Inside Story No. 1: The Sunny California Wedding That Pivoted to a Zoom Meeting

As the coronavirus has developed over the course of the past months, weeks, and days, our plans have changed and so have our lives. And it appears this will be the norm for a while. In this series (duration: a few weeks to…not sure?), we’ll share the stories of people who have confronted the unexpected in interesting ways. First, we have the story of Ana Monroe, who married her now-husband Scott on Saturday, March 14th. Inside a storefront in L.A., but also on Zoom. —Mallory

I proposed to Scott. I knew I wanted to marry him if he would have me, so last June I started asking my friends—all the dudes—how they did it. Everyone was like, “Have a plan,” this and that. We were living in D.C. at the time, and I went down to my parents’ house in Georgia under the pretense that I wanted to miss all the D.C. 4th of July stuff because it can make the city quite crazy—but really, I was going down to get rings. I went down there and picked a ring and went back and abandoned my plan completely the next morning and just proposed to him in bed. I’d had this plan to go on a hike and get Chinese food, and then I was like, “No, I’m just going to do it right here.” It wasn’t a huge leap, you know? He was like, “I wanted to propose to you, but I didn’t know how.” And I was like, “Well, I did!”

I never dreamt of my wedding, ever. Like I said, I come from Georgia, and I come from a pretty rural part of it, and I left when I was 18 because I didn’t fit in. I remember very vividly as a little girl being told that I wouldn’t become a lady because of the way that I acted, and I remember saying “Well, I don’t want to be a lady.” So all the things associated with being a lady I never wanted to do—and that included a wedding. The only thing I knew I wanted when we started planning the wedding was that I didn’t want to do any of those things.

We planned the wedding for March because my brother is a college professor, and we essentially chose the first day of spring break because we needed him to be there. We planned it so that the ceremony was mostly about my husband’s family’s traditions, and the party was mostly about my family’s traditions.

We were like, “How can we make this really beautiful, visually and sensorially, for our guests?”

My husband and I both go to Quaker Meeting. There’s no leadership and no hierarchy. Even in the 1600s when the Quakers started, they allowed women to have a voice in the community, so it’s very much my vibe. [The plan was that] the ceremony would be a ceremony, the reception would be a party—there would be no cake, no white dress, certainly no garter throwing or first dances. None of that. There’s no officiant in the Quaker tradition and there would certainly be no one giving me away to anyone except myself. We’re both designers, so we were like, “How can we make this really beautiful, visually and sensorially, for our guests?”

We moved out to L.A. in November. We were supposed to have a beach brunch and a seagazing party on Friday. I told my friends that I just wanted to have all the bagels I can never have—I said, “Just gluten-free bagels and lox and I’ll be so happy!” (I have celiac disease, so I can never have bagels.) So we bought all this food, and we were going to go out to Malibu—but the other wrinkle was that Los Angeles was under a multi-day rain event. So that plan was ruined.

Everything about the wedding was outside, because it’s Los Angeles. The ceremony was going to be in Griffith Park in the Cedar Grove. Whenever you see movies filmed in L.A. and they’re running through a forest, it’s almost always filmed in the Cedar Grove. Scott and I had gone there and, like, gridded out the place like little designers, with numbers for where we’d put blankets down for our guests that we’d bought in Mexico City. All of that went out the window.

Ten days before the wedding, we decided we had to send an email to everyone who had RSVP’d. We knew the virus was spreading—the cases in Italy were snowballing, and one case had appeared in L.A. County. So we sent an email saying “Hey, we’re monitoring the situation, and we’ll make a decision by Friday evening Pacific Time.” We figured we needed to give people a week. We got a bunch of emails that were like, “Are you really thinking of canceling? What’s going on? This is so stressful.” We were like, “Yeah, it is stressful.”

Planning a wedding is a lot—even a non-traditional wedding that’s not going to have all the things. We had this colorful, huge idea—the clothing direction for the event was “Wear your brightest clothes, that lime-green dress you never get to take for a spin, now’s the time, purple suede shoes, yes! All the stripes, all the dots, all the plaids.” We wanted it to be super-bright and fun and happy—and the Coronavirus is the opposite of super-bright and fun and happy. By Friday, we decided to go through with it. It seemed like we might outrun it. Then the news kept getting worse and worse.

My parents arrived in L.A. from Georgia the Sunday before, and when your parents arrive for your wedding, you’re kind of like, “Okay, this wedding is totally happening.” My parents are great and super-strong and not at all people who scare easily, so we kept going forward. I think the hardest part was that we refused to make a decision for anyone. That’s something I’m proud of, but it was also really stressful. I had to tell a few people, “You know, I have access to the same information that you have. I don’t have more information than you have. This has to be your decision.” People would call or email us and we’d say, “We’re going to have the wedding, we don’t want to sway you either way, it’s your decision.” That was really hard because people wanted, I realized, to be given direction—and I just couldn’t make that decision. So, ultimately, at the last minute, we decided to have a Zoom link.

On the day of the wedding, we moved everything inside the space where we’d planned to have the party. It was raining buckets—it was as gray as London. I actually got into my wedding dress by myself—I had this really long, gold dress that my friend and I designed and made together—she’s a costume designer—and I got into my dress from the bottom by myself because there was no one else around. I did my eyeliner in the little bathroom mirror, and then my now-husband arrived with all of the AV equipment that he had figured out. He set up the Zoom link, and people arrived.

In the end, maybe 20 people attended in person and I think we had 34 people on the Zoom meeting. People really appreciated it! I was surprised. I was like, “Nobody’s going to want to join a Zoom meeting on their Saturday.” But I guess that’s because I’m always in Zoom meetings? So it was really sweet. In a Quaker wedding, you sit together for a term, and you’re invited to deliver messages. In [a regular] meeting, you deliver messages [to the group], which are kind of like notes from the universe, but in a wedding you deliver messages about the couple. People spoke—even my friends who don’t know what Quakerism is—and it was really, really moving.

I’m glad we went ahead and did it, but I seriously was almost crushed.

I have a friend who’s very eloquent, so I guess that’s why I remember her note really well. We met on a film set and we’ve been friends for a very long time. This friend delivered a message from New York—this is embarrassing because it’s about me, so sorry if it sounds like I’m bragging—and she said that I was so creative that I was like an electric eel in a pond of goldfish. And that might be one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. I never quite realized how weird I was until my wedding day. Nobody called me nice [laughs]. Nobody said “She’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet.” I knew I was slightly odd, but I didn’t know I was so odd.

We ended up getting so many wonderful notes from people saying how much they appreciated the Zoom link. I have a friend who emailed me and said, “After all the craziness of this week, I think that was really meaningful.” So I’m glad we went ahead and did it, but I seriously was almost crushed. I was so close to just being like, I can’t do this.

I don’t know what it would have been like, if we’d had the wedding we’d planned. There were supposed to be, like, 81 people in a wooded area of Griffith Park under the shining California sun—and instead there were about 20 people in a storefront in Boyle Heights under the sodden skies of L.A. But I think the Zoom meeting really made it feel like people were attending with intention.

I found the people who attended to be so exciting and the people who came by Zoom also to be exciting for completely opposite reasons. The people who attended in person had done their own risk calculation, and the people who attended via Zoom had also done their risk calculation—and came out with the opposite answer. But they all decided to attend. I can’t say anybody made a right or wrong decision—but I can say that having Zoom did really help people be present. I never thought I’d be sentimental about a Zoom meeting, but it’s meaningful to see a person’s face.

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Mallory Rice

Mallory Rice is a writer who sometimes has bangs and sometimes does not. She was previously the executive editor of this fine website.

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