Caroline Wood and Chris Proto’s original March 2020 wedding plans included being surrounded by 130 loved ones (“and bluebonnets” says the bride), in Buda, Texas. But their actual wedding included just a few close friends, social distancing, and an elopement in Rawlins Park.
“On Monday, March 9, we started getting a little anxious about our plans as four older guests declined due to coronavirus fears,” says Wood. “By Wednesday, we were talking with our coordinator about our options: to plan for a smaller wedding, postpone, or cancel. Each day presented new news that altered our anxieties and the probability of having the wedding we imagined.” By the end of the week, they’d decided to officially postpone the wedding to October to have the wedding they wanted, while keeping everyone safe and healthy. But, they said, “we had been planning, preparing, and waiting to exchange our vows for so long, so while we decided coronavirus might stop the celebration we wanted, it wouldn’t stop our actual marriage.” They began making plans to exchange vows the following week in an uber-small ceremony near where they lived in DC.
On Monday, March 16, just five days before they were to say “I do,” the couple says they raced to the DC Marriage License Bureau to get a marriage license. (The Bureau shut down later than week.) “After getting our license, we went on a long walk around the Tidal Basin to find an intimate spot for our ceremony,” says Wood. “I emailed Lindsay [their photographer] to see if she was available to take photos for our “scrappy wedding” to take place somewhere near the Cherry Blossoms.” Thankfully, they say, their photographer “expertly guided” them to a few locations outside the Tidal basin to avoid crowds and permitting.
Next, the bride-to-be had her tailor in Texas rush ship the wedding dress to DC. A friend booked them a room at the St. Regis for getting ready, and the bride picked up a bouquet and boutonniere from their florist on Friday. That evening, the couple set up a Twitch account and invited friends and family to tune it from afar. “Everything was so scrappy and fast, but it all fell into place,” says Wood. “When you only have 5 days, you can’t worry about making the right decision. You just go with what you can get and focus on what matters–getting married!”
The Big (Little) Day
On the morning of their ‘I dos,’ Caroline got ready at the St. Regis hotel while Chris prepped for the day at their Logan Circle apartment. They FaceTimed friends and family throughout the morning, and then did a “first look” outside the St. Regis, while heading to their ceremony location at Rawlins park. There, says the bride, a (very) few friends were waiting for the couple underneath a magnolia tree, with the Twitch Live Streaming by phone on a nearby fallen branch.
“We processed in and waved to the phone as we walked in,” Wood says. “Cars would pass by and honk in celebration. Before we exchanged rings, a friend gave us hand sanitizer! The whole situation was hilarious, which made the day light-hearted, despite the circumstances.” Caroline’s sister officiated, but because she didn’t have time to actually get ordained and DC allows couples to self officiate, Chris actually pronounced them married himself. After the ceremony, they drank champagne and dined on carryout pizza from All Purpose and a cake from Buttercream Bakeshop in Caroline’s sister’s backyard.
Making the Most of It
Looking back the couple says that rolling with the punches and trying to find silver linings along the way led to a joyful, memorable day. “There was no pressure to have a grand event where everything had to go perfectly,” says the bride. “We could throw out the rules and go with the flow as the day evolved. We were able to say our vows in a beautiful, intimate setting without any tourists. We ate cake before dinner.” Friends and family, they say, sent messages, videos, and photos of their celebrations from afar, along with words of love and support. “Plus,” she added, “we still plan to celebrate again in the fall in Texas, or when we can all be together again.”
Photographer: Lindsay King Photography | Florist: Poppy | Dress: Floravere | Suit: Alton Lane D.C. | Furs: Rent the Runway | Bolo Tie: BoloRevival on Etsy | Venues: Rawlins Park, The St. Regis Hotel | Streaming: Twitch