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Abby Eyre and Spencer Clark hugging.
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Love in the Time of COVID-19

When the global pandemic cancelled their dream weddings, these four couples still found a way to say, "I do." Guest attire: Zoom-casual.

By Faviola Leyva

May 28, 2020

The expected outcome of planning a wedding is you get married as planned. Not so much in 2020. The global crisis halted travel and prohibited gatherings, but it also inspired deep reflections on the meaning of true partnership within these four couples. Could you imagine sending a Google calendar invitation to your virtual nuptials? Neither could some of these newlyweds, until they did.

Abby Eyre (L.A. ’19) and Spencer Clark

Original wedding date: May 29, 2020

Where were you planning to get married before you cancelled? 

We’re both part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and it was going to take place at a temple in Newport Beach, California. We were going to have a family reunion that week and end the week with our wedding.

How did the pandemic affect your plans?

Most of my fiancé Spencer’s family are doctors in the military, including three brothers and his dad. All of them were rotating through ER or in-patient work on the frontlines of all of this. The military had also put a hold on all travel that we figured would probably be extended. We wanted everyone to be able to be there for our wedding.

What was your alternative?

We had a civil marriage ceremony at my parent’s house in Utah. My dad married us with my mom, my four sisters and my sister’s husband there. Luckily, now that Zoom temporarily lifted the premium charge for teachers, I used my teacher account to Zoom in all my friends and family. We’ll have the religious sealing and big party a year from that day.

I hear your students had been following the progress of your wedding planning.  

It was so funny. Their first thought was to feel bad for the seniors who won’t have prom. Then they thought of me. “Oh my gosh! Your wedding! What’s going to happen?”

Did this reveal anything about your relationship?

I think my sadness hit first, and then his sadness hit. So, we were able to be there for each other.  So many more people have it so much harder than we do. This is a wedding, it’s not life or death. It’s been hard, but we got to solve a lot of interesting problems together and we just rolled with it. And then we got to get married sooner!

Erica Mosca (Las Vegas ’08) and Nicholas Jared Smith

So you and Nick had been talking about getting married, but then in the middle of social distancing you woke up on a Sunday morning and decided to elope via Zoom the next weekend. Why?

I think he was frustrated because it felt like the pandemic was never ending and we couldn’t actually plan something bigger. He also works at a military hospital and I can't get on the base because we aren’t married. We had a lot of students and families who could join the call, and a lot of his deployed military friends who can't see their families right now. We thought that so many people coming together (via Zoom) at a moment when things are so hard could bring a lot of joy.

It was truly this idea too of how privileged we both are to have jobs and this type of opportunity. We wanted to remind the broader community that we can't forget about the people who are most suffering at this time. When we go back to whatever our new normal is, we have to think differently about equity and make sure all people can be a part of things, despite their circumstances.

At the very end of the commitment ceremony, I talked about my Dad. He was there to walk me down the hallway, but then he changed into his uniform and had to go to work that night. He asked if he could be off work because I was getting married, and they said no. So if he had not gone to work, he would have gotten fired.

I hear your friends helped you pull it together.

I went to Target and bought about 10 different white pieces because the dressing rooms were closed and I couldn’t try anything on. I had to get creative and put together white jeans, a bathing suit top, and a dress to make a romper. Aliy Bossert (Las Vegas ’10) sewed it together that day of the wedding. I took a shower at 3:10 pm. and was ready at 4 pm to get married. Sean Parker (Bay Area ’09) and Drake Allsop (Las Vegas ’10) were our Zoom emcees. Lauren Warshawsky (Las Vegas ’08) was our Zoom officiant. Rachel “Lindsay” Eanes (Las Vegas ’10), who is also my neighbor, provided the backdrop.

Madeline Anderson and Aleksi Turkki smiling after getting married in their backyard.

Madeline Anderson (Charlotte-Piedmont Triad ’20) and Aleksi Turkki

Original wedding date: April 18, 2020

What was the original plan?

My fiancé Aleksi and I have been dating since we were 15 and 16. He’s been supporting me as I’ve been preparing my heart and mind for the corps. We were going to have the ceremony at The Church of Bethesda-By-The-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, and then a reception at an art gallery and restaurant.

How did the virus change that?

During mid-March, first my fiancé’s family in Finland wasn’t going to be able to attend because of the travel ban. Then, we started hearing from elderly family, my grandparents, that they weren’t going to be able to travel because of health issues that would have put them at risk. It was kind of one thing after the other until we saw it really wasn’t going to be safe for us to host a wedding that we had been planning this entire year.

Did you get married anyway?

We hosted a small ceremony on our original wedding date in the backyard of my parent’s house. My family, Aleksi’s immediate family and his grandmothers attended in person, and we broadcast the ceremony via Zoom to our family and friends.

What insights did you take away?

It was beautiful for me to see how invested Aleksi was in our wedding. But we remembered that marriage is not a wedding. It’s love between two people. We can still be there for each other in sickness and in health. We’ll tell our children and grandchildren we were married through COVID-19.

Olivia Sonnefeld (St. Louis ’12) and Alex Gooding

Original wedding date: April 25, 2020

What had you planned?

We were planning to get married in Cleveland, Ohio. I am from upstate New York and my partner, Alex, is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cleveland is where we met, so it’s neutral ground for us.

Sounds like you got pretty close before you changed your plans.

We actually had our walk through with our venue in early March before everything closed in Ohio. Now we’re thinking of postponing the big event till next year.

What is your alternative?

We plan to have a courthouse wedding as soon as Cuyahoga County (our county in Ohio) starts issuing marriage licenses again. Then we’ll host our wedding and vow renewal next year with all our friends and family.

How are they responding?

They told us, “Whatever you all want to do, set a date and we’ll be there.” And they’re very understanding if we have a courthouse wedding.

How did you and your partner work through it?

The emotions come in waves. During the first two weeks, I was trying to power through and work towards a new plan. I thought that once we would have a new plan in place, everything would be OK. Alex pushed me to grieve. By nature so many of us want to push through problem-solving, but it was a nice reminder for me that it’s OK to feel sad.

It was stressful but even before we made the decision to cancel, he and I recognized we just wanted to get married to each other and celebrate our love. We realized that we cared about the ceremony itself because so much planning went into it. Now all we want to do is celebrate with all of our friends and have a huge dance party.

 

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