Couples alter wedding plans because of COVID-19

Three engaged couples with ties to Jackson County planned to be married either this month or next.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

In March, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced new guidelines for the state to reduce the spread of the virus by limiting social gatherings.

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That move meant all nonessential gatherings were limited to fewer than 250 people. That number decreased in mid-March when President Donald Trump said the new guideline was to not gather in groups of more than 10.

The pandemic resulted in the couples having to make hard decisions about their wedding plans.

Jenna Hardin and Noah Freeman

Seymour native Jenna Hardin Freeman and her new husband, Noah Freeman of Virginia, had planned to marry April 4 and were able to keep that date, but that was about the only thing that didn’t change because of the pandemic.

The couple met at Indiana University during her freshman year and his sophomore year.

“We had classes together since we had the same major, music education, and we were in the Marching Hundred at IU,” Jenna said. “We got engaged May 2019 at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.”

Jenna said they were trying to hold onto their original plan as long as they could, which was getting married at a church in Seymour and then having a reception afterwards with dinner and dancing at a country club on the lake.

“It was a constant state of checking the new regulations being put in place and changing plans each time something new would come up,” Jenna said. “We finally had to move everything once they shut down restaurants and put the travel restriction on the state. It was hard to plan after that since there was new information coming out every day.”

Noah said it was nerve-racking as everything started to unfold.

“As the days progressed, our thoughts changed with new sanctions coming in around the country,” he said. “At first, we were hoping to make it to having our ceremony, reception and honeymoon.”

He said in a matter of days, it went to just wanting to have the ceremony and reception, to just the ceremony, then talking about postponing the entire event.

“We did not want to wait to get married, so we chose to go ahead and get married on the day we had originally planned,” he said. “We got married at the Rose Well House on IU’s campus in Bloomington.”

They picked that location since IU is where they first met and grew their relationship, and adding their wedding to the list of memories there makes it that much more special, Noah said.

Noah said they were always on the edge of their seat right up until the ceremony started because events could change at the drop of a hat, but they loved the day they had together with family.

Besides the bride and groom, it was only immediate family, including the photographer and officiant, at the wedding.

Jenna said both sets of parents were very supportive and wanted them to still have their special day, even though it wasn’t what they originally planned.

“They helped in any way they could with trying to make it as close to what we envisioned as possible,” Jenna said. “They helped by taking pictures, making a wedding cake, making decorations and running errands.”

Jenna said they plan to have a bigger ceremony and reception in June.

“We were still able to keep our venues and vendors all the same, just postponing the date,” Jenna said. “We are hoping that by then, restrictions will be lifted and we will be able to share the day with our friends and family.”

As for a honeymoon, the couple spent a couple days secluded in a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

“Our first honeymoon plans were to go to Oahu, Hawaii. We were able to change flights and reservations to the week after the June wedding, making it exactly like our original plans,” she said.

Noah said they will definitely have a unique story to tell their kids someday about getting married two times during a pandemic with two sets of pictures, two dates and twice the memories to look back on.

Jenna and Noah live in Fairfax, Virginia, and both are band teachers in Fairfax County Public Schools. He is from Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Luke Warren and Meghan McAlister

Brownstown residents Luke Warren and Meghan McAlister were engaged Oct. 18, 2019.

“On our first date, he wanted to surprise me and take me to Big Woods Pizza, but when we got to our location, we were both surprised,” McAlister said. “We found out there are two Big Woods near each other in Nashville, and we ended up at Big Woods the Original with no pizza.”

They both enjoy golfing, so they got engaged on Hole 3 at Hickory Hills Golf Club between Brownstown and Vallonia.

Their wedding date is April 25, and they plan to keep that date.

“With Meghan being a nurse and working at the hospital, we continued to closely monitor the guideline changes daily,” said Warren, who is originally from Vallonia. “The initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were overwhelming, and CDC guidelines continued to change.”

He said they began to discuss what changes they wanted to make. They wanted to ensure their family and friends were safe but also wanted to try and have the most normal wedding day possible.

“We discussed the situation several times with family members and close health care friends to gain their perspective on the situation,” he said. “Late March, we decided we would have a Plan A, B and C based on the guidelines.”

Warren said Plan A is keeping everything as planned with their original venues and guest list. Plan B consists of limiting the number of guests to just family and close friends. Plan C is immediate family and wedding party only.

“We began working with our vendors and letting them know our tentative plans,” Warren said. “We obtained dates of when they were available, which was difficult as a result of this being last minute and most weddings and vendors were already booked.”

Their parents have been very supportive through this, and they’ve also had family members on both ends of the spectrum in terms of being very optimistic or very cautious.

McAlister said some family members believe things will be able to occur as normal, while others are very cautious about the gatherings and how there could be the risk of transmission.

With McAlister needing to focus on her role at the hospital, Warren, their parents and their siblings have stepped up to help make necessary calls to vendors as the wedding date approaches.

“We will keep our original wedding venue, outdoors at a family pond outside of Brownstown,” McAlister said. “We felt the fresh air and ability to social distance was much more achievable outdoors.”

The couple are planning on having their reception and celebration later this summer.

“We had to cancel our honeymoon plans in early April, and we are currently working with our travel agent,” Warren said. “We are trying to reschedule the official honeymoon for late summer as long as it’s safe for us to travel.”

Warren said as a result of no traveling right now, they will stay at the family pond and camp as their honeymoon.

“This can now be something we do every year on our anniversary,” he said. “It can be a great reminder of what a crazy ride this has been over the last couple of months.”

The couple want their family and friends to be able to share their special day, so they created a group on Facebook for their guests.

“This allows them to provide comments and best wishes as our day approaches,” McAlister said. “On the day of the wedding, we will be hosting a Facebook Live event so our guests can watch the wedding online.”

They also are planning a parade for their guests who can’t attend. They will have a window of time where they can drive by the wedding venue, stay in their cars, wave and congratulate the newly married couple.

Coley Brown and Olivia Huff

Olivia Huff met Coley Brown in 2013 at Purdue University while he was there visiting his friend, Colin Woods.

Both are originally from Brownstown and now live in Bargersville.

The couple were engaged June 13, 2019, and are planning to be married May 23.

With the coronavirus pandemic, they are taking things one day at a time.

“May 23 holds a special place in our hearts, so we may keep our date and get legally married then,” Huff said. “We will be making our final decision by the end of April.”

Huff said it was and still is very stressful. They have spent almost a year planning their wedding, and then to have it potentially tossed out the window at the last minute is heartbreaking.

“It should be a celebration of our two lives and families coming together, and whether it happens on May 23 or some other date, we just want it to be special,” Huff said. “There are a lot of factors that go into our decision, and that’s why we haven’t rushed to make one. We don’t want to put our families’ lives at risk unnecessarily.”

She said if they can manage to keep the date and allow all of their families and friends to participate in a safe way, they would love for that to happen.

The couple’s parents have supported them through this crazy time. They are just as disappointed as they are but are helping out as much as possible.

“I have called my mom and sisters countless times to vent or cry, and Coley’s mom calls to check in on me multiple times a week,” Huff said. “We have some pretty great ‘Momma-Daddys’ in our life.”

Huff and Brown are planning to get married at Barn at Bay Horse Inn in Greenwood.

“As of now, that is our plan. In case of postponement or cancellation, it all just depends on dates that they have available,” Huff said. “The next date available is November.”

If keeping the original date and they must do a smaller, more intimate wedding, then it will only be their immediate family and their photographer.

“We’d still like to capture the moment and be able to share our unconventional wedding with our kids one day,” Huff said. “I actually had won a work trip to Croatia at the beginning of May, and we were going to take advantage of that and have a pre-honeymoon. After the wedding, we were planning to go to Mexico for a few days.”

Unfortunately, both trips had to be canceled, but after restrictions are lifted, they plan to go somewhere tropical with lots of sun and frozen drinks, she said.

“Someday, we can tell our kids that there were a lot of obstacles that were put in our way, but at the end of the day, we were still together, and that’s what really mattered,” Huff said. “We’d also mention that if they want to really test their love, then they should be quarantined together for two months prior to the wedding.”

She said once she and Coley make it through this, they can conquer anything together.

“We are blessed to even be able to plan an elaborate wedding like we had in mind,” Huff said. “In some ways, it’s a relief that it’s out of our hands at this point.”

She said they can only hope they and their families and friends remain healthy and get to see them exchange vows one day.