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.
Victoria Neely Burch, founder of one of OTM’s favorite accessories brands Neely & Chloe, postponed her September 12th wedding in Aix-en-Provence because of the spread of COVID-19. Here, she’s sharing how she and her husband, Robert Louis Morandi, made the final call and decided to have a micro-wedding in Pennsylvania on their original date.
The engaged couple held out on postponing for as long as they could, but by July, they had officially moved their wedding date back by one year—with the help of their planner, Lavender & Rose—due to uncertain European travel restrictions. In the same breath, they let their immediate family and wedding party know that they hoped to mark the original date with a smaller, more intimate celebration at Neely’s parents’ home just outside of Philadelphia.
Coincidentally, they’d always planned on having some version of a micro-wedding because they weren’t going to be able to be legally married in Provence. The original plan was to have a service at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania a month before the French wedding. But the church was closed because of COVID in September, so they shifted to an outdoor ceremony. And to keep everyone safe, they asked their party of fewer than 40 to get tested in anticipation of the weekend.
Neely and her mother took hold of the planing reins, and the bride designed all the paper goods herself—“my self-taught Photoshop skills had been just waiting for a moment to shine,” she says. They hired Hermie Wilder for florals, and Neely really wanted a photographer who would fade into the background and capture amazing candid shots, and Rachel McGinn did just that.
To walk down the aisle, Neely stumbled upon her dress via Instagram. “I was going for ‘demure garden party’ vibes,” she says. The bride had never heard of Spanish brand Amlul before, but the design was captivating, and once she had a slip made by a local tailor, everything came together perfectly. And she completed the look with a Jennifer Behr Voilette Headband, Tabitha Simmons chunky heels, and Simone Rocha pearl drop earrings.
On the morning-of, Christina Marie Wills gave the bride an understated, yet glowing beauty look, and Bekah Gable made sure to complement the dress’s back with a pony tail tied with a white ribbon. “Hair and makeup was easy because Bekah and Christina have been working with us for years,” Neely says. Rob designed his suit with Alton Lane and wore Belgian loafers, on loan from the bride’s father—“something borrowed.” “We had a whole tie debacle that added to the character of the evening, but I’ll save that story for another time.”
In the bride’s parents’ garden, a string trio from Fairmount Strings, played as Neely walked down the aisle with her father. “My jaw hit the floor when Neely came out,” Rob says. The ceremony was incredibly romantic but also had its quirks. “In the chaos leading up to the ceremony, I forgot my bouquet,” the bride shares. “My mom realized this from her seat and sent my eight-year-old sister to hunt it down.”
Neely’s 10-year-old little brother also read the prayers for the service, which he practiced diligently for weeks, but in the middle of his part, peacocks started squawking loudly. “With a quick eye roll and a comedic, ‘I’ll wait,’ he took it like a champ,” the bride remarks. And to top it off, the couple’s sweet new puppy, Lou Lou, decided to tug at the reverend’s robes. “Ultimately, it set a laid back, jovial tone for the rest of the evening that was exactly what we were after.”
Once announced as a married couple, everyone crossed over the driveway to a three-tiered garden, where cocktail and appetizers were waiting before heading into the clear top tent for dinner. “We merchandized the tent with little elements from all over our house: two chinoiserie lamps on the bar, a small seating area with a couch, side tables, and an ottoman, coffee table books, and decor items,” Neely explains. “The table was filled with different hurricanes from my mom’s collection.”
The seated dinner was catered by 12th Street Catering, and traditional elements like a seating chart weren’t lost in the contemporary plans; however, Neely and Rob relaxed things with DJ Serenity from Eclipse Entertainers, as she’s usually a “die-hard wedding band girl.” Three days before the wedding, the couple decided to do a first dance and chose the song “Something’s Gotta Give” by Sammy Davis Jr. “I’m not sure exactly where the bar was set, but Rob definitely impressed some of the gang with his new moves,” the bride says. For the rest of the evening, the party went back and forth between the table and the black and white checkered dance floor.
Looking back at everything now, they both agree it was perfect. “I think after everything this year has thrown at us—and everyone—I couldn’t believe we could have such an incredible evening,” Neely says. “We both feel so lucky to have been able to celebrate with our closest friends in such a special setting.”