Ali and Kody Weiss were two months away from having the big wedding of their dreams.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic rolled in.

Coronavirus-related problems resulted in being forced to use a temporary ring and a wedding originally set for 300 people was sliced to 56. Originally scheduled for a service in White Lake and a reception in Mitchell, the ceremony was still held in White Lake on the originally scheduled date of May 15, but the reception was hosted on the farm of Ali’s brother.

With Ali set to graduate from the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and begin her residency in family medicine in Rapid City on June 8, there was no time for postponement like many couples are currently opting for. They simply made the best of their wedding and came to peace with missing out on a big wedding.

“It was tough at first -- everything was falling apart,” Ali Weiss said. “Graduation fell apart, honeymoon fell apart, vacations -- all of this free time we had before we had to move and start work again. I think we did mourn for a little bit, but we’re at a good place now. Everything worked out on our wedding days as well as we could have expected.”

Vendors have been flexible with those wishing to alter their wedding plans, but many are contractually bound to certain services, which has led to many postponements rather than canceling for a different venue, according to their wedding planner Jennifer Savage.

Ali and Kody Weiss dance at their wedding reception as Todd Kieffer sings and plays guitar (far left) on May 15 in White Lake. (Corey Gross Photography)
Ali and Kody Weiss dance at their wedding reception as Todd Kieffer sings and plays guitar (far left) on May 15 in White Lake. (Corey Gross Photography)

The Weiss’ may have missed on the large wedding and a honeymoon trip to Tahiti, but because they were tied into the reception at The Masonic Hall, they have decided to hold a one-year anniversary party on May 15, 2021.

“We’re kind of lucky because in our own way, we get to (get married) twice,” Weiss said. “We kind of got the best of both worlds. We had that small, intimate ceremony and we got to talk to everybody and had meaningful conversations with everyone. That aspect was very nice.”

While the Weisses were able to salvage a potentially crushing situation, Savage says they fall into the minority in some ways. Wedding season is often viewed as the spring and summer months, but she says South Dakotans had been increasingly shifting to fall weddings prior to COVID-19.

Some may not have altered too many plans by moving to the fall -- although Savage has clients that pushed their wedding back a year or had a quick ceremony with a party scheduled for a later date -- but has now created a logjam on venues, caterers and photographers due to the influx of weddings now being scheduled later in the year.

Savage had to warn couples that postponement meant a strong possibility of having the wedding on a Friday or Sunday rather than a Saturday because many vendors were booked until 2021. However, certain details such as the amount of people submitted to caterers and table layout come in the final stages of the planning process, which helps those reducing the size of the party.

“You kind of have to turn on the adrenaline,” said Savage, who owns Plan to Party in Sioux Falls. “Vendors and dates were booking so quickly and the schedules were changing so quickly that you had to be ready to act on it in a matter of hours. Most of them got shifted in about 24 hours.”

Laura Wenande, owner of L.O. Imijri in Mitchell, still expects to shoot her average of 20 weddings per year, but most of them will now take place during the fall, which shifts her income to a later date as well.

Bride Shelby Koepke is surrounded by her bridesmaids after getting married in Brandon. (Laura Wenande / L.O. Imijri)
Bride Shelby Koepke is surrounded by her bridesmaids after getting married in Brandon. (Laura Wenande / L.O. Imijri)

She also must be more cautious about keeping a safe distance while taking photographs, but with many of the weddings taking place in an outdoor setting and reduced capacity numbers, it has put her more at ease with the looming threat of COVID-19.

“I’m usually pretty hands-on with adjusting hair or straps, but now I have to ask their personal attendant,” Wenande said. “It’s much harder to try to describe and not do it for them. With the variety of lenses that I have, I’m able to adapt easy enough, but I would say that’s the hardest part. Just trying to adapt with keeping everyone’s space in mind.”

Even though couples are settling into the idea of smaller weddings, the most difficult aspect is deciding who gets to come to the wedding and how they break the news to the people that do not get to come.

“My immediate family is 20 and Kody has an immediate family of four, so inviting cousins was out of the question,” Weiss said. “Especially since they’re spread out across the country. We told our aunts and uncles, if you’re available, we’d love to have you, but don’t feel pressure. We weren’t going to be upset if someone chooses not to come or is unable to come.”