Dressed in a delicate lace and tulle gown, Daniela’s smile beamed as she joined Kelly in front of the Zoom camera to say their vows in the dappled sunlight beneath the trees at his family’s East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, home.
Artificial roses adorned the arbor backdrop and platform that Kelly built himself for the ceremony, and his mom cooked BBQ ribs for the wedding dinner.
The bill for the 700 guest wedding? An unheard-of $800. With virtual guests, “there was definitely no worry about costs,” said Kelly.
Kelly and Daniela Pierre’s backyard wedding in September was not what they expected when they started planning their big day back in 2019.
For love that bloomed in lockdown, a whittled-down pandemic wedding proved to be a blessing in disguise for some couples like them.
Just 12% of couples who planned to get married in 2020 went entirely virtual for their ceremony, according to a survey of some 7,600 couples by online wedding planning platform The Knot. More than 40% of those who wed in the pandemic added a streaming or video platform component to their ceremony.
“Even after the pandemic ends, virtual wedding planning and live-streamed weddings after COVID will remain common,” The Knot’s report predicted. Its recent social media survey suggested the trend is still holding through the spring.
That is what Denise Adams and Kevin Cortez opted for after getting engaged in February.
For their June wedding, the couple had only their immediate family in the Riverside, California, backyard they had been dressing up with drought-hardy flowers and succulents. The rest of the guests joined via videoconferencing.
Denise saw the positives: “We had friends come from the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and South Africa. That would have never been possible at an in-person wedding. That’s what made it really special on top of everything — the fact that we could literally include everyone who has had a special part in our lives, regardless of where they are in the world.”
Even before the pandemic required downsizing for health and safety reasons, wedding planners have seen millennial brides like Denise and Daniela bucking the traditions of prior generations in favor of weddings that fit their personality and values.
“I felt so good that day, just focused on Kelly without distractions,” Daniela said, who, together with him, spends some 70 hours a month in a Christian volunteer work. “Now we can spend more time together in our ministry and not be anxious about working more to pay off debt.”
Nie’shia and Ekhomwanye “Ike” Ikponmwosa, too, appreciated the cost savings for their Austin, Texas, wedding in March.
Their backyard “minimony,” with a few masked and properly distanced in-person guests along with 210 attendees connected via Zoom, cut their expenses to an amount easily covered by two government stimulus checks.
However, the biggest motivation for Ike and Nie’shia was their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They initially embraced a virtual, hybrid wedding as an opportunity to incorporate into the occasion two key Bible principles by which they live: respect for life and love of neighbor.
Keeping the wedding simple and small not only protected against spread of COVID-19 but also gave them an opportunity to focus on the meaning of marriage rather than custom and tradition.
Other than some minor audio issues at the ceremony, Nie’shia said she would not change a thing. “With a small wedding, we were able to focus on the big picture, which is God bringing us together,” she said.
“Jesus taught his disciples to maintain a simple life. That’s good advice for those who are planning a wedding,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Ironically, the pandemic has given us an opportunity to see just how simple a wedding can be — while still being beautiful, joyful and memorable. It’s more than just about saving money. It helps preserve our spirituality.”
Because hybrid weddings are often less complicated to coordinate, brides and grooms have found they can simply concentrate on the joy of getting married.
Without an elaborate setup or large crowd of guests to worry about before their small hybrid wedding in November, Andre and Murielle Minchella had time to eat breakfast together and chat over coffee.
“The focus of that day wasn’t about things; it was simply about the marriage,” Andre said of Orange, Connecticut. A trilingual officiant conducted their ceremony in English, French, and Swahili for an audience of more than 300 guests, including relatives from Europe and Africa, watching via Zoom and YouTube Live.
“I’m so grateful and happy that we could share our special day with family and friends from so far away who might not have been able to attend in person even if we were not in a pandemic,” Murielle said.
Virtual weddings may lack some treasured aspects of a traditional ceremony, but many couples have ended up more than satisfied with this unique way to begin life’s journey together.
Having a small, intimate wedding with far-flung family and friends connected virtually “was better than I could have imagined; better than I could have dreamed,” Kelly said.
jw.org • Contributed
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