Photography by Annabel of Belathee and Micaiah Carter via instagram.com/elainewelteroth
Holding love close in the era of social distance
What if we told you that, in some way, the global COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder to the wedding industry that love transcends all?
This year, couples from all over the world continue to make the heartbreaking decision to cancel, postpone, or adjust their wedding plans.
Elaine Welteroth—the New York Times best-selling author, Project Runway judge, and former editor in chief of Teen Vogue—is one of those brides. Like many brides this year, Elaine and her now-husband, Jonathan Singletary, drastically changed their wedding plans to comply with COVID-19 regulations and protect the health of their family and friends. The reflections along the way from Elaine’s wedding day are what 2020 is all about.
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In a recent interview with Vogue, Elaine recaps her love story with Jonathan, a story that begins when they were both around 12 years old meeting through church and growing up in Northern California. This wasn’t love at first sight; it wasn’t until February 2014 that there was a love interest between the two. After dating for two and a half years, in December 2016, Jonathan proposed to Elaine at a family holiday dinner.
When the couple started the wedding-planning process, they went through a few location ideas and finally settled on the rolling hills of San Diego. The wedding was to take place on Sunday, 5-10-20, which became a meaningful date for Elaine and Jonathan. After all, it was Mother’s Day. The couple’s wedding plans became a tribute to their mothers, and the date became significantly special. Sunday was also the day they’d met as kids.
“The couple envisioned every detail with the help of their wedding planner, Mindy Weiss. An elevated…Sunday-gospel-brunch wedding with elegantly plated soul food and a festive black-tie dress code.” – www.vogue.com
As the world tried to navigate the impact and global spread of COVID-19, it soon became clear that Elaine and Jonathan’s dream wedding wasn’t going to happen. They both felt overwhelming waves of denial, but as reality started to set in, they were reminded of the meaning of their wedding, their chosen date, and their three-and-a-half-year-long engagement.
Elaine was inspired by the online messages saying, “Love Cannot Be Cancelled,” and she and Jonathan were determined to tie the knot on their special date of 5-10-20.
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Within weeks, the couple completely changed their wedding concept to a virtual wedding. They traded the Bay Area’s rolling hills for their Brooklyn stoop and had most of their guests tune in virtually, except for a handful of local guests, including their mothers.
Elaine and Jonathan’s Brooklyn stoop decor featured a whimsical floral arch that framed the front door and was the centerpiece for their virtual wedding. The couple was challenged to find creative ways to observe the social-distancing guidelines in place by Governor Cuomo, including maintaining six feet of distance at all times. Elaine created a standing chart and wrote guests’ names on the sidewalk in chalk to ensure everyone was six feet apart. In-person guests danced in the street and on the sidewalk while keeping a distance from one another. The couple shared their DJ song list with their virtual families so that they too could celebrate from afar.
In the midst of chaos, we are all reminded of what truly matters, what it means to truly celebrate love. For Elaine and Jonathan, it became more about setting aside the ideals and getting back to the rawness of why they were getting married and what it meant for them to continue this journey when circumstances seemed imperfect and chaotic.
Elaine’s motto for her virtual wedding was, “Do the best you can with what you have.” And that’s exactly what she did to make her wedding day “nothing short of magical.”
Historically the term “wedding reception” was coined because of the literal meaning of “reception:” the action of receiving something. The couple receives their community for the first time as a newly married couple; likewise, their friends and family receive the newlyweds as a married couple.
Elaine and Jonathan’s wedding did just that. “The wedding became a communal effort. Whether it was jumping in to DJ, or donating a piece from their own closet to help us pull our wedding looks together, everyone in our tribe contributed something special to the celebration,” Elaine says in her interview with Vogue.
The wedding industry has had an opportunity to truly slow down and help couples reflect and prioritize the aspects of their wedding day that are meaningful to them. We are reminded that love transcends all.