We’ve all participated in video conferencing during this pandemic to keep in touch and stay close with friends and family. One trend has been to host and attend weddings that were not getting postponed or pushed back. Why wait for marriage when you can still have your close friends and family in attendance, even if they are hundreds of miles away? This is exactly what Emma and Gary did, just the two of them, celebrating their love along the Colorado River in Austin, TX. And let me tell you, it was absolutely beautiful.
Bride: Emma Woodyard (Zhang once this craziness is over – unfortunately, it’s impossible to change my name right now due to the pandemic)
Groom: Gary Zhang
May 16, 2020
Airbnb home in West Austin on the Colorado River
How did you and your partner meet? Tell me your story:
Gary and I met at work almost 5 years ago! I had moved to the Cincinnati, OH area from Denver, CO to start my first job out of college.
My first day, I sat down in the desk across from his! We worked in slightly different groups, but became friends quickly. He was really my first friend in Cincinnati! We were friends for over a year before we started dating. When we did start dating, it was so sweet to already have the foundation of friendship to deepen into love. We dated for 3.5 years, both long distance and in the same city. Fun fact, Mark actually came to visit Gary my first week of work, and Gary invited me out to a bar with them, so I met him early on too!
What were your original wedding plans pre-pandemic?
Our original wedding plan was to get married in my hometown of Littleton, CO on May 16th at Arrowhead Golf Course – it’s located in the mountains of Colorado and is super gorgeous and unique. We were naturally planning on having family and friends join us there, and doing bachelor/bachelorette parties a few days before the wedding there in Colorado. Our honeymoon was going to be staying at a hot springs resort in the mountains.
How do you choose to move forward with getting married vs. rescheduling to a later date?
We decided to move forward with getting married because we really didn’t want push it off any longer. We hadn’t been living together and had been dating for 3.5 years, and just wanted to move forward with that next level of commitment. We also knew that we wouldn’t be able to get married at our venue with our vendors until the fall at the earliest, but most dates were already full. Our fear was also that the pandemic wouldn’t be that much better later on, so we wanted to move forward with getting married rather than wait for who knows how long!
A lot of stress and tears went into that decision though, for sure! We didn’t want our families and friends to miss it, but made the difficult decision to move forward with basically an elopement – Gary and I were the only people physically at our wedding – our guests and even our officiant joined via Zoom. We felt bad about that, but knew it would be safest.
We live in Frisco, TX (a suburb of Dallas), and wanted to have a little getaway and had never been to Austin, so we decided to have our wedding there!
We realized it was a good compromise for missing out on our CO wedding – there’s some awesome outdoorsy activities and beautiful hills, lakes, and rivers in Austin that we were able to take advantage of.
Tell me a little bit about the experience you had on your wedding day!
I was bouncing between feeling stressed and at peace in the days leading up to the wedding (we cancelled our original plans and came up with these plans over the course of about 3-4 weeks, so it was kinda crazy), but our wedding day itself was absolutely wonderful – way better than I expected it would have been!
Gary and I set up our iPad stand and some decorations outside and had Chick-fil-a for breakfast that morning. Then, I went and got my hair and makeup done for the ceremony. When I came back, I got to have a Zoom call with my bridesmaids while I did the finishing touches of getting ready! We had our ceremony at 4:00 p.m., and it was so lovely (I’m partial though). Our officiant did an amazing job, the weather was perfect (we had it outside overlooking the river), and we were able to have a quiet moment exchanging letters and sharing communion.
After the wedding, we had some champagne and dinner (we got pre-made dinners the night before and just heated them up – most restaurants were still closed at that point unfortunately). We had pictures taken, and came back and enjoyed cake and more champagne! We reflected on how that day was such a gift – it just went so well, way better than we could have planned! It was a sweet, joyful, relaxed celebration – just what we wanted!
It was important to me to have the ceremony with our close family and friends (we had about 25 people join), my hair and makeup done, have a bouquet (which I made the night before) and get professional photos after the ceremony. We figured no need to get photos taken during – we recorded the whole Zoom ceremony thankfully!
What wedding vendors did you use? Anything special to tell me about them?
The only vendors we ended up using were our photographer (@carynnoel) and hair stylist (Sterling Parr). They were fantastic! We found them like 2 weeks before, referred by a friend of a friend who lives in Austin. Sterling made me feel so beautiful – I’m not great at doing my own hair and makeup, so it was such a blessing to have her. And Caryn was great! She made us feel so comfortable and was so fun to work with!
Since we didn’t have a traditional first dance, she played “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran on her phone and took photos while we danced in a clearing by the river (a group of very determined picnic-ers marched through at the end, but hey, it was still romantic and special haha!).
Are there one or two specific details you want to highlight?
Kind of a random and funny part of it was that there was a staircase at our Airbnb to get from the upper deck to the lower deck, and we had our ceremony on the lower deck. Next to the stairs was a little rock cave, and a vulture had nested with her two babies there.
I was super nervous that she would be upset with us and would fly at us or something and mess up the wedding (and this mama vulture was hugeeeee…. Her babies were the size of full grown chickens for scale). Thankfully she didn’t!!
Gary and I got an oreo cake from HEB for our wedding cake! We saw it and had to have it, and it was divine!
Any advice to future couples who are still unsure of whether or not they are going to reschedule their weddings from this year or have rescheduled already?
I would say that you should totally have a Zoom wedding! I was super worried I wouldn’t feel “married” and it wouldn’t feel special – but it was so awesome and I’m so so glad we did it.
It was a little sad not having family and friends physically there, but the ceremony was still so sweet, I think it was totally worth it!
Also, we are currently planning to still have a reception next year around our one year anniversary. We figure we’ll be able to hopefully have friends and family there! We aren’t sure what it’ll look like, since we’re already married, but still want to celebrate with our family and friends. And hey, why not since we already have the vendors reserved! Haha.
Any advice to future couples about the whole “getting married” thing?
I had been doing tons of research on Pinterest for the wedding, as brides do, and was planning the decor and flowers and food and activities etc for the wedding (obviously tons of stress as anyone who has gotten married or has a friend who has gotten married knows). I saw all those gorgeous possibilities and really wanted to have those things in my wedding. But having a zoom wedding was great for us because we were able to look at everything and distill it down to the bare bones of what was truly important and necessary for us. And while I would have loved a beautiful traditional wedding with lots of personalized touches, I found that all you really need for a beautiful wedding is a bride, a groom, lots of love, family, friends, and some good wifi! 😉