Traditionally, I tell you how amazing Emily and Jim’s wedding day was. But, I reached out to Emily and asked her to write their why instead. Their pandemic wedding story is one that is going to stand the test of time. A story that will last generation and generation. One day great-grandbabies are going to hear this story and hopefully see the photos of Emily tickling his chest, and Jim wiping his eyes and they’ll see the love that helped create the family they are blessed to be in. So without further ado, Emily & Jim.
In 2012 when I moved into my college dorm room, my dad was a little concerned that the room across the hall from me was 3 football linemen, little did he know that one would be my future husband. Jim and I hit it off pretty shortly after college began. We were the same major (biology) and in a lot of the same classes. We quickly began hanging out and by the end of the first semester, we were dating. I knew almost immediately that he was the guy I was going to marry. He was loving, caring, and pretty funny too. In early 2013, shortly after we started dating, I actually bet one of my best friends $100 that I would marry Jim one day. She kept her promise and I became $100 richer a few weeks ago!
Fast forward to February of 2019, Jim proposed to me at Longwood Gardens after the cutest scavenger hunt. I had to find certain places, and at each place I would get letters. At the end of the scavenger hunt the letters spelled out ‘will you marry me?’. Within a day after getting engaged we picked our wedding date to be May 9, 2020. I always wanted to get married in May (because of the weather – not too hot, not too cold). And we both love spring, the season of life and growth. May 9 quickly became ‘our day’. We both have huge families, so our guest list was over 260 people. We always pictured our wedding to be a huge party with lots of dancing! The invites and RSVPs went out in February of 2020, little did we know what was about to hit in March.
When COVID-19 hit America, there were so many unknowns. In the beginning people thought we would only be shut down for 2 weeks, so May would still be okay right? But as the weeks went on we quickly realized the reality of the situation, there was no way we could have our big wedding on May 9th. Luckily our vendors were incredibly understanding and allowed people to move wedding dates. We quickly moved our date to July 12th, one of the only summer dates available at our venue. But a week or so after moving to July, it just didn’t sit right with us. Will everything be okay in July? Will I have to send out invites again just to tell people we’re canceling again? What about our rings that have May 9th engraved in them?
What REALLY matters? Us! We matter! Our love for one another. We went back and forth a few times about what to do, but as time went on we unfortunately found out that some of our wedding guests already could not make the July 12th wedding due to COVID-19 restrictions. So we decided that we were going to take our day back. May 9th, our day. We also decided to only tell our immediate family, and let it be a fun surprise for all of our other friends and family.
First, we had to get our marriage license. Luckily our county was willing to give us our license, over zoom! [What a crazy time we live in.]
Next, we reached out to pastor, who has known me since I was little. He was incredibly accommodating and insisted that he would do anything to help us still get married on May 9th.
Finally, we reached out to Melania, our photographer, who immediately said yes!
Next, where to do it?
We wanted to do it at a state park, but during the pandemic ‘events’ are not allowed, and yes they consider this 4-person 10-minute shin-dig an event. Finally, we remembered one of our professors from our early years in college lived on a beautiful property in Lancaster, about 30 minutes from our home. Again, he was incredibly welcoming and allowed us to get married anywhere on his property. We were so thankful for how accommodating everyone was to us during this crazy, unprecedented time. We threw everything together in about 2 weeks.
I ordered flowers from online not put together, and I figured I would make my own bouquet. We also bought ceramic pots and I filled them with flowers to put at the ceremony site.
Luckily my dress was already getting altered by my amazing seamstress Summer, who did completely custom sleeves. Jim didn’t have his suit yet, but he had an old one from his brother’s wedding.
Finally, we ordered a cake from Desserts, etc. (Hershey, PA) to eat after the ceremony. Somehow, it all came together.
The night before the wedding I made my bouquet, and I was so happy with how it turned out! The day of the wedding was super unique. I didn’t have a ‘team’ of people helping me get ready. It was just me in my bathroom, doing my own hair and makeup. Luckily my next-door neighbor was able to help me get into my dress. We wanted to celebrate for most of the day so we decided on a 10:30am ceremony time.
We arrived at the ceremony location, and Jim put the pots of flowers in place where I wanted them, in his suit! Then Melania and our pastor arrived. We had a short, intimate, emotional ceremony. It was really beautiful, and something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Afterwards, we took photos, popped champagne, and celebrated! It was so much fun telling our friends and families, who were so excited for us, after all of the craziness we had been through regarding COVID-19.
After the ceremony, we drove to another farm to take more photos. Finally, we got back to our house and relaxed. We heated up chicken wings from our favorite local wing place (Penn Hotel, Hershey PA). Yes, I ate chicken wings in my wedding dress – sweet thai chili and Carolina gold wings to be exact! Then, our immediate family came over for a social distanced cake. We set up flowers and cake on our back porch. Our parents, siblings, and 9 nieces/nephews stood around outside as we cut the cake and, of course, smashed it in each other faces. Oh and did I mention – it snowed! On May 9th, in Pennsylvania, it actually snowed. What a crazy day. But at the end of the day, it was literally the best day of our lives.
We are private people, and I think I preferred our private ceremony even more than in front of 260 guests. And seeing our families for the first time since the quarantine started – even if we couldn’t hug them all – was so incredible. We are still hoping to do a big vow renewal wedding one day. Will it be next year? Who knows, as there is so much uncertainty with the pandemic. But we will eventually and it will be great. Even though May 9th was not how we originally envisioned it – with tons of people and dancing and amazing catered food, it was somehow even more perfect – with our own personal, meaningful touches and our immediate families. I wouldn’t change a thing.