Tag Archives: Covid style wedding

One year later: reflecting on Covid’s silver lining, our at-home wedding

21 Jun

When we got engaged in November 2019, my now husband and I anticipated the typical modern American wedding. 200-some guests, a formal ceremony at our church, full meal and bar service at a snazzy reception venue. Playing dress-up as king and queen of a robust bridal party. Ethereal classical music and flowers in full bloom, the obligatory first dance, the multi-tiered cake. Covid-19 forced us, however, to change course. I was initially disappointed. Selfishly, I felt robbed of “my day”. But in retrospect, the wedding ceremony held in my parent’s backyard on a sweltering June afternoon better suited our introverted personalities.

My objective here is not to criticize the modern wedding. My sister had the wedding I envisioned for myself, and it was both a fun and beautiful event. Rather, I’d like to celebrate the at-home wedding as an alternative and older tradition that perhaps has made a permanent reappearance due to the Covid pandemic.

The American wedding was once a simple affair. Up until the late 1800s, weddings were commonly held at the home of the bride’s parents amid a small group of family and friends. The bride wore her best dress, which wasn’t necessarily white. Typically held on a weekday morning, the ceremony was followed by a breakfast. With the rise of new money during the Gilded Age, the years following the Civil War until the turn of the twentieth century, an increasing number of American socialites sought to glamorize their weddings. “Weddings became the focus of increasing amounts of ritual and etiquette. New wedding inventions introduced in this period included the wedding procession, the reception, cutting the cake, and holding the ceremony in a church, a public location that was subject to a more obvious display of expense,” noted Alden O’Brien, curator of the DAR Museum’s 2004 vintage wedding dress exhibition. Wedding receptions were considered optional until the early 1960s. If there was a reception, it often consisted of cake and punch. As dance halls gained in popularity post-World War II, couples could accommodate far more guests, resulting in an uptick in wedding receptions as well.

A number of future presidents were married at home. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mamie Geneva Doud were married at noon on July 1, 1916, at her parents’ home in Denver, CO. 37 years later, Eisenhower would serve two terms as president of the United States. Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt wed on St. Patrick’s Day, 1905, at Eleanor’s godmother’s home in New York City. Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor’s uncle and then-president, offered the White House as a wedding venue, but was turned down by Franklin and Eleanor. Calvin and Grace Coolidge were also married in 1905, at a ceremony in Grace’s parents’ Vermont home attended by fifteen family members and close friends.

Eleven family members and one dog attended our wedding. My sister did my hair and makeup and all the floral arrangements. I wore a white Calvin Klein maxi dress that came in under $100. My dad accompanied me along the cement path from porch to backyard to the wedding processional from The Sound of Music, faintly reverberating from the speaker perched on the kitchen window. Our pastor kindly officiated the wedding, and Bailey (the dog) barked in protest after Cameron and I were pronounced husband and wife. We all celebrated afterwards with a feast from Mission BBQ, Whole Foods’ Berry Chantilly cake, and lots of champagne. We did use the photographer we originally booked for our wedding.

Our wedding day was a wonderfully intimate and relaxed affair. It was also the first wedding I attended in which anyone objected, much less a dog. For Cameron, who hates attention so much he refused to sit for his preschool photograph, it was a relief to forgo the formalities and hundreds of eyes on him. For me, it took a shrunken guest list and a homemade venue to realize what actually mattered the most: marrying my best friend.