Two University of Jamestown students shared a special moment on May 2, 2019, when Dustin Wagner popped the question to his girlfriend. Now, nearly a year later, the couple's once-in-a-lifetime ceremony has been dramatically changed by another once-in-a-lifetime event - the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have had to change everything," said Carrie Noel, Wagner's fiancee, of her wedding plans. "New venue, fewer guests, possibly a different date, possibly no bridesmaids or groomsmen, possible honeymoon plans changed. The most difficult part is that none of these changed plans are static - we are adapting as we go."
The couple planned their wedding ceremony and reception for May 30, 2020, and are still hoping to be married on the originally scheduled date. Wagner and Noel changed the venue from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, to Jamestown Reservoir. The private ceremony will tentatively be attended by close family members, parents and the bridal party.
"I want to say how proud I am of Dustin and Carrie," said Wagner's mother Lisa. "They could have chosen to complain or be sad about this whole situation. This is one of the most important days of their lives, and COVID-19 has changed all their dream plans.
"However, for such a young couple, they realize that ultimately it is not about the wedding. It is about the marriage and the commitment they are making to each other. A wedding lasts for just one day. A marriage is meant to last a lifetime. Their faith is very important to them and the bedrock to why they can handle this situation with such positivity."
Noel also spoke to the positives of planning and holding a wedding in the midst of a global health pandemic.
"Dustin says we saved a lot of money on the wedding," Noel said with a laugh. "As graduating college students saving money is a big plus for us. For myself, I have learned and grown a lot through this period. Also, Dustin's an introvert and has enjoyed the time by himself."
Wagner did not get much time by himself last weekend when Lisa organized a drive-by bridal shower for the couple in lieu of the original shower being canceled due to the pandemic.
The groom didn't seem to mind, however, as he celebrated the love shared between himself and his future bride.
"Dustin's mom had planned the bridal shower first, and she was very disappointed that she couldn't do it as planned," Noel said. "So to make up for the lost party, she found a way to make it happen even if it looked different. And in the end, we all had a lot of fun at it. We're grateful for her and how she's adapting to this."
Lisa said she knew she could have postponed the shower to a later date due to the virus. The mother of the groom opted not to because the couple already had seen postponements of major events like a graduation ceremony from UJ in May. Lisa said she wanted to bring a sense of normalcy and excitement to the special time in the couple's lives.
"I tried to decorate the yard just like I would have decorated for the party that would have been held at our church," Lisa said. "I put a large outdoor mat in the front yard with chairs set up for them to sit. Then I put up a conversation heart garland around the perimeter of the yard. I had balloons and signs that read 'HONK for Carrie and Dustin.' It looked very festive."
Noel and Wagner were seated in the Wagner front yard last Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. as well-wishers either drove by to wish them well or stopped to congratulate the happy couple. Guests could also play an interactive game with the couple while practicing social distancing methods. Over an 8-hour period, more than 100 well-wishers stopped by the home to celebrate the couple.
"Dustin's mom put in a lot of work to it and had been talking about it and planning it for weeks before it happened," Noel said of the shower. "It made me happy how excited she was about it and how much work she put into it. Dustin says that sometimes you forget how many people love you and support you, so it was really cool to see everyone come out and remember how many people care about you."
Plans have shifted and dreams have been readjusted for Wagner and Noel as well as for other couples across the nation. Noel said her wedding, even in the midst of the global pandemic, could be more beautiful than what she has pictured for the last year.
"Reality is often better than the dreams we imagine in our heads," Noel said. "It's important to stay grateful even during discouragement and embrace what's happening rather than wishing for what's not happening. Stay close to people you love and make the most out of what you've been given. In the end, changed plans can be more special because you made something special out of them. A pandemic makes weddings look entirely different, but different is not inherently worse."
Noel's future mother-in-law expressed well wishes to the couple as the family looks toward the ceremony now a mere 36 days away.
"My wish for them is that they will look back on this time, not with sadness, but with fondness," Lisa said. "They took what could have been a bad situation, and focused on what was really important. Each other."