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Love in the Time of COVID-19: Planning a Virtual Wedding

When engaged couples sit down to plan their dream wedding, there’s always plenty of considerations: venue, cost, guest list. For those planning their big day during the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, there’s a whole host of other concerns. That’s something that Long Beach’s Zana Bowens and Jonathan Kidd have learned over the last few months as they’re planning their nuptials.

“Well fortunately for us we already liked the vibes of a small wedding, because we wanted to keep it centered and focused on the important part,” said Bowens. “It was already going to be small and then it was like, ‘Well, it’s time to be really small.’”

The pair are getting married at Bowens’ parents’ house in the Lakewood Village neighborhood of Long Beach, with about 40 people on hand and socially distanced. The vast majority of the more than 300 friends and family who would have been on their first pass at a guest list will be tuning in on Facebook Live, where they’ll be live streaming the ceremony. 

Among those unable to travel for the ceremony are Zana’s brother Zion and sister Zoe.

“Zoe is in Chicago and just had a baby a month ago, so they’re not traveling, and Zion just got to Hawaii for football so he’d have to quarantine for two weeks after coming back,” said Bowens. “It just didn’t make sense–so they’ll be watching on the live stream.”

For Kidd, he said that while nobody could have predicted the way the world would be in the summer of 2020, he feels like the events of the last several months have changed the way people will see digital technology going forward.

“I think there’s some sense of normalcy about the virtual world now,” he said. “Both of us having been working from home virtually the last four months, we’ve been attending church virtually. My first week of work after graduating college was done virtually, so I’ve only worked online. Nothing could have prepared us to expect this, but I think it really changes everything.”

Adding a livestream component to the wedding is bring its own set of logistical challenges. First was figuring out a platform. The duo are comfortable using Zoom, but didn’t want to force older friends and relatives to have to navigate a log-in process, so they opted for a public link of Facebook that can be accessed even without a Facebook account.

They’re spending the week leading up to the wedding making sure that the wi-fi in the house is strong enough to support the livestream, and are being helped in preparation by Jonathan’s brother, who also handles the livestream for their church. There’s also contingency plans to make sure that people can still see the wedding even if there’s a wi-fi issue.

“Worst case someone will pull out a phone, but I’m pretty sure we won’t have to rely on that,” said Bowens. 

The couple said they got engaged in January, and were looking to not spend too much time and money planning the ceremony. With everything being shut down, that made it all the easier to move ahead in this digital way.

“You know, we’re lowkey people and I try to do things lowkey especially when they pertain to me,” said Kidd. “Having it be a little more intimate I actually enjoy that part. I’m also very fiscally-minded and it’s making me enjoy the day all the more. Zana wants a taco man for the meal, that’s my favorite part of the planning.”

“It’s a real backyard boogie,” said Bowens.

The fact that the young couple is comfortable with the digital world doesn’t mean that all of their friends and family are, of course. Kidd said they had plenty of people raise eyebrows at the concept when they initially announced it.

“Early on there was a little more ball-busting,” he said. “People saying just wait and do it bigger. As the pandemic has progressed people are more understanding, they get it.”

Another aspect of having the wedding stream on Facebook is that it will be public, which Bowens and Kidd decided early on they were comfortable with.

“I honestly don’t think it’s weird,” she said. “We kind of see it two ways. First, getting married and having a ceremony brings honor and glory to God which is ultimately what we want to do with our wedding. But I think also it’s a breath of fresh air to see good news and good things happening to people, and I think we could all use more of that. If someone’s scrolling and it makes them smile to see it, that’s great.”

Click here to visit Zana and Jonathan’s registry, where you can donate to the couple’s New Life Fund or view the wedding.

Mike Guardabascio
Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.
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