Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.
2020 was an emotionally gripping year for the newly-engaged Allison Sheets and Chris Dunbar. In the midst of COVID-19, Allie’s beloved father passed away from cancer in June. Weeks later, on a rooftop overlooking the Seattle Space Needle, Chris proposed in front of the couple’s immediate family. Allie and Chris both work in the aerospace industry and were presented with an opportunity to relocate to Southern California. So, in the midst of a pandemic, they got engaged, sold their Seattle home, and moved south.
At the beginning of their engagement, Allie and Chris briefly entertained the idea of a summer wedding in Jackson Hole, but a mere glance at COVID statistics changed their mind. With the condition of the country, “it was unlikely we would be able to have everyone safely gather and feel comfortable attending in large numbers,” Allie says. But they dreaded the idea of waiting for a date in the unforeseeable future. Besides, there were only two major things they wanted for their wedding day: an opportunity to exchange personal vows and the ability to share the day with their closest loved ones. They decided to commit to a smaller, intimate wedding in their new home.
“It wasn’t until we were driving down Highway 1 with our dog, Canon, that we decided we didn’t want to wait until after COVID to get married,” Allie explains. “We didn’t know when it would be safe for everyone to gather, so we decided to have a small, intimate ceremony in the backyard of our new home on New Year’s Eve with our family present and have our loved ones Zoom in to help us celebrate.” After such an intense 2020, the couple decided that “it felt right to celebrate our love and ring in 2021 on the best note!”
Having only just moved to California, Allie was completely unfamiliar with local vendors. She reached out to Jen at Archive Rentals for recommendations, and Jen connected her to florist Drew at Rogue and Fox, who told her all about “this great planner” and sent Allie to Ashley Chanel Events. After a few phone calls, the wedding planning process finally came together.
When California entered a second lockdown, Allie and Chris whittled down their guest list from twenty guests to an intimate six. Allie is quick to admit that the wedding planning process was more demanding than she realized despite their small group. “You start planning and think, ‘I’m a chill bride! Everything will come together easily,’ but in the middle of planning, you recognize red flags in yourself and realize you may be quickly trending towards bridezilla!”
“I think planning during COVID, it happens even more so because you’re dealing with a smaller number of people, your innermost circle,” she goes on. “As a bride, you’re worried about everyone’s health and safety, but on the flip side—dammit!—you still want a perfect wedding!” This feeling was certainly shared by many “Covid brides” in 2020. “At the end of the day,” Allie says, “it is all about finding the right balance between what you, your fiancé and your family are comfortable with.”
While looking for this balance, Allie turned to the styling services here at Over The Moon for her wedding look. “I knew having a few months and COVID restrictions that I wouldn’t have time to go down the traditional path of visiting bridal salons.” She adds, “I needed to act fast and be able to order dresses and try them on quickly, to have enough time to get the dress tailored.”
“OTM’s Anny Choi was such a delight to work with and helped style my bridal look. I had sent her the floral color scheme, so she could get a feel for the overall vibe,” Allie explains. “I knew I wanted it to be elegant and feminine, and I told her that I wasn’t afraid to go with color or a short dress.” Using this insight, Anny culled together different bridal looks for Allie. She selected shorter dresses with longer veils, wintry bridal gowns, and even more flowing backyard wedding appropriate dresses.
Allie was immediately drawn to the unexpected color palette of one Brock Collection dress in particular. “As soon as I tried it on, I knew it was perfect for our backyard ceremony,” she says. From the fluid movement to the silhouette, Allie was obsessed with the dress from the get-go. “The tiers on the skirt were to die for, and the bodice help showcase the curves of a woman’s body in an elegant way. The dress also had beautiful raw hems that added to the dimension.” The floral-patterned gown was not the typical traditional white dress so many brides insist upon, but this only reflected the extraordinary circumstances of the affair. “I felt comfortable forgoing tradition because during COVID, brides have learned that there are no rules,” Allie says. “Everything has changed, which can be so much fun if you embrace it!”
For a flash of NYE-worthy flair, Allie wore strappy Sophia Webster heels. She told Anny that she wanted to keep her jewelry simple, especially since her dress had so much depth, so they opted for elegant, understated Mateo earrings and a custom Daphne Newman veil. The off-white floor-length veil added the perfect amount of drama to the bridal look. “Anny did such an amazing job!” Allie gushes. “I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. Long story short, it took a village to get me ready, and I am so grateful for everyone who played their part!”
For beauty, Laura Rocha styled Allie’s hair into a soft-wave updo, and Angela Alessi applied Allie’s glowy bridal makeup. “I could not have done all the smoke and mirrors without her!” Allie admits. Angela incorporated the terracotta accents of Allie’s dress and added gold shades to Allie’s eyes.
The groom wore a navy suit from Indochino and a slate blue tie from Tie Bar, while the wedding party’s only instructions were to wear something befitting a New Year’s Eve celebration. “It looked like my sister and my mom coordinated their outfits in blue, but it just happened to be the color of the dresses they fell in love with,” Allie mentions. “I think they looked amazing!”
In an intimate, sweet, and utterly personal ceremony, Allie and Chris married in their backyard on December 31st, 2020. The groom selected the bride’s processional song, “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Weeks earlier, when Allie first heard that Chris had chosen this song, she was brought to sweet tears. It was the perfect anthem for getting married in their new backyard.
Allie’s mother and sister escorted the bride down the aisle. And, in a touching tribute, Allie tied her late father’s wedding band to her bouquet. “It was the best way to honor him and have him connected to my mom, my sister, and me as we tied our arms together and walked down the aisle,” Allie says.
Chris’s brother-in-law and best man officiated the ceremony, and Allie’s ninety-year-old grandmother, Jan, Zoomed into the ceremony from Iowa and gave the blessing. Jan had practiced for weeks and delivered it from memory. “She did such an amazing job. It was the sweetest moment to hear her voice wish us a lifetime of happiness,” Allie reminisces.
Allie and Chris then read their own vows. “I was so nervous to say them out loud in front of everyone since they were personal,” Allie admits. “It made me feel vulnerable, but my brother-in-law had reminded me that the vows are for Chris, and he’s the only one that matters in that moment. I started out strong, but by the end of them, I started crying…hopefully, the guests on Zoom were able to hear what I was saying through the tears and my laughing at myself for not being able to stop crying.”
Chris’s vows balanced Allie’s tonally, as he opted for a more comic approach. But he also teared up during the sentimental section of his vows, which was a “personal victory” for his bride.
At the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds recessed down the aisle to the iconic Beatles tune “All You Need is Love.” They joined their Zoom guests in a toast to their nuptials and 2021 and thanked their virtual family and friends for celebrating with them from afar.
Cocktail hour followed the online toast, and Allie insisted on mixing her husband’s first drink as a married man. The Whaling Club provided the cocktails for the evening, and the bride was sure to try each one!
Whoa Nelly catered the intimate dinner. A personal chef converted the couple’s kitchen into a culinary workspace. Guests had a five-course meal featuring a pasta dish with roasted chestnuts and steak. At the end of the meal, the couple cut into their red velvet and German chocolate cakes. “We decided it was necessary to have two,” Allie laughs. “What you don’t see in the photos was that our dog, Canon, had actually licked the cake right before the photo….We had to position the cake so the piece he tried wasn’t showing. I’m sure it was Canon’s way of approving the food before it got to his parents.”
Overall, the day was more than Allie and Chris could have ever hoped for. “We are so happy we decided to move forward with the wedding,” Allie says. “We couldn’t imagine waiting to start our lives together. We also realized we were able to have some special touches that wouldn’t have happened with a larger wedding—everything turned out perfectly!”