It's no secret that Brittany Thomas and Wilson Schwam are already married, but after scaling back their 2020 dream wedding to a brief ceremony with a tight circle of family and friends, they've scheduled a more festive celebration six months in.
"Our original date was 10/10/2020," said Thomas, citing coronavirus concerns as the reason they took a pass on a large gathering last year.
For their do-over, they've chosen a date that's similarly memorable: 4/3/21.
This, she said, will be their final countdown to wedded bliss.
That fun quirk of the calendar has attracted many brides and grooms to the first Saturday in April. Operators of Chattanooga-area wedding venues say they often see a pause in bookings over an Easter weekend. Not so this year. Not when the date is a once-in-a-lifetime numerical sequence. Not even when the coronavirus remains a menace.
"We actually have four [weddings] that day," said Kaitlyn Camp, sales manager at The Catering Companies, which operates 901 Lindsay, The Mill, The Car Barn and Bell Mill Mansion, where Thomas and Schwam will say their second round of "I do's."
The coronavirus torpedoed many wedding plans in 2020 and played havoc with the $78 billion wedding industry, which includes florists, photographers, caterers, gown and tuxedo retailers, venue owners and other small businesses. Couples who'd spent thousands of dollars in down payments and months planning every detail were understandably reluctant to put all those plans on hold. Sometimes the decisions were made for them as governments imposed limits on large gatherings in the interest of public health.
But not all the news was bad. In a survey of more than 7,600 couples by wedding website The Knot, 93% said they adjusted, rather than canceled, their nuptials in 2020, either by changing the date or the size of the wedding.
"Anybody who was getting married in April or May of last year, they pushed it back to fall," said Nancy Sellers, venue director at Fillauer Lake House and Barn in Cleveland, Tennessee. "And some got pushed back to this year."
Sellers said her spring calendar was "wiped clean" with cancellations as the coronavirus emerged in March 2020. By May, her phone started ringing with couples saying they didn't want to wait but didn't want to risk bringing a room full of guests together. They wanted something quick and simple.
"I called them 'minimonies' [short for mini-ceremonies]," Sellers said. "I had three in a row, three weekends. They would come; they would have their little ceremony with 10 or 12 people out in front of the house. They took pictures and left. They didn't stay for a reception or anything.
"All three of those, the [original] venue canceled on them," she said. "None of it was big, but it was better than nothing."
Likewise, Thomas and Schwam were ready to begin their lives as a married couple last October, but they worried about the 175 RSVPs, which included guests who were elderly or otherwise at risk.
"We made our decision out of an abundance of caution," Thomas said. "There were people in my family I wanted to consider. I was looking at my own family as a reflection of other people's families. I didn't want to be the cause of any stress."
Instead of the big wedding they'd envisioned, they gathered parents, grandparents and siblings for a small ceremony at a Chattanooga country club. Instead of her wedding gown, Thomas wore the dress she'd planned to wear at the rehearsal dinner.
Having their official ceremony in October has had the added benefit of taking some of the pressure off the "big day," Thomas said. Saturday's event will be a smaller crowd, about 100 attendees, because of Easter obligations for some of the guests. But she and Schwam "feel like we've got this," she said.
"It's [normally] such a crazy day, you don't get to absorb every drop of the experience," she said. "I already know it's going to be a dream. I feel like I can be excited about the experience without having to stress out."
As for which day they'll commemorate in the years to come, it will probably be both 10/10/2020 and 4/3/21 since both days have meaning to them. "We're calling them our 'semi-versaries,'" Thomas said.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.