When the Pandemic Scuttled Their Weddings, These Couples Went Small

Couples whose big days happened to coincide with a global pandemic are finding ways to make a smaller celebration special with no regrets
pandemic weddings
Ellen and Matt Deppe tied the knot in an intimate ceremony on March 27. // Photograph by Emily Deppe

It was around a week into working with patients shortly before Michigan’s first stay-at-home order when Henry Ford Hospital ICU nurse Ellen Deppe started having serious conversations with her then fiancé, Matt Deppe, about their April 25 wedding ceremony.

“I don’t know if this is going to happen. I think our wedding is kind of screwed,” Ellen recalls telling Matt.

Despite the circumstances, the couple agreed they wanted to get married anyway and plan for a larger celebration in the future. Ellen and Matt obtained their marriage license and proceeded with a smaller ceremony at Matt’s parents’ home in Grand Rapids on March 27, with a few loved ones present. More than 300 people tuned in virtually to witness the Deppes’ I do’s via Twitch. April 25 still proved to be a special day for the Deppes. They were sent bouquets, cards, and arrangements of chocolate-covered strawberries.

“For us, it came down to what is this about? It’s about you, me, and God,” Ellen says. “Ultimately, it was a really intimate ceremony that isn’t what we had planned but really turned out to be very well-played.”

Many couples in Michigan and beyond whose big days are arriving during a global pandemic are grappling with the kind of tough decisions the Deppes faced. Weddings with guest lists in the hundreds are being reimagined into more intimate ceremonies. Some couples are turning to micro weddings — traditional ceremonies but with much smaller guest lists. A cost-effective option, they afford couples more creativity in planning. Others have postponed their big events altogether and are honoring what would have been their wedding days with commitment ceremonies, also known as “minimonies.”

As couples reconsider how to tie the knot amid a pandemic, wedding planners and venues are also adjusting for both the immediate and longer-term future.

“I’ve really been encouraging couples to think about what’s most important for them, because 2020 weddings are going to look a little different.”

— Tabitha Mason, Cornman Farm’s co-owner 

Cassy Anderson, owner of Michigan- and California-based Cassy Rose Events, sees the wedding industry shifting toward smaller ceremonies that are nonetheless lovely and intentional. Her business launched the production service Petite Wedding Collective in early June to help couples in planning such small-scale big days. Partnering with Michigan vendors such as Sean Cook Photography, Violet Rose Floral, and Sweet Heather Anne bakery, Anderson says couples work with her from start to finish to plan a ceremony that truly reflects them without compromise.

Zingerman’s Cornman Farms picked up on the micro wedding trend last year when it created what it calls The Tiny Wedding. Couples can enjoy a 90-minute wedding with up to 10 guests at the charming 27-acre Dexter farm, complete with a photographer, cake, sparkling wine toast, and a keepsake of the ceremony.

“I’ve really been encouraging couples to think about what’s most important for them, because 2020 weddings are going to look a little different,” Cornman Farm’s co-owner Tabitha Mason says. “Weddings are an incredibly emotional time for people. Then, when you add this additional level of people’s safety, health, money, and all of the things that couples are facing right now, it’s really stressful.”

Despite the chaos, couples are still making it work. Davisburg couple Ashley and Johnny Long reworked their May 16 golf course wedding into a virtual affair at Ashley’s cousin’s farm with her father’s best friend as the officiator. A cell phone was mounted on a tripod for 30 Zoom attendees.

“It was perfect; I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” Ashley says. “We kind of met on funny circumstances, so to be honest, this is us in general. It’s sad that we couldn’t do what we planned for a year, but we couldn’t let that ruin our special day.”

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