Honey, I shrunk the wedding: These couples pivoted to pull off memorable nuptials

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After getting engaged in December 2018, Stephanie and Connor Jones quickly began planning a destination wedding for upwards of 150 guests in Banff, Canada. They set a date for June 19, 2020, during one of the few months that Connor, a professional hockey player, has off.

Connor, 30, asked 11 buddies to stand by his side on the big day, while Stephanie chose 10 bridesmaids and bought a long, flowy gown with floral accents by Hungarian label Daalarna.

“We were supposed to get married at the Fairmont Banff Springs, a historic old castle, so I tried to go very fairy tale [with the dress],” said the 27-year-old who works as a producer for ABC News.
But Stephanie never got the gown fitted, and the invitations never went out. Just as she and her mother were sealing up the envelopes with fancy wax seals, COVID-19 hit and New York City went into lockdown.

The pair, who live on the Upper West Side, initially pushed their wedding back to late July.

“We were like, ‘In four weeks, we’ll be fine,’ ” she said with a chuckle.

Then, the Canadian government shut down its borders and canceled all summer events. The bride- and groom-to-be realized that they would not be having their storybook wedding in 2020.

It was a “rollercoaster of emotions,” Stephanie said. Initially, she says she was “devastated,” but she quickly found perspective.

“People are dying, people are hurting, people are going through so much more,” she said. “You realize: This wedding will happen when it needs to happen.”

Still, they were eager to make things official. So, in early August, they sent out a text message to their closest friends asking them to join them for an impromptu wedding ceremony on a New York rooftop.

Stephanie and Connor JonesStephanie and Connor JonesLaura Huertas Photography

“I was like, ‘Hey, guys, we’re getting married next Thursday in Brooklyn. Be there or be square,’ ” the bride said.

COVID-19 has upended the $74 billion wedding industry, with many couples having to cancel or postpone large, elaborate, long-planned nuptials. But some brides and grooms are opting for small, intimate alternative ceremonies and finding they’re uniquely special.

“I came to the realization that this Brooklyn wedding we ended up doing was better than our Canadian wedding would have ever been,” said Stephanie, although the couple still plans to do a celebration of some kind in Banff next year. “It was more intimate. It was more personal.”

In a matter of weeks, the Joneses arranged to get married on the roof of the Bridgepoint event space in Dumbo. There was a self-serve bar and cake, masks with the couple’s initials, and hand sanitizer personalized with their wedding date for the 21 guests.

“It came out amazing,” said the newlywed. The quickly planned event also had some special moments that a more elaborate one might have lacked. Stephanie got ready in their apartment with her husband to-be, instead of in a hotel room with a gaggle of bridesmaids. Connor watched as she got her makeup and hair done and helped her put on her white Sarah Seven cocktail dress and slip into her shoes.

“It was very sweet,” she said. “That memory, I’ll never forget.”

Stephanie worked with planner Lara Mahler to arrange her nuptials. Mahler, the founder of a Brooklyn-based wedding planning business called The Privilege Is Mine, had roughly three-dozen clients who had to postpone larger weddings from 2020 to 2021. But, she says, “I started finding my clients still wanted to get married.”

So, she launched a side gig called Alt. Weddings specializing in micro and virtual weddings. It offers a la carte consulting and everything-is-included packages with flowers, videographers and boxed meals at venues in Brooklyn, Manhattan and North Fork, LI. Prices range from $385 for one month of consulting to upwards of $15,000 for a four-hour event for 20 guests. Some, like Stephanie, are new clients, while others were working with Mahler’s other planning company, The Privilege Is Mine, on a larger event that had to be put off.

SPECIAL SECTIONSMicro Weddings 2020Couple: Dan & NickCredit: Matt Agan

Dan Langley and Nick Taylor celebrate their wedding day.

Matt Agan

SPECIAL SECTIONSMicro Weddings 2020Couple: Dan & NickCredit: Matt Agan

SPECIAL SECTIONSMicro Weddings 2020Couple: Dan & NickCredit: Matt Agan

Dan Langley and Nick Taylor celebrate their wedding day.

Matt Agan

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That was the case for Dan Langley and Nick Taylor. They initially hired Mahler to coordinate an 100-person Tiki-themed wedding at the Polynesian cocktail bar near their home in Hell’s Kitchen in November. When they had to postpone, the pair opted for an “alt wedding.”

With Mahler’s help, in early October they held a micro wedding on the terrace of a suite at the Bowery Hotel. Langley’s mom, Taylor’s dad, and seven friends from their quarantine pod joined them for a ceremony, cocktails and a private outdoor dinner from the hotel’s Gemma restaurant.

“It was very different from what we initially envisioned, but it was lovely,” said Langley, 38, who works in advertising.

The small size meant they really got quality time with all of their guests.

“It was really nice to get to talk to everybody at the wedding,” said Taylor, 38, a software engineer.

The couple still plan to hold a big event at the Polynesian next year, and they used several vendors, such as Millers & Makers bakery and Flower Bodega florist, which they also plan to use again for the larger festivities.

Dan Langley and Nick Taylor celebrate their wedding day.Dan Langley and Nick Taylor celebrate their wedding day.Matt Agan

“We kind of treated it as a dry run,” said Langley.

Heidi Schibuk and Taris Besse are also planning a big wedding in the future. But, after getting engaged on the Jersey Shore in June, they decided to throw a small wedding in the backyard of Bess’ parents’ home in Massachusetts in August.

“It’s just kind of a hard time right now,” said Schibuk, 30. “It felt good to move forward and celebrate.”

They both have large families, so they kept the event very small, just 10 guests, to avoid hurting feelings and keep things safe. The couple, who live on the Upper East Side, only invited their parents, their siblings, and their siblings’ spouses and young children.

“That was hard,” says Schibuk. “We both have cousins, aunts and uncles we’re really close with. But I was kinda adamant throughout the process being like ‘this isn’t our wedding, this is our legal ceremony.’ ”

Both of their mothers worked to organize the affair and make it special, doing everything from hiring a private chef for the post-ceremony meal to creating magic with flowers from Whole Foods.

All the couple had to do was find a rabbi. Schibuk wore a white jumpsuit that her mother-in-law purchased for her on sale after seeing it in a shop window. It happened to fit perfectly. Besse, a 32-year-old actuary, ordered a jacket from the Nordstrom Rack Web site that also looked great.

“We were almost beyond low-key about it,” said Schibuk.

The tiny size did present some technical issues. They wanted to be married under the same huppah that Schibuk’s sister’s husband had built for his wedding in Vancouver 10 years ago. Four people had each held a hand-carved, eight-foot-tall post that supported the canopy. “But with social distance, we couldn’t do that,” said Schibuk.

So, Besse, Schibuk’s father, and his brother-in-law worked to engineer the huppah to stand on its own — no small feat.

Dan Langley and Nick Taylor celebrate their wedding day.Dan Langley and Nick Taylor celebrate their wedding day.Matt Agan

“It involved a lot of wooden dowels that had to go deep into the ground and zip ties,” she says. “They got it to work. It was amazing.”

It all made for a truly special day. They laid out games for the two children — a young niece and nephew who had never met before — and watched the tots play.

“That was really fun,” said Schibuk. “And I hadn’t seen my family in a long time. It was the first time that each of our families were really spending more time together.”

The chef cooked a lovely summery meal, including an almond cake topped with berries and mascarpone. Four tables spaced out in the yard allowed for socially distanced dining.

Since Schibuk, a psychologist-in-training, and her father, a psychiatrist, both work in hospitals, safety was key.

“In pictures, it probably would look cuter if I had like a cute cloth mask on,” she says. “But, I knew that a surgical mask was going to be most effective.”

The PPE in no way detracted from a meaningful day. “I had the best time ever,” said the newlywed.

“I’m so glad we did do it this way. It was really memorable.”

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