Jessica and Jake Yates had big plans for a sunshine-filled March wedding in Hawaii. But the quick spreading COVID-19 had other things in store for the happy couple.
The couple still made it to Hawaii themselves for the special day (Jake is newly stationed there with the Navy), but their many friends and family members who hoped to jet in for the occasion could not make it.
So Jessica and Jake used the popular video chatting platform, Zoom, to host their wedding ceremony from the comfort of their living room.
She looks back fondly on so many formative years in Delaware, including exciting games and strong friendships formed when she was on Ursuline’s field hockey team and the variety of community service projects and weekly spiritual trips she took as a senior at UA.
She also loved her four years at UD, with fond memories of trips to Dewey Beach and eating at favorite haunts like Kid Shelleen’s and The Border Cafe.
Jessica and Jake planned to get hitched on March 27, 2020, and guests were primed to travel from all over the country and as far as Belgium for a dream destination wedding. Jessica’s two sisters and father live there, and that’s where Jessica grew up until she moved with her mother to Delaware.
But on March 14th, everything changed. Travel restrictions went into effect because of COVID-19, leaving Jessica and Jake scrambling to make decisions. They, of course, wanted friends and family to take part in their wedding.
But Jessica said they were so close to their wedding date they thought it might be bad luck to switch. “You get sort of attached to the date,” she said.
The couple was not new to the idea of a long-distance romance. With Jessica from Delaware and Jake from New Jersey, they kept up their relationship when he was later stationed with the Navy in Florida and then Hawaii. Their relationship had been virtual up until about a month ago, when Jessica made the move to Hawaii – a week before their wedding date.
“Having to do something virtually — we kind of laughed at it and said now it’s kind of like our story. Our whole relationship has been virtual. So it was interesting when we were finally together, but now our families are the ones that are dialing into the things that are happening in our lives,” Jessica said.
The ceremony was created around a homemade A-frame, a makeshift ‘alter.’ Jessica’s daughter and dog sat on the couch nearby watching the wedding.
“We used the chiffon fabric that was supposed to be used for our actual ceremony. Then we had built some lanterns for the reception tables so we kind of put that on the side to make it look like an aisle runner,” Jessica said. “We tried using different photos and things we’ve given each other and kind of created together.”
One positive aspect of their virtual wedding was the number of guests who were able to ‘attend.’ Only about 60 guests were going to be able to make it to Hawaii where over 100 people watched the ceremony from their homes. Their pastor also zoomed in and wed the two as planned.
Jake got to have pre drinks with his brothers, dad and one of his groomsmen over Zoom as well. After the ceremony which only lasted about ten minutes, the guests stayed on the call for about an hour and half after and had a virtual reception.
They even had a traditional first dance. Jessica recorded the ceremony to be able to look back on.
Regular Zoom calls cut off after 40 minutes, but the call never cut off. Jessica is unsure how this worked out, but their wedding must have been lucky.
Jessica wore her bachelorette dress and is saving the real wedding gown for the reception the couple currently plans to have on July 16th. Guests have gotten vouchers for plane tickets and accommodations such as Airbnb they will be able to use.
“We have wedding rings and we have a certificate,” Jessica said when it came to if she felt any different after the ceremony, “It’s not like there’s a switch that just automatically changes.”
Jessica admitted to asking her friends if she’ll feel any different after an actual ceremony. They assured her they felt the same way she was.
Jessica and Jake Yates, like so many others during this time, adapted. One of the biggest days may not have been what they originally planned, but they made it work. They can look back at this uneasy time as one full of love.