‘It just takes a bride and a groom’: COVID-19 derailed the weddings of two Lawrence couples, but they don’t regret a thing
photo by: Tad Freeman
Will Dietz and Melanie Freeman-Dietz found their wedding venue the day they said “I do.” Maya León and Jonathan Robbins moved the date of their wedding twice — the second time, to later that same day.
These last-minute changes weren’t due to poor organization. The two Lawrence couples had been planning their weddings for months. But when the time came for them to get hitched the third weekend in March, COVID-19 had become a serious concern in Kansas and the nation as a whole. Both couples, thrown for a loop, decided to still get married, coming together at a time when so much was falling apart.
“If a married couple can tie the knot in the middle of a pandemic, it seems like they can probably get through anything,” León said.
Freeman-Dietz is a seamstress, and she regularly works on wedding dresses. She’s no stranger to the stresses of the occasion. But up until the week of her own, she and Dietz had been smooth-sailing.
“I thought we were going to have the easiest-planned wedding out there,” she said. “It wasn’t until really the week before that COVID really threw us a loop.”
Guests started dropping like flies. The couple canceled their reception. Gatherings were limited to 50 people. Their wedding venue wouldn’t allow for more than 10, and Dietz and Freeman-Dietz had about 20 guests in town. So, the morning of their wedding date, they brainstormed new locations.
At 5 p.m. that day, Saturday, March 21, the couple met at Sesquicentennial Point, prepped with masks made of their own wedding gown and tuxedo material.
photo by: Hallie Sigwing Photography
Two days earlier, León and Robbins had been scrambling to get things in place for their big day.
The couple was also originally set to be married on March 21, but when COVID-19 wreaked similar havoc on their plans, the couple decided to get married at the Douglas County Courthouse on March 20. All of their guests had canceled except for one, the best man, who had traveled from North Carolina.
León called the courthouse the morning of March 19 to make sure they were still on for the next day. Yes, they were, she was told, but with the rules changing so rapidly, the ceremony might have to be outdoors.
That day was beautiful. The forecast for the following day? Frigid and bleak.
“I turned to my then-fiance and said, ‘It looks like we might be doing this today,'” León recalled. They rescheduled to that afternoon.
The couple had about six hours to prepare. They put their dog in day care, León did her own hair, makeup and nails, and the couple attempted to avoid seeing each other as they got ready in the same apartment.
There wasn’t much hugging going on at Dietz’s and Freeman-Dietz’s wedding.
The bride’s and groom’s families separated themselves at the park. But despite the social distancing, the couple was happy to celebrate with at least some of their family and friends nearby. More joined in online — a guest streamed their wedding on Facebook.
Freeman-Dietz said the park was a beautiful setting.
“It was picturesque. It really looked like we planned it that way,” she said. Dietz had scouted out the location that morning.
Freeman-Dietz wore her wedding dress — there was no way she wasn’t going to, the seamstress noted — and Dietz was in his tux. The whole event took a little under an hour. After the wedding, the couple cut cake and opened a bottle of champagne.
For León and Robbins, it was a slightly less traditional affair. León didn’t feel comfortable wearing her wedding dress to the courthouse, so she decided on white pants, a white shirt and a floral suit jacket.
The judge told the couple he had never done a wedding before.
“That’s okay, neither have I,” Robbins responded.
During the ceremony, the couple had the judge read Tibetan Buddhist wedding vows. They both practice Nichiren Buddhism. They had forgotten to share their own personal vows, but that was okay, León noted. It gave them the opportunity to read them to each other in private that night.
‘One for the books’
Neither couple said they regretted anything about the day of their wedding.
“At the end of the day what we really wanted was to get married,” León said. “And, like my grandma said, ‘It just takes a bride and a groom.'”
Dietz and Freeman-Dietz said one of the most memorable parts of their wedding day was rewatching their wedding video that night. The couple watched the Facebook live video that had been published earlier that day, and Freeman-Dietz enjoyed seeing friends’ comments pop up throughout the video. Some even posted pictures of themselves drinking wine while watching the ceremony on their computer, noting that they will celebrate with the couple in person soon.
photo by: Melanie Freeman-Dietz
Dietz called their wedding “one for the books.”
“All my friends would say that when it comes down to wedding stories, we’re going to always win,” he said.
León and Robbins will remember a “serendipitous” moment after the ceremony, when they saw a vintage car on the street and took pictures next to it, pretending it was their glamorous ride. But, really, the whole day was serendipitous.
photo by: Tad Freeman
“It was just funny that the happiest moment of our lives was when we just decided to let go of all of our plans,” Robbins said.
“You would think you would feel really let down by the whole thing,” León noted, “but it really did feel like the best day of my life.”
When asked what he would tell his hypothetical kids about his wedding day, Robbins said that two people who care about each other will be fine, no matter the difficulty.
“I would just say that no matter what, if you know who you really love, nothing’s going to stop you from being together, even if the world is falling apart,” he said.