Daniela Cantillo and Dylan McDonough signing their wedding certificate at their wedding. (Photo: Bessie Liu)

As the reality of coronavirus became obvious in March, getting married and having a wedding seemed like something that was completely off the table for many people. Yet, some couples found ways to forgo lavish festivities and celebrate their big day with a small group of loved ones, abiding by COVID-19 restrictions.

For Miju Hong and Aaron Smith, getting married was a decision that did not come lightly. “Last fall we had gone to a pre-marital seminar at our church where they talked about what marriage was and Christianity,” Smith said. “Six months later we began talking more seriously about whether or not we should get married. It wasn’t that we wanted to get married immediately, but because of COVID it became much more complicated.”

Hong and Smith started dating in early November of 2018. The couple had met at a Presbyterian church, where they were both volunteers at Sunday school. Smith began developing an interest in Hong and after multiple attempts, he successfully asked her out on a date through e-mail. 

“When Aaron and I saw each other at church, he made me laugh, that’s why I decided to e-mail him,” Hong said. 

Since then, the two have become inseparable and the pandemic has ultimately bought the couple closer. “We were talking about marriage, but because of COVID, we were spending a lot more time together,” Hong said. “COVID just helped us realize that we wanted to spend all our time together and to think about this upcoming winter, and living separately, and commuting back and forth from Greenpoint to Chinatown again. We just wanted to go ahead in the fall when it wasn’t still freezing.”

Hong and Smith hoped to organize a wedding before winter, as having an indoor wedding would have brought many logistical challenges with the coronavirus. They tied the knot at Central Park on October 24.

“It was pretty clear right away: We were like,  Let’s get married at a park,” Hong said. “The ceremony was at the northern part of Central Park and the reception was at another part of the park.” 

The wedding ceremony consisted of a handful of guests from each side of the family. As social and recreational gatherings at the time were limited to fifty people, relatives overseas and a handful of friends attended the wedding virtually through live stream. 

Weddings have been a superspreader for the coronavirus in the past few months, with a recent wedding and birthday party in New York’s Suffolk County leading to 56 new infections. As a result, Governor Cuomo suspended the North Fork Country Club’s liquor license. After seeing a spike in the COVID-19 infection rates around the state, Cuomo limited indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people, as of November 13. 

For Daniela Cantillo and Dylan McDonough, the intimacy of their small wedding ceremony was something they found extremely special.

“I feel like I always wanted a small wedding,” Cantillo said. “We both had a really good time because it was just a really small group of people we know really well and care about.”

When it came to picking a wedding venue, the couple looked for an outdoor space. They got married on October 24 at City Vineyard at Pier 26. A handful of guests who traveled from interstate to New York completed rapid COVID tests, to ensure they were coronavirus-free for the ceremony. 

“We knew a bunch of people who had been tested prior to coming [to the wedding],” McDonough said. “Having our wedding in an outdoor area made me feel a lot better.”

It is no surprise that the wedding industry has been severely affected by the coronavirus, and many couples who worry about losing their deposits are postponing their weddings until further notice.

When it came to planning and organizing their wedding, Castillo and McDonough went about it in a very relaxed way. 

“Everybody always says planning a wedding is extremely stressful, but throughout the entire time we were doing that, we were like, we don’t really get that,” McDonough said. “So I think honestly we were kind of a bit ignorant about what a wedding was; we weren’t really worrying about the color of the stitching on the napkins that come out.”

Cantillo and McDonough have been dating for a little over two years. The couple met at a student organization as university students but did not begin dating officially until Cantillo moved to New York in 2018. The pandemic had left Cantillo stranded in her home state, Florida, for over four months.

“We hadn’t seen each other for a while,” McDonough said. “So when she came back it just felt all the more intense and serious.”

Correction: The original version of this post was revised to correct the spelling of Dylan McDonough’s surname.