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.
Annie Vaughan and Kevin O’Hea first met as undergraduates at Georgetown University but did not start dating until after graduation. They both were living in New York City, mere blocks away from one another, when they began the new chapter of their relationship as a couple.
After three-and-a-half years together, Annie and Kevin visited their favorite spot, the Chatham Bars Inn, for drinks. Kevin then led Annie to a secluded area that overlooked the gorgeous Chatham Harbor and proposed. After Annie’s resilient “Yes!” they drove to her grandparents’ home, where both of their families were celebrating and playing Bruce Springsteen from their car stereos. An inevitable and spontaneous dance party soon followed. The whole house was fair game, and they even turned Annie’s grandmother’s kitchen island into a dance floor. “Sorry, Grandma!” Annie laughs.
Suitingly, the couple planned on having their June 6, 2020 wedding at Annie’s grandparents’ Chatham home. The home is lovingly called “The Hilltop,” a reference to Georgetown University’s campus, which many members of Annie’s family—in addition to herself and Kevin—attended. They couldn’t wait to invite 250 of their friends and family members to the event.
“Kevin and I loved the idea of sharing Chatham with our family and friends and wanted the whole weekend to feel like a tour of the unique beachside town,” Annie explains. “I refer to my grandparents’ home as my ‘happy place.’ We’ve had so many wonderful memories in their backyard and were so excited to make more.”
By March 2020, the spread of COVID threatened any large gathering. Ever optimistic, the couple tried to wait for as long as they could without postponing. They decided by April 2020, however, to push their wedding to September 2020.
Once Massachusetts minimized gatherings to 50 people, Annie and Kevin limited their guest list to family-only, with the wholehearted encouragement of their friends. “Although it was quite possibly the most stressful decision we’ve ever had to make, after almost two years of being engaged, we were ready to be married and finally felt like we could get excited to plan this small, intimate event,” Annie admits.
“For months, we were on a roller coaster ride constantly adjusting and re-planning based on COVID restrictions and comfort level. It was very difficult to wrap our heads around a small wedding, especially considering our large families and wedding parties,” Annie remembers. “When we knew we were going to jump on the micro wedding bandwagon, we decided to fully embrace our incredible setting and the intimate group that could be with us,” she adds. “2020 showed us how incredibly important a sense of home and our families are, so we wanted that reflected in every detail of the wedding weekend.”
With a smaller guest list, Annie could incorporate her own Juliska wedding china for the dessert and coffee tables. She and Kevin both wrote individualized notes to each guest, thanking them for their presence and welcoming them to The Hilltop. Throughout the house, they displayed photographs of their family members on their own wedding days. “Home is where the heart is, and ours were so filled with love for each other and our family on that day,” Annie so tenderly says. “It was not necessarily the wedding we had always planned, but by embracing our setting and the situation, we made it all the more meaningful.”
Due to COVID restrictions, the couple had a very small and intimate church ceremony the day before the wedding. “For that ceremony, I wore a Johanna Ortiz dress from Net-a-Porter. I also wore a fun pair of Badgley Mischka Ophelia d’Orsay pumps for a little something blue,” Annie recalls. Later, her aunts also threw a bridal luncheon at the beach Annie spent so many summers frequenting. “I wore a blue and white dress from Pink City Prints with a custom Lingua Franca button-down my sisters gifted me that morning with ‘O’Hea There’—a nod to my new last name—embroidered on the front.”
For her wedding, Annie originally envisioned herself in a gown with intricate details and adorned embellishments. But as she began her dress search, she discovered that she gravitated toward simple silhouettes. “The stars aligned when I went to Schone Bride in Brooklyn,” Annie states. She tried Alyssa Kristin’s Sydney dress and knew that it was “the one.” The classic style with its square neckline fit in perfectly with her vision of an at-home New England beachside wedding. “Plus,” Annie adds, “the designer also made my big sister’s dress, so I knew it was meant to be.” She slipped on Loeffler Randall Camellia sandals as a fun, textured addition to her bridal outfit. “They were so comfortable,” Annie says about the shoes. “I didn’t take them off all night!”
A sentimentalist at heart, Annie chose jewelry that was meaningful to her. “We like to say the women in my family really run the show, and after all their support and guidance this year, I loved the idea of representing them in small ways in the pieces I wore,” she insists. Her earrings were a gift her father gave her mother and gifted to Annie before the wedding. Annie donned her alternating diamond and emerald wedding band to match. She paired this with a diamond bracelet that her maternal great-grandfather gave to her great-grandmother for their 1926 nuptials. Their initials and date are engraved on the inside, and both Annie and her sister borrowed the bracelet to wear for their own weddings. Annie’s final piece of jewelry was her “something blue,” a beautiful turquoise ring that her paternal grandmother received for her 21st birthday.
She kept her hair swept up with Jennifer Behr Poesidon Bobbi Pins, gifts from her sister-in-law. “I absolutely loved the nautical yet sophisticated look and how it tied into the seashell motif we used throughout the stationery,” Annie gushes. For her beauty style, Annie wanted to look like a “slightly more dressed-up version” of herself. Hair Affinity achieved that breezy yet refined makeup and hair dream perfectly.
Annie topped off her bridal ensemble with her big sister Kelly’s veil. “She loved her veil and wore it almost exactly two years earlier on her wedding day in Chatham, so I was excited to start our own little tradition,” Annie shares.
The groom aimed for a casual look that would pair well with the easiness of the seaside, backyard wedding venue. He wore a jacket and white pants from Suitsupply and gifted his groomsmen the same blue tie.
Annie and Kevin embraced their wedding party members’ unique personalities, allowing them to pick their own outfits. “Even after we downsized to a family-only occasion, we were lucky enough to each have six siblings, in-laws, and cousins by our side,” Annie says. “My sister-in-law—though I prefer simply ‘sister’— envisioned a blue and pink palette. Blue inspired by the Atlantic Ocean backdrop and pink as it’s my favorite color and a fun contrast to the cool blues. My bridesmaids wore dresses from their favorite brands like Brock Collection, LoveShackFancy, and Reformation, and the guys wore blue jackets and white pants of their choosing.”
“Kevin and I decided to do a first look with our immediate family following close behind,” Annie remembers. “We met at a family friend’s dock, overlooking the Stage Harbor filled with sail and fishing boats. In the distance, we could see the Stage Harbor Lighthouse, an important place for my family, and the image we featured on our Save The Dates.”
On September 26, 2020, Annie and Kevin married in her grandparents’ Cape Cod backyard. Located precisely where the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound meet, the backdrop couldn’t have been more beautiful or meaningful for the couple. “We wanted the florals to help frame the ceremony but not block the beauty of the landscape behind us,” Annie says. “Our florist Patrice did an incredible job using hydrangeas, delphinium, and roses to add height and texture to create a beautiful aisle and altar.”
The perimeter of the house had been transformed into a makeshift aisle. Guests could watch both the ocean and Annie and her father as they walked to the tune of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World,” performed by Annie’s cousin Meghan. The whole ceremony was streamed over YouTube Live for the 200+ friends who could not be in Cape Cod that day.
The couple’s priest, Father Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., recently gave the Invocation at President Biden’s inauguration, in addition to marrying Annie’s parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. “He kept the ceremony as close to a Catholic Mass as possible, but we were also able to add unique touches like an Irish Blessing from Kevin’s godmother to kick things off,” Annie says. Furthermore, the couple’s sisters wrote their own personal version of the Prayers of the Faithful, sending a special prayer to all of the loved ones who couldn’t be there that day.
After so many months of uncertainty, both Annie and Kevin were overcome with emotion during the ceremony. She knew the day might go quickly, so she spent the entire ceremony taking “mental pictures.” “I remember looking out on the beauty of the sea, just as the fog was lifting and the sun was shining through and reflecting on how lucky Kevin and I were in that moment,” Annie says. “After such a trying year, it felt like a gift to have this meaningful, intimate moment with our family. Plus, I felt like I could practically feel the love and hear the enthusiastic cheers from our friends and family watching via Livestream.”
The new Mr. and Mrs. O’Hea walked down the aisle together to the tune of their favorite Bruce Springsteen song “Rosalita,” while their family tossed flower petals their way. They joined their guests for a Montauk and Cisco beer-fueled happy hour, complete with Elswoods Raw Bar.
The party continued in the front yard underneath a sprawling Sperry Tent for a dinner catered by Casual Gourmet. “We loved the idea of hosting a classic summer meal,” Annie remarks. “We worked with Casual Gourmet for a delicious meal to complement the at-home vibe with grilled tenderloin, lobster rolls, and pasta salad.”
“After dinner, we invited everyone to the backyard for a much-needed dance party,” Annie says. “Sperry gave us the unique opportunity to test out their brand new clear top tent with rounded arches. We loved the idea of a clear top tent lighting up our special dances, as it would not distract from the view. The rounded arches ended up perfectly complementing my grandparents’ round roof and patio.” When guests weren’t dancing, they were sitting by the fire pit, indulging in cookies from Levain Bakery and chocolate-covered pretzels from the famous Chatham Candy Manor.
Without so much as a run-through, Kevin and Anne grooved to Van Morrison’s “Jackie Wilson Said” for their first dance. “I think we pulled it off with a lot of finger-pointing!” Annie laughs. The party went on late into the evening, powered by the couple’s Spotify playlist and special dances with their many beloved family members.
“Although our wedding was very different from how we envisioned it, we feel we received enough love and support over these past few months for a lifetime full of weddings,” Annie says on behalf of herself and Kevin. “We are so looking forward to our life together ahead of us and hoping for many more perfect weekends like the one we had in September.”