written and photographed by Kelsey Walne
“I’ve watched these couples lean into the hard conversations and into the mess, only to come out on the other side, ready to say their vows with a deeper understanding of what those words truly mean.”
2020. 2021. Years that will not soon be forgotten for any of us, and particularly for those who have gotten married sometime over the last 18 months. I am convinced that my “COVID Couples” may have a better idea of what marriage is really all about than the rest of us do.
These couples planned their dream weddings months and months in advance, only to have many of those plans stripped away. Some of these couples lost venue deposits, the cost of printed invitations, personalized decor, and the list goes on. Many had to downsize their guest list, or do a complete overhaul on their original plans. A number of couples lost the opportunity to have grandparents or other close relatives there to celebrate.
If I’ve learned anything as I’ve watched these incredible people navigate the challenges of wedding planning during a pandemic, it’s that these couples are RESILIENT.
That dream wedding that I mentioned earlier? It was no longer possible for many of them. At least not how they originally envisioned it. These couples were forced to focus on what matters most — the marriage and life they’re going to build together, rather than a singular day with all the bells and whistles.
As a society, I think we spend a lot of time planning for the wedding DAY. Pinterest boards, flawless floral arrangements, beautifully coordinated bridesmaid dresses, stunning invitations — the list goes on and on.
Now, don’t get me wrong. As a wedding photographer, I can appreciate the details like photogenic centerpieces and neutral tone bridesmaid dresses. But when the gloves come off and life gets real, that’s when you find out what your relationship is built upon. And these couples did just that.
I’m still in awe of the wonderful humans I’ve had the honor of working with during a worldwide pandemic. I’ve watched these couples lean into the hard conversations and into the mess, only to come out on the other side, ready to say their vows with a deeper understanding of what those words truly mean.
My husband and I have a theory about engagements and marriage. It’s merely anecdotal, based on our own experience and that of our friends. We believe that if you have a tough engagement, your first year of marriage will be a little easier. On the flipside, if your engagement is a cakewalk, the first year of marriage might prove to be a little trickier. Every relationship will go through the hard stuff at one point or another, so why not get some practice in during your engagement, right? These “COVID Couples” certainly had the opportunity to do so.
But wow — the weddings I’ve photographed these last 18 months that were forced to downsize, pivot, and change their plans — those weddings had some of the most romantic, intimate, and authentic moments I’ve ever witnessed. Fewer distractions, an abundance of time to visit with every guest, and so much intentionality between the couple.
Wedding culture can make us believe that we have to have “the perfect day,” based on standards that someone else has set. My hope is that as a culture, we would begin to place more value on preparing for a lifetime together.
If you’re married to your person for 50 years, that’s 18,250 days together. ONE of those 18,250 is your wedding day. How much energy is spent preparing for that one day, and how much is spent preparing for the remaining 18,249?
This pandemic may very well have changed wedding culture forever. But you know what? I think we needed it.
Kelsey Walne is a natural light wedding and portrait photographer based out of Columbus, Ohio. Her coffee is always cold (because...kids), she loves a good messy bun, afternoon naps are her jam, and she's a big fan of capturing the abundant joy that exists among her clients.