The return of Unveiled: My experience as a COVID-19 bride

The return of Unveiled: My experience as a COVID-19 bride
Aleksandra and Devin Holland on their wedding day. (Photo/Amber Garrett Photo)

By Aleksandra Holland

Like many brides who got engaged before the pandemic hit, one of the toughest decisions I’ve faced this year was deciding whether I wanted to cancel, postpone or reimagine my wedding.

My fiancé, Devin, and I spent two years planning the perfect wedding for September 2020. Our venue was gorgeous with a touch of history, both our photographer and DJ came from journalism backgrounds just like us, and we were catering BBQ.

And then the country went into quarantine.

The newly married couple, Aleksandra and Devin Holland. (Photo/Amber Garrett Photo)

Ultimately, we decided to get married this October in a small, family-only ceremony and reschedule our reception to September 2021. The decision to postpone the celebration was tough, but it was the right choice for us. We knew we didn’t want to wait any longer to be married, but we wanted to have the wedding that we had spent so long planning. We also wanted everyone to be safe and healthy.

Last year, I took you all on my journey of planning a Chicago wedding from D.C. in a series of columns called Unveiled. I wrote about picking your dream venue, incorporating traditions, including all of your friends in your party and registering for useful gifts.

Now, I’m bringing Unveiled back to share how we postponed our reception and planned a totally new ceremony.

Postponing the reception

The thought of someone in our immediate family or our wedding party getting sick and not being able to attend was heartbreaking. I couldn’t imagine having to walk down the aisle without my mom by my side, and Devin couldn’t picture standing up without his brother. On such a significant day of our lives, we didn’t want to risk not having our significant people.

Plus, our wedding was in Chicago, a location many guests were planning to travel to by plane. We weren’t willing to ask all of our guests to take that risk and then spend the weekend assembled in a large group.

This all factored into our decision to postpone the reception and reschedule for a year later. Okay — now what?

When rescheduling, you have to face the reality that you might not be able to keep all of your vendors for your new wedding date. Think about who is integral to your day and who can be flexible. Are you willing to switch your baker and make-up artist in order to keep your DJ?

Instead of asking everyone for their availability, start with your must-have vendors and narrow it down from there. For me, my non-negotiables were my venue and my photographer, so I contacted them first. That way, when I reached out to my other vendors, I was able to ask, “Which of these days work for you?” rather than, “Tell me all of your open dates for 2021.”

At the end of the day, I was one of the very few lucky COVID-19 brides who was able to keep all of my vendors for my rescheduled wedding. This didn’t happen to every couple I know who had to postpone this year.

I attribute my luck to postponing early, which allowed me to rebook my vendors before everyone else did, and picking independent vendors. Every one of my vendors was understanding, flexible and accommodating. Picking a small business rather than a large hotel chain or a corporate entity paid off.

Planning a reimagined ceremony

Rescheduling our planned reception was a hard task, but planning an entirely new celebration for our intimate ceremony this year was equally challenging.

If you’re scaling back, you face a new set of priorities. Who do you want to invite to your reimagined ceremony? How much do you want to spend? How much planning do you want to do this time?

We knew we weren’t going to be able to have the dream wedding we planned until 2021, but we still wanted our micro-wedding to be special.

One way we did that was by keeping our photography plan. This was an important day for us, and we wanted to remember every minute, so we flew in the photographer we’d hired for our original wedding, Amber Garrett, from Las Vegas.

We also knew that with our busy jobs, we wanted to do as minimal planning as possible, so we chose a restaurant venue that was close, had delicious food and had ceremony space on site. The fact that our restaurant also provided the cake was a huge bonus.

Adapting to change

Like many COVID-19 brides, I found myself feeling defeated having to abandon plans for what was supposed to be the perfect wedding. It’s okay to mourn the day you could have had, and it’s okay to feel defeated.

If this year has taught us anything, it is that you have to live knowing that something could go very wrong at any moment, a theme that stuck with us on our wedding day on Oct. 16.

Aleksandra Holland on her wedding day. (Photo/Amber Garrett Photo)

That Friday was the only rainy, windy and cold day that entire week. I bought umbrellas last minute, but we didn’t end up needing them. The wind, however, moved our cocktail hour inside and destroyed the floral ceremony stands that I had designed myself and spent weeks protecting from my plant-eating cats.

Because of my hair and makeup, we ran behind schedule almost the entire day. But, as my photographer said, “They can’t start without you!”

In the end, we rolled with the punches. Running behind schedule allowed us to take beautiful nighttime photos. The wind beautifully played with my flower sash and my hair as I walked down the aisle with my mom. The florals that fell from the stands made gorgeous and unique centerpieces at our dinner table.

And at the end of the night, I was surrounded by my family and married to my best friend.

The writer is the former graphic designer for the Alexandria Times.