From Zoom weddings to backyard ceremonies, Southwest couples get creative

married in the Lyndale Park
Mike and Hanna Basel were married in the Lyndale Park Peace Garden on April 25. Submitted photo

Around 5:30 a.m. on April 27, Hanna Zipes Basel began preparing for her wedding celebration alone. With her fiance, Mike, getting ready in the room next door, she carefully applied her makeup in a mirror and curled her blond hair before slipping into her wedding dress. 

After meeting in the hallway of their Kingfield home, the bride and groom began packing the back of their car with rose petals, flowers, masks and gloves. Their new foster puppy, Winston, sat in the back seat as the couple drove to the Lyndale Park Peace Garden to exchange their vows. 

Although this ceremony wasn’t in their original wedding plan, the Basels said they didn’t want to wait to get married. With a small group of close family and friends standing 6 feet apart, the two wed on a bridge in the park, receiving a handful of congratulatory hollers from pedestrians walking by.

With many weddings in Southwest Minneapolis temporarily on hold due to social distancing measures, some couples are getting creative with the way they’re celebrating this important milestone. From virtual dance parties to Zoom weddings, many brides said they are planning to celebrate their wedding in some way now and host a larger party in the future. 

For Kavita Kumar and her fiance, Saibu Sharma, canceling their wedding was a big disappointment. The Kingfield couple had planned a two-day event complete with a DJ, coordinated dances, an ice cream truck and a full ceremony with 250 guests. 

But while the wedding is on hold, they didn’t want to postpone celebrating.

On April 11 — the day their wedding would have been held at a venue near the Mississippi — Kumar’s doorbell rang from morning to night as friends dropped off gifts and well wishes. One friend brought flowers and another hand-delivered takeout from Spoon and Stable.

In the evening, Kumar and Sharma hosted a Zoom dance party, with some attendees tuning in from the Netherlands and Nepal.

Dressed in one of the outfits she was thinking of wearing to her original reception, Kumar gave a toast to her 100 virtual guests, and they all danced together to music picked out by their original DJ. 

“We were kind of joking that, ‘I think it might have been more fun than an actual wedding reception,’” Kumar said. “Given the stress that everyone’s been feeling I think it was a much-needed relief for everybody.”

As per tradition with an Indian wedding ceremony, Kumar had planned to perform a coordinated dance with her sisters and cousins as part of a pre-wedding event at The Neu Neu in the North Loop. Despite their change of plans, she said they still kept practicing the dance together via video chat — her sisters calling in from New York and Amsterdam. During the Zoom party, they all performed the dance together, each in their separate homes.

For now, Kumar’s future wedding date keeps fluctuating. From April 11 it moved to July 4, before being pushed back to late August. The current date now rests in mid-October but is subject to change. Their plan is to get legally married with a small ceremony at the courthouse this summer or fall, waiting for an in-person celebration until their families are able to come.

Sangeet pre-wedding celebration
Kavita Kumar’s fiance, Saibu Sharma, pours champagne during their virtual Sangeet pre-wedding celebration on April 11. Submitted photo

Hard on the industry

For local wedding planners, florists and photographers, the indefinite postponement of weddings, especially big ones, comes at a price.

Nathalie Johnson, owner of Chez Bloom in Kingfield, has lost around $85,000 due to wedding postponements since mid-March. Although she is still busy with Mother’s Day bouquets and daily flower deliveries, she said it’s been hard to adjust. 

Johnson has been issuing full refunds to her clients while keeping their original contracts intact. Because of her strong connection with her clients, Johnson said she’s confident most will still hire her for their wedding at some point in the future. 

With potentially fewer people wanting to travel to weddings for years to come, Johnson said local florists and other vendors worry about the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 on their businesses. 

“Right now, people are just kind of paralyzed,” she said. “I just don’t know when we’re going to book another 300-person wedding.”

Alyssa Lund-Kyrola, a wedding photographer based in Lyndale, said she loves photographing people enjoying each other’s company.

“[With] the couples whose weddings I work at, their biggest excitement and joy of getting married is bringing their communities together,” Lund-Kyrola said. “So it has been heartbreaking to see them grappling with how to adapt their plans to include their community but in different ways. They’re having to change plans they’ve made months or years in advance.”

virtual bachelorette party
Jason Kallsen from Twin Cities Wine Education leads a wine tasting during Danica Gardiner’s May 2 virtual bachelorette party. The party was organized as a surprise by one of Gardiner’s sisters and the group also played the newlywed game. Submitted photo

Zoom wedding

Fulton resident Danica Gardiner is in the middle of planning a Zoom wedding. 

Pending approval by the Minneapolis Park Board, Gardiner wants to celebrate her wedding in June in Theodore Wirth Regional Park. (Some of her backup plans include hosting it in a friend’s backyard or, if faced with bad weather, her own living room.)

Due to the governor’s social distancing guidelines, couples originally had to cancel any outdoor weddings they had planned to have in a Minneapolis park. Now, the Park Board is starting to issue low-impact outdoor wedding permits that allow a couple to sign up for a one-hour time slot and hold their ceremony in any park with up to 10 attendees present.

But the guest limit — and the fact that Gardiner and her fiance, Andrew Elvester, have older parents and many close friends working in health care — means many of their friends and family will need to attend the wedding remotely. After finding an online Zoom wedding planner based out of Denver, the couple plans to hold a virtual ceremony. 

Gardiner’s 6-year-old flower girl, Ruby, and 4-year-old ring bearer, River, live in Seattle but will be recorded walking down the “aisle” of their own backyard. Gardiner’s grandmother and Elvester’s sister also plan to read poetry for the service.

Although it was difficult coming to terms with the fact that her father would not be able to walk her down the aisle, Gardiner said she has tried to preserve as many wedding rituals as she can. Her husband won’t see her in her dress until the ceremony, and she was still able to have a virtual bachelorette party. The couple also plans to mail sparkling wine to all of their guests who will be tuning in so they can still make a virtual toast.

“We will have a unique wedding, one that is apparently becoming the norm, but hopefully won’t be the norm forever,” Gardiner said with a laugh. “I’m excited more than anything. … From the get-go, we agreed that the No. 1 most important thing to us was that we were marrying each other.”

Mike and Hanna Basel were married in the Lyndale Park Peace Garden on April 25. Submitted photo

Kavita Kumar’s fiance, Saibu Sharma, pours champagne during their virtual Sangeet pre-wedding celebration on April 11. Submitted photo

Jason Kallsen from Twin Cities Wine Education leads a wine tasting during Danica Gardiner’s May 2 virtual bachelorette party. The party was organized as a surprise by one of Gardiner’s sisters and the group also played the newlywed game. Submitted photo