As sunlight reflected off the waters of Lake Michigan on a warm day in June, Bryan Dotson smiled expectantly while his bride, Darrica, walked down the aisle, joining him to share their wedding vows.
Although only a small group of guests sat along the lakefront at Milwaukee’s Zilli Hospitality Center, hundreds more had a front row view of the ceremony on Zoom.
Like many brides, Darrica Dotson grew up envisioning a large traditional wedding surrounded by everyone she knew and loved.
But after getting engaged earlier this year, Darrica immediately knew that what she had imagined would look much different in reality.
Initially, one of the Dotsons’ greatest struggles was limiting the number of loved ones that could attend in person out of concern for safety during the pandemic.
“It was stressful,” Darrica admitted. “People understood, but they still wanted to be there.”
However, for love that bloomed in lockdown, a whittled-down pandemic wedding proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Livestreaming their wedding turned out to be one of those blessings. Friends from across the globe — including South Africa, Nicaragua, and Canada — were among the virtual attendees.
“With Zoom, we felt like we could still have a lot of people there,” Bryan said. “Knowing that they had a role in our wedding and were able to be there with us was really special.”
Just 12% of couples who planned to get married in 2020 went fully virtual for their ceremony, according to a survey of some 7,600 couples by online wedding planning platform The Knot. More than 40% of those who wed in the pandemic added a streaming or video platform component to their ceremony.
“Even after the pandemic ends, virtual wedding planning and live-streamed weddings after COVID will remain common,” The Knot’s report predicted.
The Dotsons discovered that having a small hybrid wedding brought another unexpected positive. “A lot of people say, ‘It goes by so fast, and I don’t remember my wedding day,’” Darrica explained. “But because it was such a small group, I was able to really take the day in and enjoy it.”
However, the biggest motivation for the couple to have a hybrid wedding was their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They embraced it as an opportunity to incorporate into the occasion two key Bible principles by which they live: respect for life and love of neighbor.
Keeping the wedding small allowed them to concentrate on the joy of getting married while still protecting others against the spread of COVID-19.
“Jesus taught his disciples to maintain a simple life. That’s good advice for those who are planning a wedding,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Ironically, the pandemic has given us an opportunity to see just how simple a wedding can be — while still being beautiful, joyful and memorable. It’s more than just about saving money. It helps preserve our spirituality.”
This was certainly Bryan and Darrica’s experience, and they have no regrets. “You want to enjoy your wedding day and have a nice wedding — but that’s not what’s most important,” Darrica said. “It’s what comes after that day, the foundation that you build and your life together.”