‘Corona brides’ stay positive amidst uncertainty


CW / Madison Ely. Photos contributed by April Whinery Photography.

Annabelle Blomeley, Staff Reporter

Self-proclaimed “corona brides” are struggling to navigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their spring and summer 2020 weddings. Despite the uncertainty, these three brides are facing the challenge head-on, remaining positive as they are forced to reimagine their big days. 

Wedding planning can be full of anxiety and tough decisions for many, but the brides and grooms planning spring and summer 2020 weddings have been forced to combat an unprecedented obstacle.  

With only five days between her and her big day, AnnaCarrol Marie Arnold had to cancel her wedding. Opting instead for a smaller ceremony, which took place a mere 24 hours before the Tuscaloosa citywide curfew commenced, Arnold and her groom were forced to reconcile with the changes that the novel coronavirus imposed on their wedding.

“My initial feeling at the thought of changing my wedding was close to devastation, as the wedding was only five days away and we had already made it so close,” Arnold, a UA law student, said. “Every single day until I made the announcement, I was holding out hope that we could make it to the wedding date despite the virus.”

Arnold debated for six days about whether to postpone her wedding, but when the Alabama Department of Public Health prohibited all gatherings of 25 or more people, she knew she had to.

“A huge factor in deciding the ultimate fate of our wedding was the health and safety of some of our family and friends, especially my grandparents, as they are all between the ages of 78 and 86,” Arnold said. “I did not want them to be exposed to the virus due to any selfishness on our part. In addition, we had friends in our bridal party coming in from Houston and Atlanta, and two of my bridesmaids were beginning to feel uncomfortable about participating in even a small gathering. In the end, we knew that only being able to have 25 people in attendance standing 6 feet apart was not what we had envisioned for our wedding day.”

Though her original plans were disrupted, Arnold said that she’s looking forward to the reception being held at a later time so that she can finally see her dream wedding come to life. 

“When I announced that the wedding was postponed, I received so many kind messages and responses,” Arnold said. “Several family members and friends reached out saying that they loved us and were thinking of us. We were thanked for being ‘smart, responsible young people’ rather than thinking of ourselves during this time.”

Like Arnold, Laura Lee Wilhite, a graduate student studying hospitality management, has had to rethink her wedding plans due to COVID-19. Initially scheduled for late April, Wilhite’s wedding reception will be postponed to August 2020. However, she’s still having a small wedding on the original date with only immediate family in attendance.

“Initially, I freaked out, if you want me to be completely honest,” Wilhite said. “I was like, ‘What am I about to do?’ I wasn’t able to eat or sleep for days at one point because this is so stressful.”

Wilhite said that her friends and family have been incredibly helpful during this time, reminding her to stay positive.

“I had to take a step back and realize that there was a bigger picture here,” Wilhite said. “We’re still going to get married.”

While many brides and grooms with late-summer wedding dates aren’t completely canceling their celebrations, they’re still left with the uncertainty of how long the pandemic might actually last.

Samantha Sandquist, whose wedding is still set for its original date in late August, said that even though her wedding hasn’t been canceled or rescheduled as others’ have, she’s still having to make changes to her big day.

“I think right now the big decision is how much more time and effort we want to put into it if we don’t even know if it’s going to happen,” Sandquist said. “There’s a lot of people whose weddings were much earlier than ours, and they are moving to August, so vendors are being way narrowed down. We’ve also had to call off our bachelor and bachelorette trips. And, at this time, we’re postponing a honeymoon because my fiance is a student and I’ve been out of work since Tuscaloosa had its bars and restaurants shut down.”

Sandquist, who has had the date of her wedding set for over a year, said that if she had to cancel her wedding, then she and her fiance would go to the courthouse and get married with only immediate family present.

“Our parents have put so much time, effort and money into it, and we’ve put time, effort and money into it,” Sandquist said. “Without an income coming in, it’s hard to justify putting more money into that when it’s still so up in the air.”

Sandquist said that if they have to have the wedding at the courthouse, they will have a larger celebration later in the year with the friends and family who could not attend.

“We’ve had a very long engagement, and so there’s been a lot of exciting emotions leading up to this special day,” Sandquist said. “You don’t think anything could really get in the way of [the wedding], and then it’s like your whole world is put on pause. So we’re having to take things day by day and appreciate everything that we still have.”