The COVID-19 pandemic has hung over life and too many get-togethers in the last year. But the overcast can be lifted, and beautiful weddings can still be sacred events and treasured family …
The COVID-19 pandemic has hung over life and too many get-togethers in the last year. But the overcast can be lifted, and beautiful weddings can still be sacred events and treasured family memories.
Amanda Tracy and Colin Harnish overcame every challenge mounted by the pandemic, triumphing in an outdoor wedding at the Battershell riverside venue on the Shoshone River south of Powell on June 13, 2020.
Amanda is the daughter of Mike and Karrie Tracy of Powell, and Colin is the son of Gary and Sonya Harnish of Ranchester. The newlyweds met at Camp Bethel in the Bighorn Mountains where they were both on staff for two years.
Colin is presently the safety director of the University Wyoming Transportation System in Laramie and a part-time student as a senior at UW. Amanda, who started at UW, is a graduate of Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Missouri, and is back in Laramie. She hopes to enter graduate school at UW.
Planning with contingencies
COVID restrictions added a layer of variables to planning for the big day. The traditional church and reception hall settings were exchanged for the outdoor venue with intentional priority. A primary goal for Amanda and Colin was to have a wedding ceremony at which their elderly grandparents, who were pandemic-sheltering at home, would feel comfortable and protected enough to attend.
Creation of a guest list was strongly influenced by pandemic considerations. When wedding invitations were ordered, it wasn’t even known how many guests would be allowed to attend under the local authority guidelines for gatherings.
“We didn’t really know what the guidelines would be at the time of the wedding,” said Karrie Tracy, Amanda’s mother. “It was really interesting.”
It led to developing three different guest lists — one for 160 guests, one for 50 guests and one for only 10 guests in the event of the most extreme restrictions; that bare minimum would have allowed for only the bride and groom, their parents and grandparents.
In the end, in-person attendance guidelines in mid-June allowed for up to 50. That number accommodated the wedding party, immediate family members and a few close friends, Karrie said.
Others beyond 50 were not left out. Technology provided an answer.
The couple’s invitation had included a note, pledging to share “in whatever way circumstances will allow in these unexpected and changing times.” Making good on that vow, the bride and groom invited those who could not be included with in-person attendance to send their email addresses so they could be linked to a video of the wedding ceremony.
Because of connectivity issues in the river bottom setting, the wedding could not be live-streamed. But it was recorded, and a follow-up video was sent.
“I was happy about the rest (of intended guests) being able to see it by video,” bride Amanda said. “There were some people I wish could have come, but it was special because it was so small. It didn’t dampen the day,” she said.
Her mother agreed.
“We had to be happy with what we had,” Karrie said. “Life still has to go on. We are resilient. We can adapt. It was special.”
“My biggest prayer during the whole thing was that the ceremony would honor God. And I think it did,” she added.
Mixing tradition with technology
The limitation on guests at the ceremony wan’t the only complication of staging a wedding amid a pandemic. Simply getting together to make planning decisions was problematic.
Time and again, Zoom technology offered a solution to bring parties together on the computer screen when they couldn’t join in person. The bridal shower took place on Zoom, as well as the cherished ritual of trying on wedding dresses.
The dress try-on had particularly vexing moments. Several dresses were ordered and sent to sister Anya Tracy’s home in Denver, along with mother Karrie’s own wedding dress. The plan to gather in Denver had to be scrubbed when Colorado closed down travel from out-of-state.
“When Colorado shut the border down, that messed everything up,” Amanda related.
It led to an emotional meeting of Amanda and Anya at the border between Colorado and Wyoming to deliver back the dresses. The try-on went ahead via Zoom.
Another task that went to the computer screen on Zoom was the meeting of principals to make needed vendor selections.
“Zoom has been a real God-send for us,” said Karrie.
Love wins the day
Other safeguards that were implemented at the ceremony included assigned seating, absence of a receiving line and seating by households at the reception. There was no dancing at the reception other than the mother-son and father-daughter dances. Only the couple took communion, and food at the reception was served by gloved and masked servers.
Officiating at the wedding was Pastor Tim Huff, executive director of Camp Bethel.
Photos of a memorable occasion on a beautiful June day are in the album.
And for bride Amanda, memories don’t go to the pandemic and its restrictions.
“It was the best day,” she recalls. “It was great.”