A Wedding In Complicated Times: From Blow-Out Event to Minimony

As the mother of three daughters, two of whom had been planning their weddings before the pandemic started, I never imagined we’d see the first ceremony staged on our back porch. We come from a family that loves big parties and a tradition where weddings can go for days with as many as 300 guests. My own wedding boasted around 200 guests. So how could I guess that we’d have to whittle down my eldest daughter’s guest list from 130 to only seven people in attendance, a number that included the bride and groom.  

Clearly, the pandemic has turned our lives inside out, challenging expectations and putting plans on hold. When life demands a compromise that’s what you have to do. Or, as the Chinese proverb puts it: “The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.”

My eldest daughter’s wedding was to be in mid-October but she postponed it to next year as many of the guests would have been traveling from overseas and from across the country. She and her fiancé didn’t want to compromise anyone’s safety. Their big wedding might be delayed until the pandemic was over but they decided not to delay moving on with their lives. A ‘minimony,’ or a mini ceremony, was what they chose to do. It would be a special day no matter what!

My daughter wanted to keep her original wedding dress for the big celebration next year so we scrambled to find something suitable for this event. The search began online and we were soon inundated with boxes arriving and being returned. Finally in desperation, she and I donned our masks, and made the one and only visit to the mall. It was as if the dress was just waiting for her – a simple but elegant dress in a delicate opal grey. To me the dress was my daughter personified – understated but beautiful.


Their wedding florist arranged flowers, in soft hues of white and champagne interspersed with eucalyptus, for this much-abridged event. My youngest daughter who has turned into a baker-extraordinaire through the pandemic, announced she would make an elderflower and lemon wedding cake – inspired by Megan Markle and Prince Harry’s cake – a responsibility I would have balked at, but she jumped at the chance.

On the day of the minimony the house was filled with the seven of us. The bride and groom were present – check. The florist arrived with gorgeous flowers to deck the porch – check.  The cake was finished and decorated – check. The table was beautifully set for the wedding dinner – check. And all completed before heading over to the mosque for the imam to officiate the mini ceremony.

Back at home we had some lovely photographs taken of our tiny wedding party and then we cozied up for dinner on the porch and cake cutting. A Zoom call with the grandparents and the extended family would further mark this celebration, even if a few relatives were muted as they talked over each other.  Surprisingly, we were having a good time. The intimacy of the minimony allowed us to relax and have fun in the comfort of our home. I watched my daughter and my new son-in-law as we all lingered at the dinner table. Despite the chill in the air and the darkness descending, their faces shone with love for each other and sheer happiness. The joy around the table was palpable. It was a day we’d all cherish forever.

As the first of my daughters got married I wondered how she would tell the story of her special day. How would all the countless couples who have postponed 2020 weddings to then concoct mini ceremonies and impromptu events record their wedding-day memories?  My thoughts turned to reflections of my own wedding, looking back after thirty years of happy marriage. Most of us remember vividly what happened on our big day, but to describe our feelings from that moment takes more effort. I know from my work at The Story Project that even young couples, eager to describe their courtship, need gentle guidance to help them fully capture their story. As I think about my wedding and my daughter’s mini ceremony, I’m reminded that it’s worth the effort to remember, to piece together the memories and emotions of one of the most precious moments in our lives and record our stories as they should be told now and for the future.

Infinity Photography

True North: A Love Story In 5 Maps

True North: A Love Story In Five Maps recounts a couple’s courtship through their travels and adventures.

The Heart of interviewing

The journalist Isabel Wilkerson once said the trick of getting ordinary people to open up about their lives is to create what she calls “accelerated intimacy” between her and her sources. Don’t ever lead the interview, she cautions, instead let it develop like a guided conversation.

I thought of that the other day when I sat down to interview a young couple for a Short Take they’d commissioned for their first wedding anniversary. They were easy-going and eager to talk, but describing the ups and downs of a love affair can quiet the most effusive among us. In their case, we were lucky, they’d come equipped with props: five maps.

As they told the story of the maps, connecting each to a moment in their courtship, they visibly relaxed into the conversation. What started as a formal interview quietly shifted gears into something less guarded. Of course letting a couple steer the narrative can feel a bit like watching a game of street basketball — he starts to dribble, she steals the ball, he recovers it, pauses, and passes back to her — but the process brings out the best of both partners’ tale-telling abilities as they pick up the thread of each other’s storylines and expand on the other’s thoughts and memories. It’s a delight to record.

In the best of personal interviews, what begins as a dry series of introductory questions quickly morphs into a fun and often even funny narration. It can be irreverent, intense, emotional and curious, but most often provides the makings of an openhearted narrative — a love story to cherish. — Caitlin Randall

The Soul of Design

The basketball analogy is apt. The subjects of our book — Jesse and Betsy — are athletes, and when they are in motion, they are at their least self-conscious. And so I embraced their suggestion that they be photographed while going for a run. Not only did that free them from worrying about how they looked on camera, but it created an air of spontaneity that resulted in images that pleased us all. Certainly their dog, Banjo, helped lighten the mood.

It was only after the portrait session that I read Caitlin’s text for the Short Take and began designing Jesse and Betsy’s book. Its subtitle, A Love Story In Five Maps, was a given, but the concept didn’t come together until I actually saw the maps that Jesse had drawn. His very literal interpretation of a compass rose — complete with thorns — was as romantic as it was clever. I thought, What does the rose point to? What is the heart’s desire? The answer was our title: True North. — Peter Crabtree

Taking the Leap to Propose: What Are Women Waiting For?

Amy Adams and Matthew Goode duke it out in Leap Year (2010). 

Leap Year, that weird calendar oddity that only comes every four years, has inspired a slew of stories and superstitions. The most famous — February 29th is the day women can ask men to marry them — was conjured up in Ireland sometime back in the 5th century.

Legend has it that an Irish nun known as Saint Brigid of Kildare bitterly complained to Saint Patrick that too many women were waiting too long for men to propose marriage. The country’s patron saint agreed to give women one day in the calendar — conveniently one that falls only every four years — when they could ask their longtime suitors to wed. If the man said ‘no’ tradition demanded that he buy his spurned girlfriend a silk gown. I wonder how many rejected women felt they’d won the better end of that deal.

For a woman to propose on any other day among the 365/366 in the Gregorian calendar was and, to a certain extent, still is considered a major no-no. Astoundingly, society clings to the notion that a marriage proposal is a male responsibility. The idea is so culturally pervasive that a woman dropping down on one knee to propose is still a rarity. The image of a ‘desperate woman’ prevails.

So what do you think? Does it really matter who proposes to whom — or why, or how? And a shoutout to all the modern women out there: Would you or have you popped the question? We’d love to hear your stories!

Here are a few famous women who have done the proposing:

  • Actress Kristen Bell to Dax Shepard
  • Pop star Britney Spears to Kevin Federline on a flight back from Ireland (where else?)
  • Singer/songwriter Pink to Carey Hart
  • Fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg to Barry Diller
  • TV’s Judge Judy to Jerry Sheindlin
  • Elizabeth Taylor, married seven times, but only asked one man, Michael Wilding, to marry her