For many Americans, the coronavirus outbreak has not only upended their daily routines, it’s disrupted some of life’s biggest moments.
After having to cancel their wedding plans last month due to the pandemic, Darryl Cook Jr. and Aubrey Levine decided to get married on the date they had originally picked. So on April 18, in the front yard of their Seattle home, they welcomed more than 120 guests who attended virtually through Zoom.
"I thought probably a lot of people would not have been able to attend because it was such a short notice, I was also concerned that it wouldn't feel like a real wedding because it was just a couple of people in the front yard pulled together last minute," Levine said. "But in the end, I actually think it was a huge success."
In person, it was an intimate setting with the couple, five of their children from previous marriages, the officiant and a photographer. Though some of their immediate neighbors were able to physically witness the ceremony from a safe distance, most of their guests watched from their homes through the three computers Cook had set up earlier.
Cook and Levine met on a dating app in 2015 and were engaged four years later. Levine said they spent a year planning a wedding in Louisiana, where Cook is from. It was going to be a fun, authentic New Orleans experience with gardens, swamps alligators and all.
When the virus started to spread across the country, however, they were forced to make the difficult decision to cancel their wedding.
At first, Cook said they were in denial. "But as the reality began to solidify, it was a little bit of anger, maybe a little bit of grief as we had to reach out families and say, ‘Hey, we can’t do this," he said.
Given this was before states issued shelter-in-place orders, they had to make their decisions during a time of uncertainty, but they ultimately decided they couldn’t risk the health and safety of their loved ones, Levine said.
As their wedding date approached, they started to think about whether getting married at home would be feasible.
"We realized, as we entertained the idea, the steps required to pull it off weren’t so Herculean," Cook told "GMA."
When their marriage license finally came through the mail days before their wedding, they decided to send out a new invitation to their loved ones that Wednesday for a Saturday wedding. In the invitation was a short message, simple instructions and a Zoom link.
The couple said they were delighted with the overwhelmingly positive reactions they received, with some of their guests even taking time to test out the link in the days leading up to the wedding. On the actual day, more guests “showed up” than they expected, some in formal wear, some with champagne glasses in their hands, all excited to celebrate their big day.
After having to cancel their original plans, apply for their marriage license through mail and order suits from Amazon at the last minute, Cook said there were a lot of improvisations and creative problem solving.
"I was afraid, as well, that it would feel "less than," but those all kind of came together to still make it felt like a real moment," Cook said. "It exceeded my expectations."
Throughout this experience, they said they were most grateful for the families and neighbors who rallied around them and offered to help, including Levine’s brother, who took over the Zoom meetings and coordinated three screens with 80-plus devices on at the same time.
When asked what advice they would have for couple who are going through the same struggles, Cook and Levine say, “Go for it.”
"It’s easier to forget that we have each other," Cook said. "For every couple out there [who has] a wedding in jeopardy or already been canceled or is being postponed, all the people you invited, I am sure a lot of those people are willing to jump in, and have the energy and time to help make it happen," Cook told GMA.
"It will feel different, awkward, but it’ll still feel so good, it’ll feel so rich and it’ll become this anchoring memory and event in the middle of the craziness. It’s so worth it."