Four Northern Colorado brides give us an inside look at how COVID-19 changed their big day.
By Laurel Thompson
2020 was the beginning of a happily ever after for many couples who were planning their weddings when COVID-19 took the world by surprise. All of a sudden, they were bombarded with tough decisions, like whether to postpone the ceremony, pare down the guest list or change locations last minute before saying “I do.” This was the case for these Northern Colorado brides who rose to the occasion when the pandemic changed the rules.
Alyssa & Sean Larsen
Alyssa always wanted a destination wedding, so when her husband, Sean, popped the question on a vacation in Costa Rica, the two wayfarers immediately started thinking about their next big trip. It was December 2019, and with the world still wide open to explore, the Larsens decided to invite their closest friends and family to be part of a week-long wedding celebration in Tulum, Mexico, the following summer.
“Sean and I share a love for traveling to exciting new places,” Alyssa says. “During our first year together, we spent a week in Cozumel to celebrate my birthday, and then when he proposed to me on another vacation in Costa Rica, I thought it would be special to get married somewhere really pretty and inexpensive for our family to travel to.”
Newly engaged, the Larsens flew back to the States and spent the holidays with Alyssa’s family in New York. While they were there, they looked for the perfect venue and discovered Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa, an all- inclusive resort with luxurious yet affordable destination wedding packages.
“We instantly fell in love with the resort and decided to book our wedding for July 30, which was just over half a year away,” Alyssa says. “Then when COVID hit in the spring, we started to get a little nervous about plans falling through because the resort closed temporarily, but we didn’t change anything quite yet. It wasn’t until July 1 that we found out we could still get married on the same day at the resort—all the other weddings had been cancelled for that week, so we actually had more freedom to move things around if we needed to.”
Originally, the Larsens had planned on having 30 guests join them for the trip, but one by one, friends, family and the entire bridal party dropped out until there were just nine people left, including the bride and groom.
“We kind of expected that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to make it once the date got closer, but we did really miss the people that weren’t there,” Alyssa says. “I ended up with no bridesmaids, but my brother- and sister- in-law stood up there with us, which ended up being really nice. I had originally wanted the wedding to be simple, small and intimate, which is exactly how it turned out.”
On their wedding day, the Larsens said their vows under a secluded archway called “The Secret Garden,” which was tucked away from the rest of the resort. Alyssa walked down the aisle to “Here Comes The Sun” by Sean’s favorite band, The Beatles, and they Zoomed the entire ceremony for the people who couldn’t make it.
“It was really hot out, so right after the ceremony I asked if everyone would jump into the pool with me,” Alyssa says. “We all jumped in and cooled off and then had a really casual reception with drinks, cake and music playing on our JBL speaker. When we got home, we had a little party in our backyard with a handful of guests showing up at different times, so it was fun to still be able to celebrate with some of the people who couldn’t join us in Tulum.”
THE LARSEN’S VENDORS:
- Venue, Planning, Photography, Flowers and Catering: Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa @dreamsresorts
- Wedding Dress: Onlybridals.com @only_bridals
- Wedding Dress Alterations: Morning Star Custom Sewing (Terry Garrison)
- Stationary/Signage: Designed on Canva by Alyssa, printed by Mail N Copy
- Hair and Makeup: Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa @dreamsresorts
Ashley & Cameron Duval
Ashley and Cameron are among the lucky few whose special day went almost exactly as planned despite all the confusion and uncertainty that came with planning a wedding in 2020. Some would call it luck; Ashley says it was all thanks to her incredible wedding planner and an all-inclusive venue.
“Originally, we planned to have a large outdoor ceremony on July 31, so when things started shutting down in the spring we started to worry about what that might mean for us,” she says. “We thought the world was ending and had no idea what to expect, so we just decided to pause everything. In a way, it gave us some peace of mind to decide that we weren’t going to make any further decisions until we absolutely had to.”
July crept closer, and the Duvals were faced with a tough choice: to limit the guest list and then have a larger party in 2021, or to postpone the wedding entirely. They went back and forth between changing the plans and sticking it out to see what would happen.
“Things were constantly changing, which made it really hard to come to a decision by our deadline of June 1,” Ashley says. “Ultimately we decided to stick with our original plans and picked Labor Day as our plan B if we had to push the date back and have a larger party later on, hoping that would buy us a little more time.”
Then, out of nowhere, the Duvals got a call from their wedding planner on June 5, who said they were in the clear to move forward with the wedding as planned. The ceremony would be held at River Garden Winery in Fort Lupton, where there were less limitations on how many people could attend an outdoor gathering.
“We ended up having around 150 guests, which is what we originally planned for,” Ashley says. “Our guests had the option to wear masks, and the seats were really spaced out. We also had hand sanitizer by the guest book, the food and other high-traf c areas, and the caterer served people individually at the buffet. We were most worried about the dance oor and were afraid everyone would have to be six feet apart at all times, but the venue told us what the regulations were and trusted us to be smart about it.”
After the Duvals exchanged vows and said, ‘I do,’ they kicked off the biggest party of the year with their rst dance to “Heaven” by Kane Brown. Then the weather started to turn, and a big gust of wind blew through the crowd as they danced. Neither Ashley or Cameron noticed because they were too busy soaking in every second of being bride and groom.
“After the song ended, the weather was perfect, almost like the wind was meant to move us while we were dancing,” she says. “There was also a huge rainbow and an eagle soaring above us while we were rehearsing the night before, so there were plenty of signs that everything was going to work out perfectly. It’s all thanks to our wedding planner, Hawley, and to my family and friends.”
THE DUVAL’S VENDORS:
- Wedding Planner: Hawley Vining at Vining Events @viningevents
- Photographer: Sarah Goff Photography @sarahgoffphotography
- Venue: River Garden Winery @rivergardenwinery
- Florals: Wild Posies Floral Design @wildposies
- Catering: Elements Catering @elements.catering.events
- Cake: Cake Works @CakeWorksBakery
- Wedding Dress: Ashley’s mom’s wedding dress, altered by Rosie Gowns @rosiegowns
- Hair and Makeup: Fierce With Beauty@ fiercewithbeauty
- Furniture Rental: Robin Event Rental @robineventrental
- Restroom Rental: Blue Moon Rental @bluemoonrental
- DJ: A Music Plus Entertainment @amusicplus
- Champagne Truck: Fizz & Flutes@ fizzandflutes
- Photo Booth: The Shutter Bus @shutterbus
- Videographer: Picasso Media @picassocolorado
SJ & Jon Lawyer
SJ was decorating for a friend’s wedding when she met her husband, John Lawyer, who was catering the very same event. Since then, the two have been making an appearance at all kinds of breweries, festivals and parties around Northern Colorado— you’ll recognize them as the owners of Corndoggies, Rama Mama and Lickskillet Catering.
The tables turned in March 2020 when the Lawyers got engaged and started planning their own wedding. Having been involved in so many events, they had no reason to think the coming months would present a slew of challenges that they hadn’t faced before. But just a few days after their engagement, gatherings of more than 50 people were banned in Colorado and all restaurants and bars were ordered to close for in-person dining.
“We didn’t start planning our wedding right away because everything was shutting down and we had to make big adjustments for the events we were helping to plan and cater at the time,” SJ says. “Neither of us really expected the impacts of COVID to last this long or disrupt so many things, so without fully processing everything we decided to pick October 18 as our wedding day and made a reservation to get married in Rocky Mountain National Park.”
As the date got closer, the Lawyers got some disheartening news. Not only were COVID cases on the rise, but the Cameron Peak Fire had also started up near Chambers Lake and was blazing toward the park.
“They really cracked down on the number of people that were allowed in, so we had to narrow our guest list down to 18 people including us, our photographer and our of ciant,” SJ explains. “After everyone had already RSVP’d, they limited us again to a maximum of 10 people, so we had to tell certain guests they could only come if they dressed like hikers and pretended to be onlookers passing by.”
Then October arrived and things took a turn for the worse. Out of nowhere, another wild re started in Granby and was closing in on the park from the opposite direction, becoming the second largest wild fire in Colorado history after Cameron Peak in just a matter of weeks.
“My sisters and I were supposed to get ready for the wedding at my friend’s place in Drake, and the week before the wedding I got a text from her saying she had been evacuated due to the East Troublesome Fire,” SJ says. “So, at this point, two massive wild res were headed straight for our wedding spot, and we didn’t have anywhere to stay. Then, when Road 34 closed, we started looking at alternate routes to Estes, only to nd a map showing that the area we were going to get married in was closed due to the res the day before our wedding.”
Unable to get a hold of anyone from the park, the Lawyers sat down with their family that night and searched for last-minute places they could get married outside for free. The same friend (at whose wedding the Lawyers met) suggested Seaman’s Reservoir in the Gateway Natural Area, so they hopped in the car and drove up Highway 14 to scope it out.
“We couldn’t nd a great spot by the actual reservoir, plus it was a bit of a hike, so we decided to get married down by the river that runs through the natural area,” SJ says. “I didn’t think we would nd this gorgeous of a location on such short notice—the light was cascading through the fall leaves and the river was owing, so we still got that earthy feel I really wanted from the national park.”
The Lawyers rendezvoused at Gateway the next morning and got married with their 18 closest family members by their side. SJ’s brother had agreed to marry them due to the guest limitations at Rocky Mountain National Park, and in the spirit of an already nontraditional wedding, the couple walked down the aisle together to “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Kina Grannis.
“Looking back, I really don’t think we could have gotten through this without our closest family there,” SJ says. “Having to rethink everything you’ve planned at the very last minute would be hard to do alone, so I’m really grateful for everyone who came through and helped make our wedding day so special. We’re planning on having a big party with everyone from our original guest list once it’s safe to do so, and hiking clothes won’t be required.”
THE LAWYER’S VENDORS:
- Wedding Planner: SJ Lawyer
- Photographer: PhoCo (Patrick Edmiston) @patrickaidan, @pho_co
- Venue: Gateway Natural Area
- Florals: Bloom Floral Boutique @bloom_ oral_boutique
- Catering: Taco Stop @thetacostopfoco
- Wedding Dress: Etsy
- Groom & Groomsmens’ Attire: ASOS @asos
- Hair: Nomad Stylist (Darby Brown) @nomadstylist
- Makeup: SJ Lawyer
Carlee & Will Young
This time last year, Carlee was dreaming of getting married in her hometown of Haines, Alaska, at a beautiful mountain resort called Viking Cove. 110 people were planning on ying out to be part of her special day on June 27, and the venue would double as lodging for 30 guests, including her and her ancé, Will Young. She had almost all the details picked out for an enchanted forest wedding, right down to the long-sleeved bohemian dress and bouquet with accents of moss and seaweed.
Then March rolled around, and with 90 days until the wedding, businesses all over the country started shutting down. The Youngs held out hope for Alaska as long as they could, but in May they got word that their venue was closing for the summer due to COVID restrictions.
Thankfully their stylist, photographer and decor rentals were all in Northern Colorado, so they didn’t have to replan the entire wedding from scratch. But they did have to find a new location, and ultimately, they decided to elope up the Poudre Canyon to say their vows at sunrise on their wedding day.
“When Alaska fell through, we drove up the Poudre nding places we liked but didn’t love,” Carlee explains. “On the way back down, we passed a spot that caught our eye, so we decided to turn around and go take a look. It couldn’t have been more perfect— the sun was shining through the trees, you could hear the river, there were lots of wild cactus—it just felt right for us. We needed
to nd a landmark so we could know where this place was the morning of our elopement, and when we got back to the road, we saw a metal sign that said Young Gulch: my new last name!”
With this (literal) sign that everything was going to be alright, the Youngs started putting the rest of the pieces together. They would say their vows under a wooden triangle arch decorated with bohemian oral sprays that mimicked the original florist’s arrangements back in Alaska, but Carlee loved her original florist so much that she ended up shipping the bouquet and boutonniere all the way from Juneau.
After their vows were said and photographs were taken, the Youngs headed back down the canyon to their house, where they hosted a small backyard potluck with yard games and a build-your- own bloody mary and mimosa bar. They didn’t un-invite any guests; they simply opened up the reception to anyone who wanted to join and offered to Zoom in family members who couldn’t make it.
“Most of our friends were going to be traveling from Colorado for the wedding, so a lot of them were still able to attend,” Carlee says. “It was mostly friends that celebrated with us that day since our families live in Alaska, North Carolina and Iowa, but Will’s parents and my younger sister were able to come. We Zoomed in my parents and my older sister, who still dressed up and made their own mimosas to celebrate with us virtually.”
A total of 45 people came and went throughout the day in what would become an intimate, 12-hour party in the Youngs’ backyard. They did their best to adhere to COVID restrictions by spacing out the seating arrangements, giving everyone one glass to drink from (and take home) and setting up sanitizer stations outside. Carlee even submitted a plan to the Colorado Department of Health to get approval for a gathering of more than 25 people, which was approved the day before the wedding.
“Everything worked out perfectly in the end,” says Carlee. “My favorite memory is the rst dance, but not for typical reasons. We weren’t planning to have one since my parents couldn’t make it, but my younger sister knew that our rst dance song was going to be ‘In Case You Didn’t Know’ by Brett Young—another unexpected Young reference. She surprised us by playing that song toward the end of the night, and we had our rst dance in the middle of our backyard with everyone standing in a circle around us. It was pretty special.”
THE YOUNG’S VENDORS:
- Wedding Planner: Fable Style & Design @fablestyleanddesign
- Photographer: Devoted & Wild @devotedandwild
- Venue: Young Gulch & The Young’s Backyard
- Florals (Alaska): Frenchie’s Floral Studio @frenchies.floral
- Florals (Colorado): Annalise The Amaranth @annalisetheamaranth
- Cake: Whisky Business Bakery @whisky_business_bakery
- Wedding and Bridesmaids Dresses: BHLDN @bhldn
- Stationary/Signage: Wren & Olive Laser Company @wrenandolivelaser
- Hair and Makeup: Carlee Young
- Furniture Rental: Wallflower Rentals & Décor @wallflower_rentals_decor
- Other Rentals: Fable Custom Designs + Rentals @fablecustomrentals
Laurel Thompson is a Fort Collins native and CSU alum. When she isn’t writing for local lifestyle publications, you’ll find her soaking up the sun, cooking something delicious, or reading a good book while sipping an iced coffee. To comment on this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org.