Empty Church Pews: Weddings During a Pandemic


Empty Church Pews: Weddings & Covid-19One of my favorite things to tell engaged couples before their big wedding day is this: after you are pronounced husband and wife, you’ll turn and make your grand exit, and you’ll see all the people you love, joyfully staring back at you. I usually say this to tell them that they may want to finish most of their photos before the ceremony because after they exchange vows, photo taking the last thing they’ll want to do. I always say, “You’ll immediately want to go hug all of those people who moved heaven and earth to be here for you on your big day.” I say this because the day I got married, this was one of my favorite memories of the day. I couldn’t escape the overwhelming feeling of this being the one time in my life in which I’d have the people I love most together in one place.

Imagine seeing empty church pews. Does anyone ever plan on empty pews for their wedding day?

That’s what happened with Covid-19. No more hugging, no more big parties and celebrations and for a lot of couples, postponed big wedding dreams. But just like we’ve seen time and time again during this pandemic, humanity stepped in. Couples found ways to have their cake and eat it too.

Because, isn’t that what we do as humans? We bend and adjust, and find hope where we can. Lately, I have photographed small, intimate weddings with just a few close family and friends. And you know what? It’s so beautiful. Smaller never means less joy and love. In some ways it means more of it.

Every time I have photographed a wedding, it is never lost on me that this is never the end of a story; it’s the beginning. This is the start of a family; maybe a couple who will one day love one child or ten children. If they start their family with Covid-19, maybe it’s the more realistic way. It’s not the fairy tale day with hundreds of people throwing rose petals as they sail off into the sunset. It’s standing under an oak tree in a backyard saying I’ll love you and marry you during a global pandemic, and we’ll just figure the rest out as we go together. Because one thing you learn so very quickly as a parent is that you can have the best laid plans, but those kids will always change them. Moms and dads everywhere have been learning to pivot since they welcomed their child, and we learn that over and over and over again.

Is this the biggest problem our world faces? No. But I know these decisions come with a lot of tears and grief for the things we thought would be. I’ve certainly had that ebb and flow of emotions throughout this global pandemic.

I’ve mourned the school year my kids didn’t get to finish, and the activities and camps they didn’t get to go to. And while I can see that there are bigger problems at hand, I also can’t deny my sadness, frustration and burdened heart. And I see you, if that is you too. Planning a wedding is stressful and this is more than you asked for. I promise that every person who has built a career in the wedding industry feels all of the things with you too. We want it all for you too.

Maybe it’s a good reminder that perfection on a wedding day is in the moments and not in that which is out of our control. Alanis Morissette didn’t sing, “It’s like a pandemic on your wedding day” when she belted out her tune, but those who did survive rain on their wedding day will most likely tell you it was perfect anyway. And that’s not ironic; it’s beautiful.

Every part of me looks forward to the day in which my sweet couples get to have the big celebration they’ve always dreamed of. Some have gotten married with hopes of a celebration later this year or even next year. Some have said they just want to forgo that celebration altogether. Some will wait until the chaos is over to make a decision. I will rejoice with every bride and groom that come my way in any way they get to celebrate because I believe that day is coming again.

Somewhere in all of this, may we all find ways for opportunity over obstacles, and let love and joy win, however your story begins.


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