Dress and Tux - Linda from Linda's Bridal
Flowers - Juli and Cathy from Forget Me Not Flowers
Location - Kleffner Ranch, worked closely with Stacy and Denis
Photographer - Briahn Sampayan from Vidane Visuals (California-based)
Officiant - John Witcombe from Helena Seventh-Day Adventist Church
In 2018, Sam and I met at a local church in Helena and soon became friends. We discovered both of us had lived near each other in California, had mutual friends, and moved to Montana around the same time. Our friendship grew, and Sam asked me to be his girlfriend. That day, I gave him a notebook for us to write notes to each other. He took it and wrote a silly note with a drawing. Writing letters and leaving notes became a regular part of our relationship. On my birthday, Sam gave me a beautiful, printed book. He took all the letters we had written, typed them out, and attached pictures of our adventures.
In December 2019, we went stargazing at the lake. To my surprise, Sam took the book out of his backpack and asked me to read the first letter of the first word of each letter he had written. The silly note he had written many months before started with "W." I read each letter and he asked me what they spelled collectively. I said, "Will you marry me?" After jokingly asking if he was trying to get me to propose to him, I said, "Yes."
Sam and I quickly began wedding planning. We did not want a long engagement and settled on March 22, 2020. Three months was very little time to plan, and I began to have literal nightmares about finding a dress. Clearly, the stress to find the "right dress" was growing. I was skeptical about finding anything in Helena, but I tried Linda's Bridal. Linda was extremely helpful, gave honest feedback, and was incredibly personable. I was ecstatic when I finally said "Yes" to the dress. Conveniently, Sam and his groomsmen were able to rent tuxes from Linda's as well.
I thought the most stressful part was over, that is, until COVID-19 arrived. A few weeks before the wedding, friends in other states began canceling due to travel concerns. Our guest list dwindled, but the wedding was still on; the state limited gatherings to fifty. We had to have many difficult conversations with loved ones and narrow our guest list further. A few days before the wedding, schools and businesses shut down, and gatherings were limited to ten. As the last few days passed, one by one, my bridal party had to cancel. Friends and family suggested postponing the wedding, but Sam and I did not want to wait-especially with so much uncertainty.
Three days before the wedding, and we learned California was going on lockdown. After crying and having a brief meltdown, Sam and I and reached out to our pastor, Stacy from Kleffner Ranch, and Juli from Forget Me Not Flowers. After discussing the issue, we moved the wedding to the following day. This change allowed our family members from California to return home sooner.
The day of the wedding, I ugly cried after discovering Ulta was closed. This meant I had to figure out how to do my own hair and makeup. My bridesmaids supported me from afar, but this was one of the loneliest afternoons I have experienced. That day was filled with many intense and mixed emotions, but once I was in my dress and about to walk down the aisle, I was determined to enjoy every moment. We had a beautiful ceremony with nine family members and livestreamed the event for our missing family and friends. To cope with frustration of COVID-19, we took a few humorous pictures with borrowed masks. My amazing brother took pictures and later put together a highlight video.
A month after the wedding, I was still angry and resented the inconveniences COVID-19 had brought. I finally realized I was really grieving. Part of me felt guilty to grieve the wedding-especially when the world was in such a state of fear, anxiety, and turmoil, and many others were experiencing far more loss. But I also recognized my experiences were a valid part of this larger picture of loss. I am grateful that our friends and family were able to join us virtually and that our vendors were supportive and flexible. Our COVID wedding helped develop my ability to stand by my decisions, adapt to changing situations, and accept grief. Above all, in the midst of all the fear and anxiety, I am glad Sam and I were able to experience safety and certainty in each other's friendship and love.