A wedding marks the beginning of a couple’s new life together, one in which both individuals commit themselves to supporting one another through all circumstances. Last year’s coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic tested the mettle of couples’ creativity, resiliency and adaptability. While some decided to postpone their weddings to 2021, others decided to move forward with their masks and celebrate their weddings while adhering to social distancing guidelines and public gathering limitations. Two local couples share their wedding experiences held amid the pandemic and offer advice for couples planning to wed in 2021.
Jessica and Craig Grau
Jessica Grau and her husband Craig planned to get married in Pennsylvania last October. The coronavirus pandemic forced them to scuttle that plan. “My husband works in biology studying viruses, so he was (researching) COVID at the time, and he knew that it would probably be difficult for a while,” Jessica Grau admits. “We ended up canceling that plan in May.”
Undeterred by the need to change locations, she looked to Baltimore for possible wedding venues.
“We started reaching out to different places in Baltimore that we knew were small enough for a gathering but also had enough outdoor space for people to be socially distanced,” she says. “We were actually at Mt. Washington Tavern about a year ago, so we knew the space. We knew that they had an upstairs lounge area, and we actually took our parents there to eat for the first time they met. (The venue) held a little nostalgia for us, so we just thought it was perfect.”
With the change in wedding location, Grau also needed to select Maryland wedding vendors who could remain adaptable and flexible. “It was really finding people who had our best interests in mind, who were concerned about our plans and flexible with what they could do at the time and (who were) honest with us,” she says. Changing public health regulations for the sizes of gatherings also proved complex to navigate, according to Grau. “I was just Googling every day what the new restrictions were. Our vendors were also communicating with us to let us know what they could and could not do at the time.”
She says that she and Craig ensured that they had the core members of their families present for the wedding and were able to include most of their close group of friends within the guest count.
Jessica and Craig also navigated the intricacies of facial coverings and asked their guests to wear masks when they weren’t eating or drinking. Outdoor food and drink stations encouraged guests to take full advantage of the beautiful fall weather and promote social distancing.
Grau says that figuring out how to have the best wedding experience they could was important to her and her husband. “We had friends who had to postpone their weddings, so we knew that 2021 would be super busy with weddings,” she says. “We had been dating for five years and engaged for a year, so we wanted to make the wedding happen in the best way that we could.”
Jessica Grau’s Wedding Tips
- Decide how many people you need to have present. “For us, we were lucky to have a sizable amount of family members, around 40 people.”
- Consider venues that present several options. “We were lucky with Mt. Washington Tavern. We were able to rent out the entire upstairs area, which fits 200 people, and we had only 40. It was nice that they were able to accommodate us in that way and that we were able to spread out.”
- Work with vendors you trust and who have your best interests at heart. “The vendors in Baltimore are amazing. We were able to lean on them throughout the process.”
- Wedding Dress: Grace Loves Lace
- Groom’s Attire: Indochino
- Bouquets: Corinne Sebesta
- Floral Décor: We Do Event Design
- Catering: Mt. Washington Tavern
- Wedding Favors: Hand sanitizers
- Photography: Barbara O Photography
- Event Coordinator: Mary Booker
- Makeup Artist: Caitlyn Meyer
Elizabeth McIntosh and Patrick Blair
Elizabeth McIntosh and Patrick Blair had planned for a full-scale wedding in 2020. As they witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic force business closures and event cancellations, their first plan of action was postponing their wedding. At the end of July, they sent change-of-date announcements to give guests ample time to prepare. But after reconsidering the idea of postponing their wedding, the couple decided they didn’t want COVID to dash all of their wedding dreams.
“That’s when we decided to go for it!” Elizabeth says. “Initially, our plan was to do a ceremony with immediate family only, followed by a small reception with family and the bridal party.”
Confirming the guest list proved to be the most challenging part of the wedding planning. Ultimately, the couple decided to invite only immediate family and members of the bridal party. “In total, we had about 30 people at the ceremony and reception,” she says.
Keeping in mind COVID-19 public health regulations, she and Patrick devised a strategy to safely host their wedding.
“We wanted to make sure that everything was outside, so we had to find an outdoor space that was big enough for tables to be spread out but spacious enough for our ceremony,” she says. “We’re lucky that Pat’s parents have a decent-sized backyard. We landed on that for the venue. We wanted to make sure that people felt comfortable, so I created a questionnaire of sorts and sent it to each guest so that I could get a better feel on comfort levels.”
The couple’s questionnaire asked guests to share their thoughts about taking drinks from shared coolers, talking with others from a safe distance and expressing whom they’d be comfortable seated with during the event. “We had some tables with only two to four people and others with five to six. It all depended on what people wanted, and all the tables were a healthy distance from each other,” she says. “For the ceremony, we had the chairs spread out and only had people sitting next to and near those they felt comfortable being around.”
For food, Elizabeth decided that all items needed to be individually boxed. “I bought boxes and assembled individual charcuterie boxes for each guest. We ordered boxed lunches from Panera. We did individually boxed cupcakes for dessert. Silverware was wrapped in napkins and put at place settings in advance. Everything was individualized to each person—and people were able to choose exactly what foods they wanted to eat. I created stickers for each box so that guests knew which was theirs,” she says.
Finally, Elizabeth and Pat made sure they had ample bottles of hand sanitizer available at each place setting and at various spots outside and in the restroom.
As they took on the myriad tasks involved in preparing for their wedding, the couple got creative in their attempt to minimize their costs. The bride’s matron of honor served as the wedding officiant. Elizabeth prepared the appetizers and asked her sister-in-law to bake and decorate cupcakes. Friends contributed tables for seating. Spotify playlists filled in for reception music, and pages from old books served as placemats underneath each place setting.
Having the support of loved ones helped her deal with the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, she adds. “One of my close friends was scheduled to get married two weeks after us. It was helpful to have her as a sounding board for everything. We talked almost daily about changes, and we were constantly asking each other what to do.”
Elizabeth advises couples who plan to marry in 2021 to create a backup plan. “Knowing who will be responsible for implementing the changes could save a couple a lot of stress.”
Elizabeth McIntosh’s Wedding Tips
- Find out how your guests feel about attending a wedding. “Everyone has different comfort levels, and there is nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable about something and not being confident enough to address it. Make sure your other guests are aware that not everyone feels the same way they do.”
- Be prepared for extra tasks you may need to do for the wedding. “I didn’t envision prepping 30 charcuterie boxes on the eve of my wedding day, but it was the safest way for guests to enjoy an app before dinner, so I did it.”
- Ask for help. “We ended up asking a family friend to serve as our day-of coordinator. It really helped to have someone who could take care of all of these things for me.”
- Give your guests (and yourself) some grace. “We had only one guest back out at the last minute. We also put someone in charge of manning the Zoom call so that we could include those who couldn’t make it and those (who couldn’t be included on the guest list) but were still important to us.”
- Keep in close contact with your vendors, especially if you need to change plans. “I think brides and vendors alike could get some peace of mind by keeping an open and continuous line of communication.”
- Wedding Dress: Lulus
- Bouquets: Fern and Sunpalm (Etsy)
- Floral and Wedding Décor: Trader Joe’s
- Catering: Homemade and Panera Bread
- Photography: Morgan Faas Photography
- Event Coordinators: Danielle Sanders and Jenny Bixler