Getting married during a pandemic: Couples exchange vows in social distancing weddings

DARTMOUTH, Mass. — While many couples have postponed their weddings until next year due to the coronavirus outbreak, others are moving forward with their nuptials on a smaller scale while practicing social distancing.

Lisabeth and Brandon DePina, of New Bedford, posed for pictures on their wedding day, Saturday, wearing custom-made masks and holding in-demand supplies, including toilet paper, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer and tissues.

The New Bedford couple were determined to get married on the date they had selected months before, even if it meant changing the venue and scrapping most of their plans because of the pandemic and a ban on large gatherings.

The newlyweds, who have been together for 11 years, felt it was time to get married, no matter what obstacles were in their way. They also wanted to make sure their elderly grandparents were able to attend.

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“I never lost hope,” Lisabeth said. “No matter what was going to happen, on April 18, I knew that I was going to marry my best friend.”

What was originally a 300-person wedding at their church with a reception at a Westport event hall morphed into a last-minute venue that has a special place in the DePinas’ hearts: the campground at Smith Mills in Dartmouth, where they both have been camp counselors for more than a decade.

“I proposed this last year at the camp meeting in front of all of our friends and all of our teens,” Brandon said. “It was awesome. And my mom suggested, ‘Why not just do it at camp?’”

The bride and groom, who both work for Nazarene Christian Academy, were already proficient at Zoom because of online classes. They enlisted the help of their friends, who doubled as photographers, and more than 60 devices were logged in to Zoom, with as many as 100 friends and family members watching the ceremony live.

Dozens sat in their cars watching the happy couple exchange vows. After the ceremony, the newlyweds walked out into brutal New England weather to a socially distant reception in the parking lot. Guests beeped their horns and cheered, blew bubbles and tossed flowers.

Only a few immediate family members were allowed inside, seated a safe distance apart from one another.

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“Just in a couple days, it’s amazing when you have the support system you do, they just put their minds to it – you can do anything,” Brandon said. “It was such a blessing to have people we love go all out knowing that we wanted this day to happen.”

The DePinas plan to have a larger celebration next year. In the meantime, husband and wife are honeymooning in a local hotel, while still working, instead of relaxing on the beach in Punta Cana.

Despite the change in plans, the couple feel blessed to have their health, their jobs, their family and each other.

“It ended up being so perfect,” Lisabeth said. “We ended up having people that we love there. I couldn’t have asked for anything different. I can’t wait, because we kind of get to do it again, in the way that we planned. So, no matter what, we’re going to get that day.”

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