May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Challenges and Joys of Planning a COVID-Era Wedding

Little did I know at the time the engagement was announced that our happy news would lead not to a brisk stroll through our checklist but to a disorienting dash through an unexpected obstacle course.

When my daughter and her fiancé announced their engagement in November and selected Memorial Day weekend 2020 as their wedding date, my initial concern was how everything could get done in six months. It turned out that all the major vendors—venue, caterer, music, photographer, videographer, band leader/music—were available on the date that we wanted. We were able to finalize the invitations. We signed contracts in a period of only a few weeks and our future in-laws were in agreement with us on everything.

The wedding party was identified, bridesmaid dresses ordered, and tuxedos for groomsmen arranged and ordered. The groom’s mother found not one, but two dresses she liked. The grandmothers also found dresses to their liking. Even the bride found “the dress” at the second place we looked.

I stressed a little when I could not find a dress that I liked. I searched countless stores in person and online. Dresses arrived via UPS and FedEx and were quickly returned. In mid-February, I finally found a dress and shoes. Things were all set.

And then came mid-March with COVID-19 and the unprecedented shutdown of wedding halls and gatherings of all types. In a matter of days, all our plans and presumptions were upended. What would we do?

With over two months to the big day, we decided to hold off on making any decisions until after Pesach, with the hope that things would be normalized by then. As time went by, we saw that things were getting worse rather than improving.

All four parents agreed that the young couple would be the ones to make the decision to postpone or proceed. The caterer and hall offered us alternative dates at the end of the summer or we could postpone everything for a year. There were no guarantees of what life would look like in a year, let alone by August.

After weighing the options, by the end of April the young couple chose to go ahead with their original date for the wedding, and hoped to have a formal party next year as a weddi-versary event. The scramble began to get dresses altered and make alternative plans.

A friend of a friend knew someone with contacts in the formalwear world and was able to get a tuxedo shipped for the groom to wear. The bride’s wedding gown was left outside the vendor’s door for pick up as the shop owner was too frightened of personal contact to directly hand it to us. My dress was pinned by my machateinista while the seamstress gave directions via FaceTime. Platform sneakers were ordered to replace the heeled shoes that would sink into the dirt at an outdoor venue.

Tech-savvy family members were asked to arrange for Zoom and YouTube wedding presentations. The invitation lady kindly altered an email version of the invitation to include the Zoom link for the many relatives and friends who would not be in attendance. Wedding music was selected and a playlist created. Benchers were ordered with just the month and year printed.

Our original plans could only accommodate 10 people, per the Governor’s order, which limited things to the immediate family and a rabbi. Luckily, the yard of the groom’s family was a perfect shape and location for the wedding. Special surgical face masks were ordered and decorated in honor of the wedding.

I give my machateinista a lot of the credit here. She refused to allow the event to be a “second- rate COVID wedding” and planned yard decorations and made arrangements for a first-rate beautiful wedding. She borrowed a chuppah from a local Chabad, bought and painted poles, and arranged for a loveseat from the house to be brought out for the bride and the bedeken, with the Chosson’s Tisch facing the opposite way in the driveway.

Less than 48 hours before the big event, the Governor raised the number of people allowed at an outdoor gathering to 25. We contacted bridesmaids and groomsmen and asked them to come and be mesameach the couple.

It never even occurred to us that the weather would not be cooperative; for such an event of a bride and groom, a queen and a king—the weather would be incredible. And it was.

A set of grandparents was able to view the ceremony from a window facing the chuppah; the other grandmother watched via Zoom from her assisted living facility; extended family members watched from their cars parked across the street; and countless others watched from phones and laptops.

And suddenly it was over. The young couple were now officially married. Although there were a far smaller number of guests than the hundreds that were initially planned, the ones that were there were so meaningful. The joy was palpable.

It wasn’t quite over yet. A car parade of family and friends greeted the newlyweds with decorations guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Each car was given a goody bag with a bencher, water bottle and cookies with the names of the bride and groom.

I’m sure they took away wonderful memories too.

After some additional family pictures, the immediate family had a wonderful seudat mitzvah al fresco on the patio.

While it may not have been the wedding my daughter originally dreamed of, it still turned out to be very beautiful. She and her husband will have many stories to tell in the future.

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