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Sarah Amanda Bray and Eric Christopher West’s New York City Hall Civil Ceremony

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Carly Tumen

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.

Sarah Amanda Bray cancelled her June 6th wedding at the Coral Beach and Tennis Club in Bermuda because of the spread of COVID-19. Here, she’s sharing how she and her husband, Eric Christopher West, made the final call and decided to rush to New York’s City Hall to elope.

The former magazine editor at Town & Country, ELLE Decor, House Beautiful, Veranda, Hamptons, and Beach moved to Bermuda from New York last fall and launched her shop, Sarah Bray Bermuda, which focuses on fashion, hats, and tabletop objects made with antique, natural, and biodegradable materials. FYI, we carry exclusive products from SBB in our shop! Be sure to check them out.)

Eric, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and a consultant and fund manager, is Bermudian, so they made the move back to his home country. “We were really looking forward to hosting all of our friends who had never been to the island,” Sarah says. However, after a few of their friends cancelled their April and May weddings, they made the inevitable decision to cancel theirs in mid-April. “I have to applaud all of our local Bermudian wedding vendors—Coral Beach Club, Working Title Band, Suzan Sickling Flowers, Ber Salon, Afroditi Make-Up, Bermuda Electric Boat Co., Meredith Andrews Photography, Salt Kettle House and abroad artisans Amir Taghi and Ashley D Studio—for being so understanding and helpful.

“Everyone’s health and safety is far more important than a wedding,” Sarah says. “But really even if we wanted to have the wedding in Bermuda, we couldn’t because our airport was closed and is only just now reopening to a few commercial flights.” They probably won’t reschedule their elaborate 4-day wedding, which is upsetting, as the bride won’t be able to wear her reworked vintage and up-cycled Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta dresses. “We did so many fun details on the dresses, I still want to invent an occasion to wear them.”

By complete chance, the two decided to have their civil ceremony on March 4th—around two weeks before New York shut down. “We both needed the marriage certificate for immigration paperwork and work visas, so we made the practical decision to just get the civil ceremony out of the way early,” the bride says. “I called Carly Tumen an hour before our courthouse wedding and asked if she was free to take some pictures and then grabbed some flowers at the bodega.”

To say, “I do,” Sarah wore an intricately crocheted long-sleeve dress from the 1960s, which she found at Cheeky Vintage in Houston, that looked like Valentino couture. She also packed classic Chanel heels and a vintage Lily of the Valley flower pot bag by Lulu Guinness for the day. On the day-of, she got her hair done at Drybar and tied an antique ribbon from East Coast Trimmings around her bouquet.

After the short ceremony at city hall, where they made it official, they grabbed a cab and headed to Via Carota for champagne and an early dinner with friends. They capped off the night at The Waverly Inn, where they ordered every dessert on the menu.

Looking back on everything, they see cancelling their wedding as a blessing in disguise. “Weddings can be so stressful and so expensive, and although we pretty much had it all planned by the time we had to cancel, I honestly felt relieved,” Sarah says. “When the pandemic became everyone’s new reality, a wedding felt insane. We feel grateful to be healthy and safe. We are so lucky to have each other during these uncertain times. We can always have a fancy wedding later, if we feel up to it!”