Couples recount the experience of having two or three wedding events because of the pandemic, a trend some experts say will continue to influence how many celebrate.
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Soon after they became engaged in August 2019, Bo Hyoung Han and Emily Rose Lanfear-Radlo decided upon a wedding with about 160 guests in Los Cabos, Mexico. They had already sent out save the dates when it became clear that the pandemic was not going to allow for the event to happen in October 2020 as planned. They notified guests that they would be postponing until 2021.
A common story for couples of late. Nearly just as common has been the approach that Mr. Han and Ms. Lanfear-Radlo decided to take: to start with smaller nuptials and have a second — and sometimes, a third — wedding celebration not long after their first.
Steve Kemble, a wedding planner and the owner of Steve Kemble Event Design in Dallas, calls them “sequel weddings,” and notes that hosting multiple ceremonies “is already a tradition with many cultures and religions.” Mr. Kemble thinks the trend born of the pandemic is here to stay because it allows “couples to create authentic moments of celebration at times that work for them and their loved ones,” he said.
When Covid intervened on their original date, Mr. Han, 37, and Ms. Lanfear-Radlo, 33, said they were not content to put their wedding on hold. “We both felt ready to begin our marriage,” said Ms. Lanfear-Radlo, the director of global partners at Twitter.
She and Mr. Han, the founder and chief executive of Buzzer, a mobile platform for live sports, had been together for nearly six years by then and already shared an apartment in Manhattan.
On June 26, 2020, they married at a house they had rented for the summer in Hudson, N.Y. Their friend and housemate Will Malnati officiated after being ordained by Universal Life Church for the occasion, and both the bride’s and the groom’s parents watched on Zoom.
“It was completely simple and intimate — we walked out into the field behind our house at sunset and read poems and exchanged vows in a really powerful and private way,” Mr. Han said.
Despite the sanctity of that ceremony, the two were still intent on celebrating their union with more family and friends. Their second “big, fun, festive celebration,” as Ms. Lanfear-Radlo described it, took place on Dec. 18, 2021, in Los Cabos, with 98 of their 160 invited guests attending. “We truly ended up with the best of both worlds,” she said.
Though they were already married, the second event included another ceremony led by a friend of the couple and Mr. Han’s father, a pastor of Korea Evangelical Holiness Church in Seoul. Mr. Kemble recommends including ceremonies in sequel wedding celebrations because those invited “want to feel a part of this special moment,” he said, even if some of them witnessed the legal union virtually or in person.
A desire to let others share in the joy of their wedding is in part what inspired India Oxenberg, 30, and Patrick D’Ignazio, 31, to plan a second celebration for this summer, about a year and a half after they legally wed on Dec. 3, 2020 in Los Angeles before only their officiant, Marilyn Townsend, a notary public.
“It was basically a courthouse wedding but in a backyard,” said Ms. Oxenberg, a producer at the network Starz, who initially preferred the intimacy that came with getting married amid the pandemic.
“The most important thing to me was signing the papers and making it official and not having to coordinate with multiple family members,” said Ms. Oxenberg, who met her husband in 2018 after escaping Nxivm, the cultlike criminal enterprise. After that traumatic experience, she added, a small event was all she wanted.
But Mr. D’Ignazio hoped for something more. “I have a lot of friends and family who wanted to come to a wedding,” said Mr. D’Ignazio, a chef who is opening a restaurant in Key West, Fla. “I wanted to have a wedding.”
He ultimately helped Ms. Oxenberg see the benefits of a second celebration. “Patrick has really been the one to show me the importance of this ceremony,” she said. “Our families have never met. They’ve only talked briefly on the phone, one of the crazy factors of Covid.”
Ms. Oxenberg, who lives in Los Angeles, and Mr. D’Ignazio, who lives in Key West, where Ms. Oxenberg will soon join him, are expecting between 100 and 150 guests to attend their second event on Sept. 3 at Mr. D’Ignazio’s parent’s vacation home in Groton Long Point, Conn. It will also include a ceremony, led by one of Mr. D’Ignazio’s close friends.
For other recent newlyweds, two events have not been enough.
In 2020, Amanda Jane Cooper and Andrew Adams Bell, who live in Manhattan, married at City Hall in March after canceling their nuptials planned for that April. Weeks after they wed, they held a second virtual ceremony, to which Ms. Cooper wore a wedding dress, with their families, friends and pastor.
“It was really important for us to do the Zoom,” said Mr. Bell, 32, the chief operating officer of sustainability and impact for the asset management unit at Goldman Sachs. “It was a community celebration of a personal decision.”
But a virtual community experience was not wholly satisfying, he added.
“We were wanting to experience something that is really meaningful in person, to be in community with the people who will be supporting us in our marriage,” Mr. Bell said.
The couple saw the physical presence of loved ones as a way to “really seal this marriage,” said Ms. Cooper, 33, a screen and stage actor who has played the role of Glinda in “Wicked” on Broadway.
On Sept. 19, 2021, they held a third wedding celebration at French Creek Golf Club in Elverson, Pa., which included a vow renewal ceremony that two of their friends led before 135 guests.
At the time of their virtual event, the couple told their invitees that they planned to celebrate again in person and hoped people would join them. But “we were clear that we knew not everyone would be able to make it when we did,” Ms. Cooper said.
They also told anyone invited to their third celebration that showing up would be a gift enough. “We reiterated that the in-person ceremony was a gift in and of itself,” she said.
Nora Sheils, the chief executive of Bridal Bliss, a wedding planning company in Portland, Ore., says couples planning second or third events should see them as opportunities to “spoil their guests,” focusing less on elements like registries and more on showing them a good time.
She also thinks that many will continue to opt for multiple wedding celebrations, at least through 2023. “People at this point have seen the agony of other couples going through Covid wedding issues so they want to avoid that,” said Ms. Sheils, a co-founder of the digital wedding-planning platform Rock Paper Coin.
But ultimately, she believes the trend will “fizzle out.”
“Guests are going to get sick of celebrating the same people over and over,” Ms. Sheils said.