Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Our Wedding Day: 12.12.2020

Photography by Laura Wills

"COVID, snowstorms... nothing could prevent us from being here this afternoon with Nate and Libby as they join together in holy matrimony today." - Fr. Ray McHenry

When Nate and I first got engaged, we knew we wanted a large, black tie wedding. We have so many friends and family across the state of Iowa, as well as the country, and we wanted everybody there to celebrate with us. I also come from a large and loud German-Catholic family who love nothing more than a big party, so my parents were thrilled when we all agreed to a large wedding. We booked vendors, took engagement pictures and asked our best friends and family to be in our wedding party. Well, we all know what happened soon after in March - COVID.

I remember telling Nate right at the beginning: "We may have to rethink our plans. What if people get sick at our wedding?" However, we had 9 long months before our scheduled date, and we figured that was plenty of time for a cure to be found, vaccines to be distributed and life to go back to normal. We confidently sent out save the date cards and continued planning. Sometime in July, Nate and I took a vacation on Lake Okoboji. We spent our days on the lake, just the two of us, relaxing on the boat and getting away from literally the whole world (and wedding planning). At one point, after many discussions about our wedding and a few cocktails, we both broke down. The thought of our wedding becoming a "super-spreader event" was just too much. We both knew people who had contracted the virus, and those who'd unfortunately passed away. At that point, it wasn't looking likely we'd have a cure or vaccines by December. Ultimately, our wedding plans did not match how seriously we felt about the COVID-19 virus, and we had to make changes.

Now, before I move on, I want to make a little note. These were Nate and I's personal feelings and are in no way a judgement of people who did have large weddings in 2020. Having planned a wedding in 2020 and formerly working in the events industry, I understand the unique circumstances for couples where they may not have had the luxury to postpone/reduce their wedding due to hard circumstances, like poor health conditions for family members or potential of financial loss, etc., even if they had the same concerns we did. I also experienced criticism from well-intentioned individuals even though we limited our guest list to immediate family. I say this all to encourage couples or those who are also facing hard decisions like these to do what works best for your situation, and also to give those who are facing these decisions some grace! It's easy to assume that the decision to hold a large event during a pandemic is selfish, however there's a lot more that goes into the decision than what's perceived as the right or responsible thing to do. I hope this doesn't come across as brash - I simply understand the complexity of a decision  such as this one! 

Once we made the difficult decision to reduce our guest list, we spent a couple weeks mourning what was our original wedding, however we both felt better about things, and eventually we were able to replan our wedding with the help of some of our vendors. Although we had some minor glitches here and there, we were able to find a smaller venue quickly and all but one of our original vendors were able to adjust with us (we did not change our date, so that helped tremendously). I can't say enough good things about our vendors (all listed below!). They truly made our day so special and were a breeze to work with. 

One of the biggest surprises of our wedding was the weather! The week of our wedding, the weather had been 50-60 degrees, which is soooo warm for December in Iowa! We really wanted a snowy, winter wedding however we weren't complaining! We knew it might snow sometime around our wedding so we were hopeful we'd get a snowy day. Sure enough, sometime around the start of our rehearsal dinner, the snow started coming down and we woke up the next morning with the most gorgeous snow! It was seriously like a fairy tale, almost as if someone from heaven sent down the most perfect gift for us. 

Our wedding really was the best day of our lives. Our wedding was nothing like we originally planned, and yet Nate and I agree it was truly the type of wedding we never knew we wanted. My favorite part of our day was the ceremony. One thing you may not know about me is that I have slight stage fright. The thought of standing up in front of a lot of people on our wedding day gave me anxiety. With the smaller group of just our immediate family, I felt like I could really take in every second of the mass; from the Bible readings read by my parents, to our vows, receiving Eucharist as husband and wife and our first kiss! It was one of most relaxing times of the entire day, and I'm so happy to have such solid memories of that moment. 

Since getting married, Nate and I both talk about how differently things feel (in a good way!). We're no longer just Nate and Libby, but truly one unit and one family, with God at the center. Every decision we make and every moment seems more meaningful and joyous now that we are one. Of course, we are still in the "honeymoon phase" and are on a high since becoming husband and wife. We know marriage comes with lots of ups and downs, and we will have challenges that test us. Whatever our future holds for us, I'm just excited to do it together, officially as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. 

If you're still reading this long post... thank you for your support and well wishes! 

Lastly... I know I keep saying this, but I can't say enough good things about our vendors who have now become like family since our wedding! One of our goals at the start of wedding planning was to really try and use mostly local/Iowa vendors, and I encourage you to check them out below. They were all wonderful to work with.

with love, 



Church: St. Ambrose Cathedral - Downtown Des Moines 

Venue: Des Moines Embassy Club 

Styling and Floral: Stuart Alexander Productions

Photography: Laura Wills Photography

Film: D. Barrett Studios

Dress: Allure Bridals via Bridal Boutique 

Groom's Tux: Mr. B

Custom Faux Fur Wrap: Kaitlyn Dornbier 

Bridal Robe 

Makeup: Ivy Boyd

Hair: J. Michaels Salon (Bride's hair: Janelle Nekola)

Nail Color

Menu Cards and Stationary: Ephemera Design

Favors: Chocolate Storybook 

Tans: Emberglow Custom Spray Tans

Cake: Glorious Desserts 

Bands & Bride/Groom Gifts: Josephs Jewelers (we worked with Mikell Morris)

Hotel: Hilton Des Moines Downtown

Transportation: Luxxor Limosines 

Girl's Gifts: Bracelets via Olive & Piper // Monogram Toiletry Bag: Give.

Flower Girl Basket

Ring Bearer Pillow

Champagne Flutes

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