As this weekend marks the first—and, hopefully, last—Valentine’s Day of the pandemic, romantic flourishes might take on a different sheen: dinner at the kitchen table instead of at a chic restaurant, your best sweatpants instead of a sophisticated outfit. And what about the grandest romantic moment of all: the wedding?

Planning, preparing for and safely pulling one off has inspired new levels of stress and uncertainty—and adaptability. Couples who tied the knot over the past 11 months at venues on the University of Maryland campus managed to capture joy amid the grim public health reality of the moment.

Keeping their original date of Aug. 16 was “the one key thing” Gabbi ’16 and Kurwin Guevara wanted to hold onto when COVID-19 descended, said Gabbi. “That was something that was really important to us—wanting to get married despite everything that was going on.” 

Gabbi and Kurwin Guevara wedding photoTheir wedding at Memorial Chapel—which closed in March and reopened to small weddings in July—was pared down from the original 300-person bash the couple had envisioned when they got engaged in July 2019. A few dozen family members and close friends gathered in the chapel, where Gabbi had dutifully arranged seating so that each family unit was together but distanced from anyone else. 

Every guest wore a mask—even the wedding party attendants: burgundy to match the bridesmaids’ dresses, navy blue to match the groomsmen’s suits. After the ceremony, the couple stood on the chapel’s steps and waved to loved ones who couldn’t come inside but wanted to show their support through a drive-by celebration.

“I didn’t expect it to be as beautiful as it was,” said Gabbi. “It came out so much better than I expected.”

Typically home to some 60 weddings every calendar year, Memorial Chapel hosted 19 in 2020 as many couples postponed. The Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center generally hosts roughly 40 weddings a year, and held 17 last calendar year. 

Since July, Memorial Chapel has held 18 weddings, each of which has adhered to university, county and state guidelines regarding gatherings, said Denise McHugh, manager of the chapel. All guests must wear masks and observe physical distancing, and must be checked off a list with their name and contact information before entering the facility. Even the setup at the altar follows distancing guidelines. 

“We’ve been double-staffing weddings … just to be sure everything is carried out (correctly),” said McHugh. “It’s a little more labor-intensive to make sure everyone follows the rules.”

Brad Brown and his bride, Stacey ’89, held a family-only wedding in Memorial Chapel’s garden chapel. “We had a true wedding,” said Brad. “We’re thankful we were at least able to have this moment, whereas others were not as fortunate.”

Though neither couple has had a reception yet, Gabbi Guevara said the party-less environment didn’t change her mood. “You still definitely feel the celebration and all the love from people near and far,” she said.