Meet four couples whose wedding plans were upended by the pandemic — and who went on to have the Big Day of their dreams anyway
By Nicole Frehsee Mazur
Feature photo by Randall Starr
When it comes to wedding crashers, there’s never been a more unwelcome guest than Covid-19. In 2020, the pandemic caused countless couples all over the world to majorly scale back their celebrations or cancel them altogether. What are a bride and groom to do when their Big Day dreams get dashed? They can get upset — or get creative. These four Metro Detroit couples chose the latter. They chucked their expectations, slashed their guest lists and changed everything from their venues to their outfits, often at the last minute. And they still managed to have the weddings of their dreams. Here, we bring you their stories.
Sarah & Drake Cicala
July 25, 2020, Clarkston
As the founder of event and fashion-styling company Fete and Finery, Sarah Cicala is a pro at planning celebrations. So when it came to her own wedding, to recruiting professional Drake Cicala, she absolutely had a vision for how the day would go down.
The couple, who met when Drake ended up as Sarah’s personal trainer at the Troy gym where he once worked, got engaged last May. They originally planned a fall wedding in Positano, Italy — they picked the locale after stumbling upon photos on Instagram — “but then it became evident that things weren’t going to be fine for a little bit,” says Sarah, 35.
Committed to their Italian fantasy, the pair toyed with the idea of tying the knot in a courthouse and saving their official celebration for the Amalfi Coast, “but my Indian parents almost had a heart attack at the thought of a courthouse wedding,” says Sarah, who grew up in Troy. But she was hesitant to plan anything lavish: “Drake thought the more we do for this little wedding, the less special Italy will be.”
Still, she says, “We didn’t want to wait to start our life.” With their other ideas off the table, the couple looked to a July wedding at the Clarkston Family Farm, where Sarah sits on the board. “We just wanted the food to be really good and we wanted it to be pretty,” she says. (Clarkston restaurant The Fed catered the reception.)
The guest list was capped at about 50 family members, and everyone lent a hand: Drake curated the tunes, his uncle brought the speakers, Sarah’s cousin baked their wedding cake and her brother officiated the vows. “I’d always said I don’t want [our guests] working at our wedding,” says Sarah, “but everyone worked very hard because we had to keep it small.”
Drake and Sarah had a traditional Indian ceremony with a few modifications — for one, Drake, 29, walked down the aisle to “Sexy Boy,” the theme song of WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels. “It was absolute fire,” says the Sterling Heights native. (“That’s a concession I made that morning,” adds Sarah.) The couple also honored Drake’s heritage with a song sung in Italian by Sarah’s cousins.
Since the wedding plans came together in about a month, Sarah didn’t have time to find her dream dress. Instead, she borrowed the sari that her mother wore to her own wedding. (She was, however, able to design garments for the nieces and nephews who made up their bridal party; she rush-ordered the outfits from India after picking fabrics with tailors on a video call.) “Every day and every hour counted so we couldn’t fuss around it,” she says, adding that marrying Drake as soon as possible was a worthy tradeoff for curating the nitty-gritty details. “I’m glad we didn’t wait for Italy.”
Speaking of Italy, the Cicalas, who have since relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona, are planning a trip there with family and friends later this year or next. They’ll even get to say their vows — for the first time. “We didn’t realize it until we watched our [wedding] video, but Sarah’s brother forgot to ask, ‘Do you take Sarah to be your wife?’” says Drake. “We’re going to do our ‘I do’s’ and recap our first year of marriage.”
Haley & Keith Guyot
May 16, 2020, Royal Oak
By the time Covid-19 descended on the U.S. last winter, Haley and Keith Guyot had already changed their wedding plans twice. In February, Haley, 27, found out that the venue where she and Keith were supposed to be married had suddenly gone bankrupt. Thankfully, she was able to secure a new venue. Invitations were reprinted with the updated details, and the Royal Oak couple resumed planning their 208-person party.
But all the while, Haley, a manager and stylist at a bridal boutique in Berkley, was hearing rumblings at work. “I had a little insight on how bad things were in China because most dresses are made overseas,” she says. “The next thing [we knew], Covid came crashing in.”
Once again, she and Keith, 31, a strategist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, had to rethink their wedding. “We understood the gravity of the situation, but we could not believe this was happening,” says. Haley. “How many hoops did we have to jump through to get to this so-called happiest day ever?”
Eventually, the pair decided to push their reception to 2021 and hold a ceremony on their original date with their immediate family, a 10-person crowd. “We weren’t going to make it a big deal because we planned to have our wedding the next year,” says Haley. She even bought a $50 dress to wear instead of her official gown. (Keith planned to wear a suit instead of his wedding tux.)
But as the May date got closer, Haley and Keith started getting cold feet about their plans. “I was having second thoughts about not making this ceremony a big deal,” she says. Cue another pivot: Haley decided to wear her original dress, after all, and Keith was able to get his tux fitted in time. “We decided to make this our full-blown ceremony,” she says.
On the couple’s wedding day, their parents, siblings and officiant gathered in Haley’s childhood backyard. (Their grandmas joined the celebration via FaceTime.) The decorations and food (fried chicken and stuffed cabbage) were homemade, and her parents’ deck served as the dance floor. “I didn’t realize until we had a small wedding, but it was my dream situation,” says Haley.
Keith even found a way to include the couple’s friends. Unbeknownst to Haley, he asked a few pals to drive by her parents’ house after the ceremony. About 60 cars showed up, with friends — some in wedding attire — bearing congratulatory signs and popping out for photos. “It was like a parade,” says Keith. “I was sobbing through the entire thing,” adds Haley. “It was something I didn’t realize we both needed.”
Almost a year into their marriage, the couple say there’s no need for a big party in 2021. Instead, once it’s safe, “we’ll have a barbecue at our new house that we purchased with all the [wedding] savings,” laughs Keith, who says he wouldn’t change anything about their day. “The piece of advice I always got is to take some time to take it all in, because you’ll so be so busy on your wedding day that it’ll go by so fast,” he says. “But I was sitting in a lawn chair in Haley’s parents’ driveway watching her and her dad dance to their first song. The whole thing was taking it in.”
Mary Pat & Jeff Meyers
September 5, 2020, Bryan, Ohio
Mary Pat and Jeff Meyers’ wedding didn’t exactly get derailed by Covid-19 — but then again, “we didn’t have an original plan,” says Mary Pat, who’d known Jeff for 30 years before they reconnected in 2019. The Grosse Pointe couple, both personal injury attorneys, got engaged last July and married just over a month later. “Once [he proposed and] I said yes, we said, ‘Why not get married?’” she recalls.
They just had to figure out where: With Mary Pat’s 91-year-old mother, Pat Kubiske, in an assisted living home in Bryan, Ohio, a Michigan wedding wasn’t an option. “My brother lost his wife in May to cancer and my mom was not able to attend the funeral,” says Mary Pat. “She also missed two granddaughters’ weddings. There was no way she was going to miss this one.”
Mary Pat’s sister, who also lives in Bryan, spoke to the facility and arranged for the couple to hold their wedding on the grounds. A local florist took care of the flowers, and Mary Pat worked with Chesterfield Township designer Teresa Charow to design her dress — a feat they accomplished in two weeks.
About 30 family members gathered for the socially distant ceremony, which took place right outside her mom’s window (attending in person would have required a quarantine afterward). A Bluetooth speaker was set up so that she could hear the vows, which Mary Pat’s brother, Doug, officiated. She even donned a fancy hat. “She asked all her friends if she should wear it,” says Mary Pat. “It turned out to be so darn cute.”
Before the wedding, Mary Pat, Jeff and Doug were allowed a 30-minute outdoor visit with Kubiske. “It was very emotional,” says Mary Pat, who designated her mom the maid of honor. “She was so excited abut Jeff and I getting married and that we went to her.”
“We both knew that family had to be there, particularly our parents,” adds Jeff, whose father, also 91, was the best man. “It just had to be that way.”
Post-ceremony, the family (minus Kubiske) celebrated with lunch at a local restaurant. While the couple’s friends tuned into the wedding via Zoom, Mary Pat says they’ll eventually host a party for everyone who couldn’t attend in-person. Still, the pair say the day was a dream. “We could have planned the wedding for months, if not years,” says Jeff, “and it wouldn’t have come out any more special.”
Jennifer & Mitch Heaney
June 25, 2020, Detroit
Last February, Jennifer Heaney was preparing to mail out save-the-date cards for her August 2020 wedding at the Detroit Yacht Club when she got a phone call from her parents. “They said maybe you should hold off a couple more weeks,” recalls the 30-year-old, who lives in Brownstown. “It’s getting bad.”
It was nothing she and her now-husband, Mitch, didn’t already know: As registered nurses at Beaumont Hospital in Trenton — Jennifer in the Covid-19 ICU — the couple had a front-row seat to the crisis that was unfolding. “After that, it kept getting worse,” she says.
As reality sank in, Jennifer felt like her dreams were being dashed. “You want to have your wedding with your friends, to have big party and celebrate,” she says. “But working in a hospital, you see how bad it is and you feel selfish saying, ‘Come to a big wedding and risk your health.’”
One day around that time, Jennifer’s sister came across some photos of a “mini wedding” — that is, a very small celebration — at Bea’s Detroit, a cafe and event space in Eastern Market. Jennifer hesitated at the idea, but then another twist: she found out she was pregnant. “I thought, maybe I really should do this,’” she says. A week later, the pair booked the venue with a plan to host a rooftop ceremony with immediate family only — 11 people, down from the 150 on the original guest list.
“It was less stressful,” says Mitch, 34. “Everything was put together in a pretty short amount of time.” That includes the bride’s dress. At five months’ pregnant, Jennifer no longer fit into her original gown, so she ended up buying one at a thrift store the day before the wedding. “The ladies at the store helped sew me in it,” she says.
Despite the casual vibe, Jennifer made sure that certain details were in place, like her dad walking her down the aisle as “Ave Maria” played. (Mitch says he “can’t describe” the feeling of watching her walk toward him.) They also took family photos, ate hors d’oeuvres and cracked open Champagne — and apple juice for Jennifer.
The celebration continued at Jennifer’s sister’s house in Grosse Pointe, where the family feasted on an Italian spread from Andiamo. “It was really nice being surrounded by our immediate family,” says Mitch. “It turned out better than I could have imagined.”
Jennifer, who gave birth to the couple’s baby girl in November, agrees. “As much as I’d love to have a [big] reception, I wouldn’t change getting married [how we did] because it felt more intimate,” she says. “It may not have been the wedding we originally planned, but when the goal is to be with the one you love, the big details no longer matter.”