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.
Clarke Montross proposed to Courtney Kirsch in December, 2017. Instead of immediately divulging into floral designs and cake tastings, the couple savored their time as fiancé and fiancée before planning their wedding. Eventually, they chose a September, 2019 date but ultimately postponed it when too many life events got in the way. They set the new date for September, 2020.
By April, 2020, however, the couple realized that their twice-postponed wedding could not happen in five short months. With the rampant spread of COVID-19 and uncertainty of the world, they canceled the large wedding. “At that point,” Courtney says, “we were eager to get married in whatever capacity possible and felt we had already been planning for too long to postpone any longer.” Courtney and Clarke decided to move forward with a smaller wedding on their original date.
As they pivoted to a more intimate wedding plan, Courtney admits that she and Clarke were wary. “No one knew what the world would like in September, but we were hopeful,” she asserts. More importantly, the couple was eager to finally marry. “My wedding planner, Bianca Hall of Estera Events, and I joke that we planned ten different weddings!” Courtney laughs.
The couple had already sent their save the dates, designed by Peggy Tarpley of Who Drew NYC. Tarpley, however, kindly notified the guests of the new direction for the wedding and sent further information about how to join the party online. “It broke our hearts to realize that we could no longer have everyone we love to witness our vows in person,” Courtney admits, “but we knew it was the only safe option.” Thankfully, the couple’s guests were extremely understanding and supportive of the new plan. They graciously RSVP-ed to the new celebration, excited to watch the ceremony virtually.
Courtney’s favorite process of wedding planning was definitely scouring for a dress. “I loved wedding dress shopping, but I had no idea what to wear!” She confesses. After two years of looking the dress, she found it. Or rather… she found two. “I just couldn’t decide, so I turned to Over The Moon for help,” Courtney says. Through the Over the Moon styling service, Courtney selected the perfect dress.
“Based on my wedding venue and date, OTM made the final call to go with the Lovely Dress by Monique Lhuillier,” Courtney says. “I loved OTM’s taste and working with them so much that I decided to ask them to help style my looks for the whole weekend! Anny Choi from OTM was beyond helpful throughout the entire process,” she adds. “I loved everything she picked out for me and forever grateful to her for sticking my by side throughout all of our change of plans and potential change of looks.”
Courtney told OTM’s Anny that she knew she wanted to wear her mother’s jewelry for her “something borrowed.” Anny helped Courtney pick the perfect earrings from her mother’s jewelry box—a pair of vintage Cartier drop pearl earrings. “When my mom saw the entire look together, she started crying. She said that the earrings were made for me and gifted them to me on my wedding day,” Courtney reminisces. “It was so special, and I will cherish them always as a reminder of my wedding day.”
The bride was not the only one consummately dressed that day. “I loved working with OTM for my wedding outfits so much that I asked them if they would be able to help style Clarke too,” Courtney says. “I was so excited when they told me that they had just brought on a male stylist, Chris, who would work with Clarke.”
While working with our stylist Chris, Clarke knew he wanted to wear a dark navy tuxedo. “Chris did an amazing job to make that a reality,” Courtney mentions. Chris worked with custom menswear designer, Tom James, to create Clarke’s weekend looks. “This was great, especially during COVID, because the haberdash, John Burton, did all of Clarke’s fittings at our home,” she adds. Chris paired beautiful mother of pearl shirt studs from J. Press with the bespoke suit. These studs were a sweet gift from Courtney to Clarke on their wedding day, along with custom engraved Tiffany’s cufflinks.
Courtney embraced her wedding party’s unique fashion sensibilities and let them wear something they would truly love. “The only guideline I gave them was to wear blue,” she says. The bridesmaids wore a mélange of her favorite labels like Zimmermann, Coco Shop, Reformation, and Show Me Your Mumu. The end result was so stunning that Courtney wondered if her bridesmaids secretly coordinated their outfits together.
At long last, on September 12th, 2020, Courtney and Clarke married on the front lawn of her parents’ home. “I wanted the psychical aesthetic of the ceremony to look organic and lush. This went well with having the ceremony outdoors,” Courtney states. They lined the outdoor aisle with trays of flowers from M on the Square. The altar was flanked by two understated Campania pots filled with boxwood and white flowers on either side.
The couple strived to take extra safety precautions for their micro-wedding. Upon arrival, guests visited a temperature and hand sanitizer station. Everyone received a custom BBJ Linen face mask, mini hand sanitizers with the couple’s Happy Menocal Studios wedding crest, and a glass of champagne.
“Neither Clarke nor I regularly practice religion; although his family is Catholic, and my family celebrates both Christianity and Judaism. I wanted to get married in an environment that made everyone feel comfortable and was honest to us as a couple,” Courtney explains. For her and her betrothed, it only made sense to have her uncle marry them at their outdoor wedding. “He happily agreed and approached the process so professionally that we teased he should start marrying people as a weekend job,” she mentions. Throughout the ceremony, the couple featured several nondenominational readings and incorporated Catholic tradition with the unity candle and Jewish tradition with the breaking of the glass. Together, all of these elements culminated in what the couple fondly remembers as an “intimate, funny, and religious” wedding.
Despite her aversion to being the center of attenion, Courtney was “oddly calm.” She attributes this peace of mind to the smaller size of the guest list, being at home, and having her uncle conduct the wedding. She smiles, “It was all a dream come true.”
After the ceremony, the guests convened poolside for cocktails and appetizers, while Clarke and Courtney rushed to finish their couple portraits before the end of cocktail hour. Before they could snap any shots, Courtney had a hair and make-up touch up with Magdalena Rodriguez. Courtney tasked her newly-minted husband to stay by her side as Magdalena transformed her hair into loose waves. “Clarke was pleasantly surprised when my amazing bridesmaids came in to surprise us with champagne and a tray of all the appetizers from the cocktail hour,” Courtney remembers. Before long, the new Mr. and Mrs. Montross joined their guests outside.
The tented reception was made complete with entertainment by Elan Artists, catering by Truffleberry Market, and florals by Life in Bloom. The newlyweds cut a cake from Cake Chicago. And after an evening of dancing and cheering, guests enjoyed a late-night pizza order from Lou Malnati’s.
Reflecting upon the wedding she planned not once, not twice, but three times, Courtney concedes that planning around the constantly changing COVID-19 regulations and uncertainty was challenging. But ultimately? “I couldn’t be happier with how my wedding turned out,” Courtney says, “and I wouldn’t change a thing.”