Pandemic-poked weddings: A new altar, an un-altered dress, and an altered state of mind

March 5, 2021

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If you think the new sitcom, Call Your Mother is about children avoiding their mothers during the pandemic, you would be half right. The show, starring Kyra Sedgwick, is based, however, on life after the pandemic. The life-after-COVID messaging is pure hope and fiction.

COVID’s real-life casualties are not lost on members of the Tidewater community—not even two mothers of the bride, who have spent the last year jumping through hoops to get their daughters to the chuppah. With no real pandemic finish line in sight, and wedding decision fatigue in high gear, time, place, and size of guest list remain anyone’s guess.

Laura Gross lost her mother-in-law and her father-in-law to COVID in 2020.

Beth Campion has felt survivor’s guilt due to the furlough of a painfully large number of friends and colleagues at Hilton properties globally. She is director of sales for Hilton Worldwide Sales.

Gross, a local attorney, got her daughter, Aly, hitched without a hitch in 2019 when it was legal to have large gatherings. She’s up at bat for the third time trying to plan a legal wedding for her daughter, Rachel. COVID crashed Rachel’s first wedding, which was set for August 20, 2020 on a rooftop in Israel. Then it was rescheduled for June 1, 2021, also in Israel. In January, concern over international travel caused her to bring the wedding home to Virginia Beach for a third try in September. “Hopefully by late September, my friends and family who want to be, will be vaccinated,” says Gross.

At work, Campion doesn’t get rattled planning global events for thousands of people. As a mother of the bride during COVID, however, a guest list over 10 is panic inducing. Currently, her daughter’s former guest list of 250 people is illegal and mind-altering.

“And I do this for a living,” says Campion, a seasoned professional with a delicate balancing act on her hands. “I sympathize with all the partners I’ve contracted with, and I also sympathize with my daughter and her husband, Chris.

Rachel Gross was secretly married at the Norfolk courthouse last year. Even with the Israeli Embassy shutting down for several months during COVID, her husband Aviv, an Israeli, was finally able to obtain his green card when Embassy services resumed in January 2021.

On May 23, 2020, Danielle Campion married Chris Adsit in Chris’s parents’ backyard in the Lochhaven section of Norfolk. The 14-person guest list consisted of the couples’ parents and siblings. “It wasn’t at all what they had planned,” says Campion referring to the traditional wedding of 250 people at the Norfolk Hilton, also crashed by COVID. “Danielle didn’t walk down the aisle with her father. She wore a dress that she ordered online and didn’t even see until the day before she got married. But, it was the most beautiful night and intimate ceremony officiated by Rabbi Roz. Danielle’s mother-in-law, and her friend made them the most beautiful wedding arch,” says Campion, referring to the chuppah. ”It was gorgeous. Her dress was perfect. And I was so happy her grandmother Zoomed in. We hosted a small brunch for some of her bridal party and their moms. Her bridal party sent flowers and decorated their car! I believe May 23, 2020 will always be a day they look back on and smile, despite it not being the wedding they planned.”

Dream marriage to wedding dreams
Danielle Adsit and Rachel Faraj are blissfully married, but neither one is ready to release their dream of having their wedding.
“The wedding in Israel would have been a real bonding experience,” says Gross. ‘Many of our friends haven’t been to Israel. So, instead of a rooftop wedding in Jaffa, we will be standing under a Dale Chihuly at MOCA in Virginia Beach.”

In May, Campion hopes to have an outdoor wedding at the Bay Front Club at East Beach. How many of their favorite people will be invited is still a big unknown. Danielle’s father will walk her down the aisle. That’s the plan.

Rachel’s wedding dress has been hanging in her mother’s Virginia Beach home for over a year. “When New York started to shut down in February 2020, I thought the wedding would still take place that August, so I called Kleinfelds and had them send the dress to my home,” says Gross. “It’s March 2021, and it’s still here.”

Gross says the hardest part for her has been finding wedding venues on the second and third go-round because so many dates have been booked by newly engaged who don’t need to reschedule. This crowded space makes it really tough for those like Rachel and Danielle, and others who had to scramble to re-schedule due to COVID.

“COVID isn’t covered under cancellation policies,” says Gross. “It’s entirely up to the venue and vendors whether they will reimburse for COVID-related cancellations. One very unfortunate byproduct of the venue shortage is the restricted guest-list, which is both caused by and compounded by COVID. There are so many people you want to share this life cycle event with you, but at some point it comes down to who knows my daughter and son-in-law. The whole wedding industry is a mess.”

A mother of the bride has tough decisions to make without COVID. Add sliced and diced guest lists and it can get dicey.

The guest-list ‘talk’ was unavoidable for Beth Campion.

“Danielle and Chris keep in touch with friends from childhood, college, and grad school. We both have big families. We had to cut over 100 people knowing there is no way the government will go from 10 to 250 by May, when the wedding is back on the books. I had to call so many friends and extended family who have been part of every life cycle event, and my mother’s core group who have been part of many life-cycle events and my children’s life cycle events and say, ‘We love you, and want you to share in Danielle and Chris’s day but we can’t have you here.’ It’s just so sad.”

But Campion’s friends offered nothing but support and reassurance: ‘We love you and will be there in spirit.’ ‘We will come when it’s safe.’

Danielle’s bridal shower is a saving grace that Campion is thankful for. It was held in late February before the pandemic hit and numbers were an issue. “It was a sunny, perfect day with so many friends and family,” says Campion. “No one imagined the wedding we were planning would not take place.”

Booking a rehearsal dinner during COVID is another logistics-meets-pandemic hoop. All venues were booked or closed. For a variation on a theme, Rachel Faraj and her guests will play shuffleboard and eat pizza at Beachside Social.

“I tell Rachel all the time, ‘regardless of the numbers, we are having a wedding. I don’t know what it will be exactly, or when, or how big, but you will be a princess for a day and you will wear that beautiful dress and look gorgeous.’”

Rachel’s dream is a wedding her way, not a typical dream wedding. Totally rejecting the current two-dress bridal culture, “I only get to wear that dress once. Why would I want to take it off?”

“This whole thing has given me perspective and a chance to step back,” says Campion “I used to travel four days a week. I lived my life on an airplane. I have slowed down, my husband has found joy in cooking elaborate meals, and we have tried many new wines. With all this craziness, we are grateful for our friends and family’s support and love. The biggest thing I’ve taken away is that my daughter and her husband didn’t start their life traditionally as husband and wife, but they are always smiling. They’ve set the example of handling difficult situations with grace. They’re so happy and as parents we are beaming with pride.”

- Lisa Richmon

Letter to the Editor