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Love in the Time of Covid

Local couples adapt wedding plans amid pandemic
Author: Jen Brignall-Strong
4 years ago
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They say rain on your wedding day is a sign of good luck, but what about a global pandemic?

While many local couples chose to postpone their big day amid COVID-19 restrictions, others decided to carry on with their nuptials, albeit not how they had originally envisioned.

For Sean Hartigan and Terri Renker, a wedding was the only way they could be together. The cross-border couple spent 169 days apart after Canada/U.S. land borders closed to non-essential travel on March 21.

“We were originally planning the wedding for the fall,” says Renker. When the couple saw that restrictions weren’t changing, they decided to expedite the process.

Though it would normally take Hartigan 20 minutes by car to reach Renker’s house just outside Detroit, the Windsorite spent 14 hours travelling by plane from Toronto to Chicago to Flint to reach his bride-to-be. The couple then drove to Ohio for their marriage certificate.

As part of the “Faces of Advocacy” reunification group on Facebook, Hartigan and Renker have seen so many international families in their position struggle.

“We feel very fortune we were able to do this,” says Renker. “Families and fiancés should be allowed to see each other. Our marriage certificate doesn’t make us free from Covid.”

Frontline Workers

Healthcare professionals set to wed this spring were dealt a double whammy: working on the frontlines of a novel virus outbreak while having to replan their big day.

“Working in healthcare, we knew the reality of the situation,” says Katie Jackson, an ICU nurse. 

After contemplating multiple backup dates, Jackson and her fiancé Ryan Viselli chose to convert their large 400-person indoor wedding to an intimate 78-person outdoor event in early September. Hand sanitizer and masks were everywhere, and guests were seated according to their social bubbles. The couple was also able to include extended family and friends virtually by livestreaming the ceremony.

“It’s not what we initially planned, but it turned out so much better than I could have ever imagined,” recalls Jackson. “It was extremely special.”

As a nurse at a Detroit-area hospital, Holly Trepanier saw firsthand the devastation the pandemic was causing.

“We had no intention of going through with the wedding this year,” says Trepanier, who was married on June 6. “After a serious sit-down we decided, let’s go for it. We don’t know what next year will bring.”

As a precautionary measure, Trepanier had been quarantining from her fiancé Larry Giacalone in a separate part of the house until just before the wedding. They replanned their wedding during distance visits in their yard.

The new plan came together quickly and involved converting the bridal shower to a drive-by.

“The shower was actually really fun,” reflects Trepanier.

The couple’s original 250-person reception turned into a mini get-together in their garage, with spaced-out seating and food individually plated to avoid shared utensils.

For Tanya Schuchard, a nursing home support worker, postponing wasn’t an option either. With ailing loved ones and a desire to start a family of their own, she and fiancée Chantel Elgie decided to downsize their original plans to a small ceremony on August 29 at Sandpoint Beach, a special location for the couple.

“We had our first date there, at Stop 26 Ice Cream,” says Tanya.

The change of plans meant a change of wardrobe as well. When their original gowns weren’t going to make it on time due to Covid shipping delays, they decided to improvise and order dresses online. Unbeknownst to each other, they chose the exact same dress.

“We hadn’t seen each other before the ceremony, and walked out wearing the same thing,” laughs Tanya.

The Honeymoon Isn’t Over

While Shawna Beecroft and Emmanuel Ledoux are waiting until 2021 to tie the knot, they were still able to move ahead with their Paris honeymoon… sort of.

Disappointed at the thought of missing their two-week getaway, the couple chose to recreate some famous Paris landmarks here at home and documented their “trip” on social media.

“We were so looking forward to going,” says Beecroft. “I didn’t want to feel sad about it so I said, ‘let’s just go!’”

After a small family dinner on what would have been their wedding day, the couple embarked on a tour of local versions of some of Paris’s most famous sites, including the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and more.  They even indulged in classic Parisian fare like baguettes, croissants, and, of course, wine.

Happily Ever After

Although their celebrations hadn’t turned out quite as planned, the couples all say their “pandemic wedding” still had all the magic they hoped for, with many fun stories to tell the grandkids one day.

“I’m very happy we decided to go through with it because ultimately, Covid can’t stop love,” says Trepanier.

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