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.
Lisa Thorsen called off her June 13th wedding in Beaune, France because of the spread of COVID-19. Here, she’s sharing how she and her husband, Robert Thorsen, made the final call and decided to have a micro wedding at The Inn at Little Washington on their original date.
The couple sent out their invitations to their French nuptials just two days before their stay-at-home order was initiated. “Like most, we thought the shutdown would only be two-three weeks, so we didn’t think we would have to change or cancel the wedding,” Lisa explains. “But we began to hear from friends in Italy that Europe was devastated, and we knew that France was no longer a safe option for a June wedding.”
They initially pushed the date to September 19th, thinking that would be enough time for travel restrictions to ease, but the caterer called a few days later, informing them that they had a conflict on the new date. As it was going to be a logistical nightmare to try to move forward, they decided to plan a micro-wedding instead. “My dad has been sick for the last few years, and his wellbeing was a big part of our decision,” Lisa says. “Having my dad at our wedding was more important to us than postponing our ‘dream wedding’ a year later and maybe missing that opportunity to have him there.”
They called their favorite restaurant, The Inn at Little Washington, and requested their original wedding date to host their immediate family-only ceremony. “At that point, Virginia was still on lockdown and didn’t have a re-open date until June 10th,” Lisa says. “We decided we would plan as if it was going to happen, and if Virginia decided to extend the at home order we would have to postpone.”
Luckily, they didn’t have to move anything further, and it was a breeze to plan everything, since the 5-star hotel has a 3-star Michelin restaurant and an incredible events team, headed by Lisa Albert. Their friend, Kate Moore, was going to shoot their French wedding, but they didn’t want to risk her flying from California, so Kate suggested her friend, Joseph Bradley, step in, and she’d edit the images—a perfect win-win. The couple also changed their dress code from black-tie to “Garden Cocktail,” and Lisa was able to get her wedding dress from Italy in time.
Four days after her first date with Robert, she was out with her friend, Alice, and told her, “I went on the most amazing date and I am going to marry this guy.” At that moment, a guy at the bar asked, “Who are you marrying?…I’m a wedding dress designer.” He turned out to be Justin Alexander, and after she got engaged, he DMed her offering his services to make her gown. She visited his showroom and chose the first design she tried on.
However, since his production is in Italy, it was uncertain whether her dress would arrive in time. Lisa bought a Reformation number just in case, but a few weeks before the wedding, Justin confirmed that the gown had reached him.
When the wedding weekend arrived, it was smooth sailing, since there were only 15 people total. The rehearsal dinner was a casual pizza, wine, and beer night at Robert’s parents’ home, and the bride slept in on the day-of.
On the Field of Dreams, Lisa walked down the aisle with her father to Robert and their pastor, John McGowan, who officiated the intimate service. After exchanging vows and being announced as a married couple, they led everyone to cocktail hour on the adjacent veranda, overlooking the field. And before dinner in the ballroom, the newlyweds shared a first dance, followed by the mother-son and father-daughter dances on the grass.
After cutting the cake, the two were asked to step outside for more photos, but were surprised with an amazing fireworks display, organized by Robert’s parents and sister, Mollie. “Mollie said that fireworks were a gift to us from his late sister, Becca, which made the night even more special,” Lisa says. “It was an incredible moment.”
Once the reception came to a close, “we stayed up until 2:00 am with family drinking wine, laughing, and telling stories,” the bride says. “Though we love France, our micro-wedding was better than we could have ever imagined. We missed our friends and extended family, but the intimacy of a small wedding is priceless.” For their one-year anniversary, they have plans to bring everyone to France and Italy for a celebration and vacation.