How a Pittsburgh couple pulled off a socially distant wedding

On their wedding day, Colby and Emily Schaeffer performed their first dance four times. 

It wasn’t what they imagined, trading a packed ballroom surrounded by loved ones for a quiet condo with their families watching from afar on Zoom. 

But nobody expects to get married in the midst of a pandemic. Still, the Strip District couple made it into a fairytale wedding.

They swayed to their first dance song, “The Wine We Drink” by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, in front of four different groups of loved ones who cheered them on virtually. 

They’d planned for an April 24 wedding with 130 guests. But as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, “it started falling apart every single day” with limits on gatherings getting tighter, Colby said. 

And they “realized it was going to get worse,” he said. They’d already picked up their marriage license and rings, so rather than delay, they decided on April 1 to get married just three days later on April 4.

“It was a mixture of emotions,” Emily said. “You have this day, and it’s not going to be what you pictured, but we’ll make the best of it.”

They got ready at home with just a few friends to help, married in a private ceremony, and snapped some photos in a quiet Strip District with photographer Jake Doerr.

Then, they rented a silver Mustang convertible to parade through Western Pennsylvania, from Lawrenceville to Aspinwall to Lower Burrell, to visit their loved ones in their wedding finery while following social distancing guidelines. 

Photo by Jake Doerr

They delivered bottles of wine and mini Piebird pies that they’d planned to serve at the wedding to each family member. And their family members greeted them with champagne toasts and hand sanitizer.

“It was a lot less stressful than a typical wedding,” Colby remembered. “We would’ve loved to hug people, we would’ve loved to be in a church with a lot of people. But I’m glad we did what we did.”

After the drive, they headed back home for their reception. First, was a cocktail hour and then breakout sessions on Zoom “like we’re visiting different tables,” Colby explained. 

They even set up their kitchen table with decor similar to what they’d planned for the wedding. The couple ordered takeout from Girasole and charcuterie from Penn Mac, like the Italian menu they’d planned for the big day. They held flowers by Sapphire & Lace. Guests dressed up in suits and dresses. Wedding planner Jessica Garda Events helped rearrange all the Big Day details. The best man and maid of honor delivered their speeches, the couple danced the first dance choreographed by Pittsburgh Wedding Dance’s Amanda Wolf, and they cut their Tasty Bakery cake — just like any other wedding, only completely different.

The 90-some family and friends who were able to join the Zoom reception said they “liked being a part of the day,” Emily said, even though guests were sad the couple couldn’t have the day they dreamed of.

Photo courtesy of Colby Schaeffer

Their Hawaiian honeymoon, of course, is on pause for now, but they’re making the most of every evening together, playing games, looking through photos, eating well, and drinking their favorite wines.

Both work in the medical field, Emily as a Physician Assistant and Colby as a health care actuary.

“We’re both in health care, we understand what’s going on. We’re taking it seriously. I was trying to be cognizant of how people are feeling, what’s going on in the world,” Emily said. 

And while she was “really stressed going out in public and taking pictures,” it turned out to be a positive for both the couple and for passersby.

“Everybody who walked by said congratulations and were taking pictures of us, too,” she said. “People (were) saying this is such a bright spot to everything going on right now.”

“It reminds people of what matters,” she added. “There’s no precedent for what a wedding in a pandemic should be like.”

This wedding has reinforced their belief in the adage, “you make the best of what you’re given,” Emily said. 

“This is essential, this is life,” Colby said. “That’s what it’s all about — love.”

We’re publishing wedding announcements for couples whose weddings have been postponed, changed, or canceled because of COVID-19. These are the second and third in the series. If you or someone you know has a Pittsburgh pandemic wedding story, drop us a line at hello@theincline.com.

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