Almost every country has implemented social distancing measures because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures have thrown many large-scale family gatherings into disarray – especially weddings.
Queerty caught up with four same-sex couples who all wed in the last few weeks to find out how the virus had made them change their plans.
Michael and Josh
Michael McPhee, 32, and Josh Stock, 30, live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. They met via a dating app in 2012 and got engaged in 2017.
Their original plan was to hold their wedding over two days, with a ceremony for 30-40 people on July 11, followed by a community hall reception the following day for 100 people. The ceremony would take place on Edmonton’s historic High Level Bridge streetcar, followed by a gathering at a nearby restaurant.
“We started getting nervous about what would happen to the wedding halfway through March,” says Josh. “The province of Alberta started to shut down on March 17, 2020.”
The men paused their wedding planning until May, to review the situation.
“We gave some thought to postponing the date to later in 2020, but I had zero confidence that gathering restrictions would be lifted to the degree we needed them to go ahead with our plans. The streetcar service notified us they were likely to not operate and offered us a refund. We accepted.”
“I was reading local news when I saw a story about physically distanced mini-weddings for up to 15 persons (the largest number of persons allowed to gather at the time under Alberta’s restrictions) at Edmonton’s historic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. The hotel was offering a space for a ceremony and a reception if needed. I called to reserve immediately,” says Josh.
“Fifteen persons meant 15 persons: this included us, photographers, and wedding officiant. This meant we were allowed just nine guests. We decided to have two sets of friends for our wedding party and immediate family only (e.g. no spouses). This was extremely difficult to do, and it wasn’t possible to eliminate hurt feelings.”
The men purchased CA$500 of customized face masks for the wedding party (“We decided we might as well have fun with this and it would make the event even more memorable”), along with hand sanitizer.
Josh got permission from his work to set up a Zoom call using his workplace account to capture the ceremony for those unable to attend. He also sync-ed the speakers to his Apple Watch so he could control the music (e.g. going down the aisle, etc).
Besides some nerves and ensuring all the Zoom and other tech was working, the ceremony itself went without a hitch. In the end, they were also able to increase the guest list to 20 as restrictions were eased slightly just days before the ceremony.
Afterward, Josh says they, “Went home and went back to work after just a couple of days off. We wanted to go on a honeymoon, but it’s obviously not the right time to travel. We will revisit this in the years to come, perhaps as an anniversary idea in the coming years.”
Jordan and Javontre
Jordan, 26, and Javontre Booker-Medley, 23, like in Winston Salem, North Carolina. They met in High School
“I was working on a musical and needed some extra stagehands and our mutual friend introduced us,” remembers Jordan. “We started working on the show and texting all the time about girl problems, etc, etc. Like most middle/high school boys our age that haven’t yet admitted that they dream about rainbows and unicorns!
“We eventually started going out a lot, with friends and then alone. Those hangouts evolved into dates and eventually into us dating on and off for the last six years. We even went to the same college for dance!
“Everyone knew we were gonna be married one day and I couldn’t be happier to have found my soulmate.”
They got engaged on July 1st, 2019, and planned to marry July 25th, 2020.
“When the pandemic hit we initially canceled the whole event!” says Jordan. “It wasn’t until restrictions on gathering started to ease up in June that we decided to put the event back on! We reduced our guest list from 160 to 31 people. We also had to change our venue which was originally in uptown Charlotte, NC. We ended up doing a small backyard wedding in Winston Salem NC, where we currently live.
“We did everything ourselves instead of hiring a planner. The only vendor we needed was for the cake and the food. We literally designed everything ourselves from the centerpieces, table arrangements, floral arrangements, down to the napkins on the tables.
“We had to significantly change our plans but it turned out amazing and we cried so much on the day! The love that surrounded us was more than anything we could have asked for!”
Jay and Ames
Ames, 36 previously lived in New York City. Jay, 49, lives in Atlanta, GA. They met in June 2019.
“Jay was visiting NYC for World Pride and we met through a mutual friend that thought we would get along well and I could give him a nice tour of the city,” recalls Ames.
“When the pandemic hit, Jay flew to NYC to pick me up and drove me back to Atlanta with my dog and two cats,” he continues. “We have been inseparable since.
“We knew we wanted to get married in the near future, but we had so many hoops to jump through just to live in the same state! We didn’t have a formal engagement. We pulled into a parking lot and I had no idea where we were going, and Jay said, ‘time to look at rings!’ It has been really important to us to support small business during the pandemic, so we purchased our rings at Worthmore Jewelers, which is very LGBTQ-friendly!”
They got married on July 31.
“The date is important to me because it’s exactly five years from the day that I took my first shot of Testosterone to begin my medical transition!” says Ames.
“The ceremony was on our front porch. Our close friend Ben officiated, Luke was the witness, and Jackie photographed. We did not pre-write vows, just spoke from the heart.”
“Before the pandemic, we talked about what we would want our wedding day to be like. We wanted it to be an intimate celebration with our friends and family,” says Ames.
However, the pandemic made them reconsider.
“We were too worried that if we announced our plan to get married in advance that family and friends would travel, and we didn’t want to put anyone at risk or to feel guilty. Maybe we will have a celebration later, but we are very content with everything. The pandemic brought us together under one roof and we can start our life together.”
Keith and Chris
Keith, 34, and Chris, 33, live in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. They met online just over four years ago.
“We got engaged last summer at our favorite camping spot: Sombrio Beach on Vancouver Island,” says Chris.
“The pandemic put a fairly large wrench in our plans. We had to cut the guest list down from 105 to 45. We also had to organize our own food and rentals because our caterer couldn’t promise us they could fulfill their contract. We ended up cooking our own food for all the guests.
“We both have fairly large immediate families so even at 45 guests, we weren’t mixing too many groups of people who don’t already see each other.”
The men had always planned to marry outdoors. The location was the backyard of Keith’s parents in Aldergrove, BC. The men’s dog, Gus, acted as ring bearer for their July, 4th, wedding.
Were they disappointed at having to downscale?
“Initially, we thought we may not even be able to have a wedding… then British Columbia went into phase 2 COVID restrictions which meant gatherings of 50 or less were OK as long as you could keep your distance,” says Chris.
“I think the hardest part for both of us was taking an already-small, planned wedding of 105 and trimming it down even more. We had to tell a lot of people we love that they couldn’t come anymore. This is after the invites went out. There were a lot of tough phone calls, but in the end, everyone understood. We had done so much planning and ultimately decided to just move forward with a smaller group. We have a super hands-on family and everyone was a huge help!”