There were supposed to be 35 of Jessica and Tim Wiedner’s closest friends and family at their wedding, not stuffed animals and American Girl dolls.
There was supposed to be a professional wedding cake with a customized topper, not a stack of toilet paper rolls with cupcakes on top.
There was supposed to be the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico for a backdrop, not a kiddie pool.
Yes, the Wiedners were supposed to have a destination wedding, but when the coronavirus pandemic spoiled those plans, they settled for a quarantine one in their front yard instead.
On Friday, March 27, Jessica walked down the aisle (made out of a burlap sheet) where Tim was waiting, and the couple said ‘I do’ in the company of their kids and nextdoor neighbors.
“I thought, ‘This is a little crazy,’” Jessica said, “but it ended up being something that is honestly more memorable than what we were going to do.”
What they had planned was to make things official in Destin, Florida, on April 5. The couple had been planning the event since Tim proposed this past November.
They met just two months before that, through the dating app Bumble. Both were single parents raising kids on their own. On their first date, Tim took them to the wrong restaurant in Gainesville but insisted he was right.
“I kept saying, ‘That’s not the right restaurant,’” Jessica remembers. “He was like, ‘Yes it is.’ And it definitely was not.”
They ended up going to Downtown Drafts, a craft beer and wine “cafe” -- where Tim proposed a few months later.
“I knew from the first date that I was going to marry Tim,” Jessica said. “It really was love at first sight, as cheesy as that sounds.”
Their wedding ceremony was supposed to be an intimate gathering on the beach, and everything was planned with April 5 in mind. They booked a venue and vendors. Guests booked hotels and Airbnbs. Jessica got Tim’s wedding band engraved with the date on it. Their kids would be on spring break, so they planned to spend the whole week in Destin.
Around March 16, Jessica and Tim’s wedding plans appeared shaky. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had already declared a state of emergency on March 1. Then, on March 17, he ordered all bars and nightclubs to be closed and extended school closures.
Jessica and Tim were calling the venue and vendors. They couldn’t get permits for large gatherings. The venue offered to let Jessica and Tim postpone the wedding, but the venue had weddings booked one to two years out.
“Waiting was not really an option in my opinion,” Jessica said.
On March 18, they decided to cancel the wedding.
“I think for a week straight I cried every day,” Jessica said.
About a week later, one of Jessica’s friends recommended they do a drive-by wedding. Across the country, couples whose wedding plans were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic were improvising, holding ceremonies in their front yards and getting photographers to drive by to capture the moment.
Jessica dismissed the idea at first. By the next morning, she had second thoughts. On March 27, they decided to go for it.
The stuffed animals and dolls sat in camping chairs. Jessica’s daughter officiated the ceremony.
“It was very entertaining,” Jessica said.
The quarantine wedding also had some comical touches, like a bucket of Corona beers nearby.
“Trying to make light of stressful, difficult situation,” Jessica said.
The Wiedner’s neighbors across the street were the official -- and only human -- guests. Their neighbors watched from their own front porch and played “On My Way To You” by Cody Johnson for Jessica and Tim’s first dance and cheered during their first kiss. And, of course, Jessica and Tim found a photographer to drive by and capture it all.
Naturally, the Wiedner’s ceremony attracted some attention.
“We were standing there giving our vows,” Jessica said, “and here comes a neighbor walking down the street.”
The end of Jessica and Tim’s wedding day was far less celebratory than they had planned. They cleaned up their front yard and picked up Mexican food for dinner. The next day, they did yard work.
“I told Tim, ‘My gosh,’ is this the honeymoon?’” Jessica said. “This is crazy; we’re out here sweating.”
They do have a honeymoon planned: a week-long cruise out of Port Canaveral, Florida, in June. Jessic and Tim are still optimistic they’ll be able to go. If not, they’ll postpone it until later.
Regardless, they’re married now, and they hope their quarantine wedding can inspire others to make the most of this tumultuous moment in history.
“After canceling the wedding, I was devastated,” Jessica said. “But now looking back and seeing what we actually did, it was 100% worth it and a good time. There’s good to come out of every situation.”