned towards me cause this was it: we were finally getting married. The tears were rolling down my face before I even had the chance to stop them, and when Trey finally got to turn around to see me, I was sobbing. I have never felt happier than I did in that moment. After so many endless days of stress and big feelings, we were finally at the finish line.

We had gone back and forth about whether or not to do a first look, and I’m so glad we did. It made for a moment that I’ll never forget, and it was definitely my favorite part of the day. It eased every worry in my mind, and even gave us a bit of time to sit and talk before the wedding began. 

THE WEDDING

 When 6:30 rolled around, we snuck around to the main building, which is where the processional would be heading out from. “It’s Nice To Have A Friend” by Taylor Swift began playing on the speakers, and everyone made their way down the aisle. My dad and I talked a bit while we waited for our turn and then began our short trek. I began crying as soon as we started walking, and I don’t think I stopped until the end of the ceremony.

We had to cut our bridal party from the wedding due to distancing concerns, so the only people who were up front with us were my sister, who was there to hold the rings and my bouquet, and our friend Amaya, who was officiating for us.

To say that Amaya was the perfect officiant for us is an understatement. When I started crushing on Trey, she was the first person I confided in; as fate would have it, Trey had confided in Amaya’s best friend about a crush he had on me. They told each other about our mutual crushes, and I honestly don’t know that we would’ve gotten together if it wasn’t for them. Through tears Amaya welcomed everyone and told everyone about her role in our relationship.

Trey and I were both looking at Amaya, but we kept stealing glances at each other with tears rolling down our cheeks and grins plastered on our faces. When it was time for our vows, I was really nervous for Trey. He always gets stage fright, so I didn’t know what was going to happen. He was first, so Amaya handed him the mic and he froze. His hands were shaking harder than I’ve ever seen, and he was struggling to get the words out.

He looked back and forth between his paper and me. To describe the tension that was in the air at this point, think about a movie where someone runs away from the alter, but right before they run away. That’s what it felt like to me. I knew Trey would never leave me at the alter, but it was quiet for way longer than it was supposed to be; I knew he was just nervous, so I waited.

And then, like it was straight out of a movie, he crumpled up the paper with his vows on it. When we talked later, it was because he felt what he wrote just wasn’t adequate enough. He said his unscripted vows, but I don’t remember a thing about them other than the fact that they were perfect in every single way. When I say I sobbed, I mean it.

(I went back and read what he had originally written, and can confirm that what he actually said was way better than what he had written. Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to figure out what his vows were exactly since our live stream was a major fail. To future brides: hire a videographer!! Everyone says to do it, but a lot of people don’t and then regret it. I would give anything to fully relive our ceremony.)

I said mine, which consisted of a subtle Taylor Swift reference, a throwback to when he was just “an annoying classmate,” and a jab at the whole pandemic. We did our declarations of intent, and then exchanged rings. Both of those were fairly uneventful (aside from the tears which were still rolling down my face.) When Amaya pronounced us husband and wife, and said we could kiss, I was ready to practically jump into Trey’s arms. It was such a special moment that made my heart feel every happy feeling there is to feel. After we walked back down the aisle together, we high-fived (yes, really).

Our wedding was small; in the end, I think we ended up with about 25 people there. I hated that we had to cut our guest list at first, but in the end, I was so thankful that we were able to have such an intimate ceremony.

Our reception was short and sweet. We had originally planned to serve prepackaged meals from Chickfila and then play a game of trivia instead of having a dance floor. But when the situation began getting so bad, we cut both of those things. We felt it better to keep everyone around each other as little as possible.

Trey and I did a first dance to Taylor Swift’s Lover (the first dance remix, of course), and then we served individually packaged cupcakes. They still came from our favorite bakery, and this was the only aspect of our original plan that survived. Of course, Trey and I fed each other a cupcake, and we snacked on the leftover cupcakes over the next couple of days. We’ll probably get a cake from that bakery on our anniversary every year – it’s only fitting.

Then, my dad and I did our first dance, but what no one knew is that we had planned something out. We danced to Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl” for a minute, and then it merged into a medley of fun songs, which we had planned choreography to. We danced to snippets of “U Can’t Touch This,” “Shake Your Groove Thing,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “The Macarena” and “YMCA.” It was an absolute blast. Seeing my dad trying to dance to those songs and hearing the laughter from everyone else will forever be one of my favorite memories.

When that was done, our reception was over, and we just visited for a bit and took some small group photos. (This was tricky, since everyone was in masks. We basically had everyone take theirs off right before any photos, and then they’d put it back on when we were done. We didn’t do any large group photos either, which is something that I wish we could’ve done. But given the circumstances, it simply wasn’t possible.) At this point, most people began saying their goodbyes, and my family began to take down the decorations and pack things up. We didn’t have a lot to take down, which actually turned out to be really nice; it made clean up so easy.

While they did that, Trey and I took couples portraits for 45 minutes or so. Every single stress that I had felt the days, weeks and months before were just gone. We were married now, and that was all that really mattered to me. We didn’t do a send off, since most people had left before we were done with our photos. We helped clean up the last bit, and then drove off in our car decorated with hearts and “just married” on the windows.

Our hotel was right down the road, but we ended up making a detour to go through the drive thru at Whataburger. What can we say – it was quite the eventful day. :-)

REFLECTIONS

More than once, I’ve said nothing about our wedding went right. But in truth, everything went wrong so all the important things could go right. It wasn’t the huge wedding that my ten-year-old-self always thought I’d be having. And it wasn’t even the wedding that my January 2020 self thought I would be having. We compromised on a lot of things, but all in all, it was the best night of our lives. I don’t know that I ever want to go through those levels of stress ever again, but I’m so glad that we stuck it out

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