April Powell and Hayden Eely exchange vows in Courtenay after changing wedding plans because of pandemic restrictions. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Couple opts for plan B for wedding in Courtenay

Pandemic restrictions prompt April Powell and Hayden Eely to change plans for the big day

April Powell and Hayden Eely were planning on about 120 people for their nuptials this month.

Then, like so many other plans for people this spring, things changed dramatically because of pandemic restrictions.

They were faced with a dilemma: cancel and re-book for next year, or change the scale of their wedding. They opted for the latter, and on the afternoon of July 11, the couple was married in front of a smaller crowd than first planned.

“We’ve gone from 100-plus people to less than 30,” says April’s mom, Sheila Powell.

RELATED: ‘A little different’: Vancouver ‘micro-weddings’ help couples during COVID-19

As well, the ceremony wasn’t at the Filberg Heritage Lodge in Comox with a reception at Courtenay’s Florence Filberg Centre to follow. Instead, the couple exchanged vows in a neighbourhood park in front of some family and friends near April’s family home on 18th Street in Courtenay.

“We’re just doing it at the park across the street from where I grew up,” she told the Comox Valley Record the week before the wedding.

She had planned ahead, doing much of the work last fall after they were engaged in August. This included booking the venue, setting a guest list and other details.

“I was on the ball with the wedding stuff,” she said. “I already had my dress…. Everything else is pretty much different.”

The thought of postponing did cross their minds, but Powell says her fiancé was not keen, even though his wedding party members generally lived on the mainland and faced travel restrictions.

“My future husband didn’t like that idea,” she said, adding, “we’re just going to make it work.”

That meant scaling things back to fewer than 30 guests. They did manage to invite her grandparents, who had not left Duncan since the pandemic was declared, though they had to stay in a trailer for the sake of social distancing.

They kept safety in mind when it came to planning, so they did not want to push the limits on crowd size.

April and Hayden are far from the only couple facing tough decisions in the time of COVID-19. In fact, the Vancouver Island Wedding Association has even set up a page on its website to help couples negotiate the many questions they will face when it comes to wedding plans right now and for the foreseeable future. Many are opting for so-called “micro-weddings.”

RELATED: COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

When it came time for April and Hayden’s big day, shortly before the ceremony, people were attaching bunting to a tent set up in the park. Nearby, a neighbour sat in her yard with balloons that said “Love” tied to her lawn chair. Meanwhile, a guest blew bubbles while the bridesmaids entered to Pachelbel’s Canon.

During the ceremony, the groom occasionally brushed the bride’s hair out of her face on what was a blustery afternoon, but the weather otherwise co-operated. All things considered, their getting hitched went off without a hitch.

As to what’s next, the pandemic also put a hold on honeymoon plans to Mexico, but Powell says she and her now-husband have not booked anything. Instead, they might go through with another bigger wedding ceremony and invite all the people they wanted to have this time, so that everyone can experience a big celebration — time and place to be set at a later date, of course.

“We will have a second wedding that will have been our honeymoon,” Powell said. “We’re just going to invite everybody back. … That’ll be like the party — the party wedding.”

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mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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