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Commentary: 2 weddings and a funeral, COVID-style

Family and friends pushed through to do what they had to do during the pandemic. For the weddings, they ended up being even more memorable.

Max & Casey
Max and Casey water a tree during their COVID wedding ceremony this past fall. The couple planted the tree in their backyard and it is a symbol of their love growing together. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

Two weddings and a funeral.

2020 was not the year, really, for either, though obviously weddings are planned ahead of time and funerals, well it’s harder to plan for those.

These life changing moments were altered during the pandemic and, to quote the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral” — “Nothing either of us can do on this one. Such is life.” So it was for the two couples I know who had weddings planned in 2020, though they did something about it and were able to tie the knot.

But getting there wasn’t easy. When the pandemic hit, Gov. Tim Walz began closing down businesses and adding restrictions to larger gatherings, such as weddings and concerts. COVID-19 restrictions changed by the minute, causing a lot of stress with the unknowns, such as when venues would reopen and then how many people would be allowed in once they reopened. It had to be just awful for all these couples planning a 2020 wedding, as planning a wedding without a pandemic is already stressful.

My nephew Max and his then fiancee Casey had plans to get married June 13, 2020, but postponed it to Oct. 10 as their venue closed. They made their announcement with class by stating — “Love is infectious ... BUT SO IS THE CORONAVIRUS” — in their new postcard invitation announcing their new wedding date. The announcement included a photograph of the two lovebirds holding a Corona beer, making a toast. Awwww, it was so adorable.


Max& Casey 2
Max and Casey smile and wait before they water this a during their COVID wedding ceremony this past fall. The couple planted the tree in their backyard and it is a symbol of their love growing together. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

Yes, Max and Casey were stressed. However, they kept a positive attitude, rolled with the punches and ended up having a beautiful outdoor fall wedding at my brother’s property with a very limited guest list. Luckily, I was invited! The ceremony was majestic, as the fall leaves slowly dropped as they were saying their vows. They couldn’t have asked for a more nice, sunny day.

“After five years of dating, 1.5 years of an engagement and three ceremony postponements due to COVID, we feel truly grateful that we were able to finally get married,” Max said. “In many ways, our wedding during COVID was more special than we could have imagined. We had ideal October weather and beautiful fall colors in an intimate backyard setting, which all combined to create the perfect way to celebrate our day while keeping our loved ones safe.”

Max said hosting the wedding in his parents’ yard allowed them to be creative and to have their own vision of what they wanted for their wedding while keeping their family involved.

“Plus, being able to have such a life event on the property I grew up on was truly a gift,” Max said. “We initially desired to have a large, 350-plus person wedding but wouldn’t change the way things turned out, even with the COVID restricted guest count.”

Max & Casey
Max and Casey water a tree during their COVID wedding ceremony this past fall. The couple planted the tree in their backyard and it is a symbol of their love growing together. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch


Like Max and Casey, my friends Jennifer and Yunior also were blessed with a beautiful October wedding day. They were lucky as they didn’t have to change their wedding date as it already had been planned for the fall of 2020. However, they still had all the added stressors of constantly wondering if their wedding venue would be closed or open. They also had to cut down a third of their guest list — not an easy task.

Jennifer’s mother and sister were able to offer suggestions on how to do things in a COVID-friendly manner, as her sister was married in July and had to readjust a lot of her own wedding plans. Her sister had to cut her guest list by half and wasn’t able to host a reception dinner.

Jennifer and Yunior, who have dated since June 2013, not only had COVID restrictions to worry about but the venue their reception was at changed hands. So the couple had to re-explain their entire detailed wedding story again to the new owners, all while waiting to see if the venue would be opened or closed. Thankfully it was open. They had to decrease their number of guests, among other restrictions, to follow the state guidelines.

Jennifer & Yunior
Jennifer and Yunior pose on their October 2020 wedding day. The couple pushed through all the changes they had to make their special day a reality. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

“It was always that unknown of what was going to happen,” Jennifer said while planning the wedding. “It was always in the back of our minds. We had to remind ourselves that the wedding would occur and it will be something that we will never forget. I mean, you never forget your wedding, but the extra circumstances make it more special and memorable.”

And just when things couldn’t get any more complicated or tough, Jennifer’s grandmother passed away a week before the wedding. COVID restrictions again came into play and the family was able to have a small gathering of immediate family in the funeral parlor to say goodbye to their loved one.

“It was a really busy and unexpected week,” Jennifer said. “I went through a lot of emotions dealing with my grandma passing away and going to her funeral service two days before Yunior and I would be walking down the aisle to say our I dos.”


The funeral

The worst part of the pandemic and state shutdown, in my opinion, were the deaths. Families weren’t able to be at their loved one’s side moments before their death and then weren’t able to have the traditional funeral service.

It was heartbreaking.

In the beginning, there were no funeral services whatsoever, but as months went by, people became creative and had drive-by services and some planned services at a later date. As state restrictions lifted, some were able to have a small gathering.

I wasn’t expecting to have a loved one pass away during the pandemic — but then again, no one ever does. My aunt Mary passed away this past August. It saddens me as during the pandemic, families weren’t able to get together so I wasn’t able to see her much. All the holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter — she was alone. It saddens me to think of the six months leading up to her death that she didn’t have much social interaction, she wasn’t able to get out of her apartment and I wonder how isolated she must have felt.

Aunt Mary died alone.

Aunt Mary
Aunt Mary

What puts a smile on my face now, though, is the thought that she is no longer alone. She is not in any pain.

My mother planned the services for her sister, which is already emotionally hard to do in and of itself, without having a COVID-19 pandemic adding more to the grief. However, my mother is a trouper and after some calls and creativeness, the result was a nice small gathering to put Aunt Mary to rest.

It was nice to hear everyone share stories of Mary, who truly was a free spirit when it came to life. She went skydiving, loved to sail and was a cat lover. Mary was one of the most creative people I’ve ever known. Mary always had an interesting story to tell, including the ones where she’d say with a giggle, “Don’t tell your mom.”

The stories were nice to hear, but it was sad as not all of Mary’s family and friends were present to say their goodbyes because of the pandemic — but it was a goodbye, to say the least.

It was a nice service and when I stop to think about it, this is what Mary would have preferred. She was a more private person and wouldn’t have wanted a large formal church service.

She will be missed and her spirit will live on, including her name. Many relatives thought we looked a lot alike, so they would call me Mary accidently. Growing up, it was kind of annoying. Now it will make me smile thinking of her.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.

Related Topics: CORONAVIRUS
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