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'You May Now Elbow Bump Your Bride': Dallas Couple Holds Virtual Wedding

Getting married in her backyard wasn't exactly what Kate Heaton pictured when she imagined her wedding day.

She and her partner Michael Hart were supposed to walk down the aisle surrounded by their friends and family. She had every detail planned: the venue, the flowers, the cake.

It was going to be a somewhat traditional ceremony. They'd planned to have it outdoors at the Trinity River Audubon Center in South Dallas, where you can almost always hear the birds who inhabit the area singing.

Left In Limbo

As their special day approached though, COVID-19 started forcing business closures and limiting gathering sizes. The couple was left in limbo – unsure whether the day they'd dreamed of would have to be canceled or postponed.

"It was everyday wondering, 'Should we cancel? Should we make this decision?'" Heaton said. "I think the main thing you worry about is being the vector, and your grandparents coming or your parents coming. And how are you going to feel if they end up getting coronavirus?"

Credit Kate Heaton
Heaton and Hart's backyard, decorated for the wedding ceremony.

When the Trinity River Audubon Center closed, it was clear they wouldn't be having the ceremony they'd planned. Putting together an alternate ceremony, though, wasn't on their minds at first.  

"As the date came closer to our original wedding [date], the depression and sadness set in," Hart said. "Then after the date passed we said, 'Okay, let's do something else.'" 

Heaton couldn't help but laugh as they recalled planning their backyard wedding.

"I think we needed time to sort of, like, grieve the loss of the wedding and grieve the original plan," she said. "After, you know, we decided to do this virtual wedding and we started being able to plan and be in control of what was happening, we got really excited about it."

Full Circle

Heaton and Hart first met on the dating app Bumble, which she said brings their relationship full circle.

"We met virtually and then got married virtually," Heaton said.

She smiled as she described their first in-person meeting: an afternoon lunch date at Taco Diner because she had to work that evening.

"We have very weird schedules, and so we've always just been like, 'We'll make it work when we have to make it work,'" Heaton said.

Credit Kate Heaton
Heaton and Hart watch as their family and friends toast their new marriage via Zoom.

"Which is kind of like our wedding," Hart added. "You know, we had to make it work when we had to make it work."

For their second date, Hart invited Heaton over to his place so he could cook for her, and the rest is history.

"I was sold!" she said. "He's such a good cook."

You May Now Elbow Bump Your Bride

When the big day finally came — April 18, 2020 — Heaton and Hart were as excited as ever.

Rather than being separated all day, they spent the hours before their wedding together, decorating the backyard where they'd already made so many memories.

"The day of we started hanging mason jars in the trees and filling them with wild flowers. We put some tulle that we hung from a tree to sort of make an alter area," Heaton said. "It was something that was sort of really personal to us and memorable to us, and we had a lot of fun that day."

Credit Kate Heaton
Heaton's grandparents dressed up and ready to watch the wedding ceremony from home.

Even more of their family and friends were able to watch the ceremony via the video chat app Zoom than would've been able to attend the actual ceremony. They even dressed up as if they were really attending a wedding, even though most of the guests were stuck at home.

Their officiant kicked off the ceremony with some moving words about what love means during such a tumultuous time:

"As we shelter in place, I think about how a spouse can be your shelter. In uncertain times, you run to the one you love and loves you. The one who comforts you, who celebrates and cries with you. The one you want to share the greatest of times with, and the one who helps you realize the low points aren't the end of the story," he said.

The ceremony was filled with laughter – from the vows, to their first dance to Jimmy Buffet and the moment they finally got to call each other husband and wife.

"Michael," the officiant said. "You may now kiss – wait, I mean elbow bump – your bride."