Family, friends watch online as couples tie the knot in low-key ceremonies
St. John's photographer Anja Sajovic has worked plenty of weddings over the years, but her most recent gig snapping a loving couple came with an added twist — she had to serve as a witness, too.
"Because there could be five people max, they asked me how I would feel about being also a witness. They said, 'If you don't feel OK, let us know. We'll figure it out.' But I was fine with it. You know, multi-tasking."
Under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, recent wedding ceremonies could not proceed as couples may have originally envisioned, with public health measures in Newfoundland and Labrador allowing five people (now 10, as of Monday) — a marriage commissioner, two witnesses and the soon-to-be newlyweds — to participate in the event. But that's not stopping couples from having a great time celebrating their love for each other.
"It was better than I ever thought it could be," said Ashley Harding of St. John's, who married David Tracey on Easter Sunday in the couple's bedroom.
It's the biggest room in their house and they moved just about everything out of it prior to the ceremony.
"When we finally decided to do it, we were really nervous that we would regret it, and we know that we won't regret it, because it was really nice."
While only five people were present in the room for the wedding, many more watched it elsewhere. Approximately 50 people tuned in on Facebook and a further 25 did the same through Zoom, an online video conferencing program that's become increasingly popular during the pandemic.
"We didn't realize how wonderful it was going to be for us," Harding said. "We were mostly by ourselves that day. We didn't have the stress of everything, running around. I used Zoom early in the morning to talk to my mom and my future mother-in-law, and then again I used it as I put my dress on. I talked with some of my girlfriends while I was getting ready. And then we were by ourselves taking pictures with just us and Anja.
“When we got online and we could see people, it was just so pleasant, nice and sweet to see people commenting online and then talk to them all each individually after for a bit. I think it was the perfect way to do it."
Harding and Tracey officially were engaged in October and planned a simple ceremony followed by a reception at Quidi Vidi Brewery on April 12, 2020.
As businesses in St. John's started to close in March, the couple became concerned about their wedding plans. Harding is originally from Sydney, N.S., and Tracey is from London, Ont., so their initial instinct was to postpone it if their parents could not attend. But after talking more with family, the couple decided go ahead with the wedding.
"What brought me hope is I was able to get my mom to use technology, to use Zoom," Harding said.
They already had a friend lined up to become a marriage commissioner for the ceremony, and the commissioner's husband served as a witness along with Sajovic, who also snapped photos of the couple at the Delta Hotel and Harbourside Park in St. John's.
"I was kind of nervous leading up to it," the photographer admitted. "But we talked so much about it and all of the safety procedures. By the end of it, I was well aware that they're taking this seriously."
Tape was added to the floor to show where each person could stand in the room, with Sajovic getting a corner she could move around in. She wore a face mask for the ceremony. It may end up being her only wedding to shoot this year — Sajovic said all her other bookings have been postponed to 2021.
Like Harding and Tracey, Keith and Jenn Horlick of Mount Pearl decided to go ahead with their wedding plans. It was always their intention to get hitched in the couple's large backyard, with a reception to follow at the Soccer Hut.
However, they decided to move the wedding up from August to May 2. The gathering was just a smidgen larger than Harding and Tracey's, with Jenn's brother, sister and parents joined by Keith's brother and parents, plus the marriage commissioner.
Lots of room
"Everybody was separated by six feet or more within the yard, and we were six feet from the commissioner, and I also had the iPad set up for my best friend in Alberta," the bride told The Telegram. "Anyone who wanted to wear their gloves, mask and everything, that was fine. That was already here for them to use."
"It was actually perfect," added the groom. "We're not religious, so we weren't going to have it in any kind of church or anything, and we figured we have a really nice, big backyard, so we might as well utilize that."
"It's just your regular pandemic wedding," Jenn joked.
The celebration after the wedding was kept simple. The newlyweds took a nap and went on with their day.
"It was just kind of like any regular day," Jenn said with a laugh. "He played poker with his friends online that night, and I was talking to my friends online that night. A few virtual drinks, I had."
Meanwhile, the August booking at the Soccer Hut is still in place, and the Horlicks may hold a get-together with family and friends if public health measures makes it permissible to do so by then.
Harding and Tracey would also like to hold some sort of larger celebration at a later date.