COVID-19 can’t stop the love

Tens of thousands of couples across the U.S. have had to make changes to their wedding plans due to COVID-19. That includes three couples with local connections who were interviewed by the Hometown Press. These couples all chose to bump up their wedding dates and make the best of these unusual times. Despite not going according to original plans, their weddings were sweet and memorable, and the happy couples are glad to have tied the knot, COVID-style.

Destiny and Graham Howerzyl, Apr. 11, 2020

By LeAnn Hjelmeland

                In many ways, Graham and Destiny (De Hoogh) Howerzyl’s  wedding didn’t go as planned earlier this month. The date was a month early. Only nine other people were at the church. No large reception was held afterwards.

                But the Howerzyls aren’t dwelling on those details. Instead, they are happy they were able to get married on Apr. 11 in what ended up being “the perfect day” for them. Relying on their faith in Christ has helped the two during a time when so much was out of their control.

                “Our wedding day was not how we planned it, but this is how God planned it for us,” Graham said.

“We trust in that and are so thankful for the opportunity to get married during this time and witness to the fact that Christ’s love always wins, and His will be done.”

                Graham and Destiny met through mutual friends at Dordt University, where they are both juniors. A 2013 graduate of Sully Christian School and 2017 graduate of Pella Christian High School, Graham is the son of John and Lyn Howerzyl, originally from Sully and Pella and currently of Waverly. He is majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. The daughter of Nate and Shanna De Hoogh of Sheldon, Destiny is double majoring in social work and Spanish.

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                The two got engaged on July 20, 2019, and made plans to get married on May 9, 2020, right after school finished for the year. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved and their wedding month drew nearer, however, Destiny and Graham realized their plans for tying the knot were going to need to change.

FROM PLAN A ... TO PLAN C

                “We seriously started thinking about altering our plans when states began to initiate gatherings of 10 people or less, stay-at-home recommendations, and even state lockdowns,” Graham said. “We first decided that we would keep the wedding on May 9 and have it at Destiny’s family’s farm, where we would have the guests come and watch from their cars. We thought about that more and realized that the COVID-19 situation continued to get worse, so then we finally decided to move the wedding up to Apr. 11. So, this was really our plan C, which we decided on that one week prior to the date.”

                Understandably, the process of deciding on a new plan was quite difficult for the couple. There was disappointment knowing all the people they desired to be at their wedding could no longer come, and they would no longer have a reception afterwards to celebrate with everyone.

                “No matter what we decided on, the day was not going to be how we envisioned or planned it, which was not easy to accept,” Graham said.

                They tried to think of ways in which they could incorporate into the day as much of what they planned as possible, but “no option seemed like the perfect, nor reasonable, option,” Graham said.

                They eventually decided to bump up their wedding date and have a small ceremony this month with a reception later in the fall.  “In the end, we decided on this because we thought it was the best option given the circumstances, and we didn’t feel comfortable bearing the health risks of our loved ones,” Graham said.

WEDDING DAY

Graham and Destiny prepare to cut their cake following a small wedding ceremony on April 11.

                On Destiny and Graham’s new wedding date of Apr. 11, the two were married at Christ Community Church in Sioux Center, which is Destiny’s family’s church. Their pastor, Randy Widbin, whom the couple did pre-marital counseling with, officiated. Also in attendance were both sets of parents, Destiny’s birth mother (she was adopted when she was 13), Destiny’s aunt (pianist) and uncle (cameraman), and one of Destiny’s brothers (camera-man).

                “In the words of my mother (Lyn), our wedding was ‘beautiful in its holy simplicity.’” Graham said. “This is what our wedding was like. It was simple, holy, and intimate. It was very different than we had wanted it, but it was the perfect day for us. At the end of the day, we were married and that was all we cared about.”

                Facebook Live was used to livestream the wedding, thanks to help from Destiny’s uncle. He figured out a way to use multiple phones to allow for different camera angles, adding a nice touch for the viewers to be able to experience it from all the angles versus just the one.

PLANS AND ENCOURAGEMENT

                The newlyweds are unsure when they will go on their honeymoon to Cancun. Their originally scheduled dates were for mid-May, but their resort was forced to close down until May 1 due to Mexico’s government restrictions.

                They do have a date set – Sept. 26 – for a reenactment wedding ceremony and reception. “We are looking forward to that time when we can properly celebrate with all of our friends and family,” Graham said. “It is also Destiny’s birthday, so it will be an awesome way to spend her birthday.”

                For now, Graham and Destiny are living in Sioux Center in the house they planned on renting after getting married in May. The two are happy to be married and want to assure anyone else struggling with wedding decisions due to COVID-19 that “everything WILL work out.”

                “We know how stressful and uncertain this time is, and that you feel like you will not be making the right decision,” Graham said. “We just encourage you to work through it together and decide on what is best for you as a couple, whether that be having a small ceremony like we did or postponing your entire wedding. We know it is not how you planned it, but in the end, it will work out and you will be married.”

Hailey and Jaden Rolffs, Apr. 25, 2020

By Margaret Vander Weerdt

The happy bride and groom on the steps of Sully First Reformed Church, where they were married on Apr. 25 by Pastor Wayne Sneller.

                Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hailey Scandridge and Jaden Rolffs will not be able to have a destination wedding in Jamaica in June.  Instead, they practiced social distancing and were married by Pastor Wayne Sneller at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 25, on the steps outside the south side of Sully First Reformed Church. The ceremony was also on Facebook Live. They plan to have a honeymoon in Jamaica at a later date.

                The couple had picture-perfect weather for their outdoor wedding. The couple’s parents and siblings were at the short ceremony, including the bride’s parents Bob and Diana Scandridge of Sully, the bride’s brothers Payton Scandridge of Rochester, MN, and Cooper Scandridge of Sully, the groom’s parents Brad and Erin Rolffs of Pella, and the groom’s brother and sister-in-law Josh and Bell Rolffs of Kenosha, WI. Six of the couple’s grandparents also watched the ceremony­­ from chairs spaced out on the south side of the church. Following the ceremony, the bride served carrot cake she made herself.

Hailey and Jaden Rolffs, April 25, 2020.

                The bride said about the change of plans, in some ways it was a blessing because not all the grandparents and great-grandparents would have made it to Jamaica. “My grandparents were happy with the change because they weren’t going to be able to go to Jamaica with us,” the bride said.

                The couple has known each other since middle school and started dating in 2016. The bride is a 2018 graduate of Lynnville-Sully High School. The groom graduated from Pella High School in 2018. They got engaged in December of 2019 on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The groom will be a junior at Missouri State University this fall where he is majoring in exercise science and playing baseball. The bride will be a May graduate of Des Moines Area Community College with a degree in Realtime Reporting and will be seeking a job in Springfield, MO. (The Hometown Press staff will miss Hailey’s great talents as office intern since May 2017. Thank you, Hailey!)

Caleb and Morgan Jansen, Apr. 18, 2020

By LeAnn Hjelmeland

                When Caleb and Morgan (Kroymann) Jansen reach their originally scheduled wedding date of May 15, they will already have been married for about a month. The couple moved up their wedding to Apr. 18 due to COVID-19 – and are really glad they did.

                “Our wedding day was awesome!” they wrote in an email to the Hometown Press. “While it certainly was not what we originally planned, we both said that we were really happy that we were able to do it this way (almost preferring it over the big ceremony!).”

                The two tied the knot at Cornerstone Church in Ames with their college pastor, Mark Vance, officiating. Only immediate family attended the ceremony. That included their parents, David and Lisa Jansen of Kellogg and Ken and Laurie Kroymann of Solon.

Despite all the changes in their wedding plans, Caleb and Morgan Jansen say their wedding day was “awesome.”

                “Instead of having a large ceremony with approximately 250 in attendance, it was just our immediate family in the room with our extended family and friends watching online,” the Jansens wrote. “We did try to make it as similar to a normal wedding as possible. We all still dressed up (Caleb in a suit, Morgan in her wedding dress). We still got flowers, and Morgan still walked down the aisle with her dad.”

                A family friend captured the day on camera, and they even had a mini reception afterwards with their families at Caleb’s parents’ house, which included cake made by Caleb’s grandma.

                “Even though it was smaller, our families worked really hard to make the day special for us,” the newlyweds shared. “They planned speeches, slideshows, and even called all of our friends and family to drive by Caleb’s parents’ house to celebrate with us! It was a great day, and we wouldn’t have changed it.”

                Caleb and Morgan met two years ago at a Granger Smith Concert they attended with mutual friends from church. They hit it off and started dating a few weeks later. The two got engaged on May 13, 2019, and made plans to get married almost exactly a year later on May 15, 2020.

                That all changed, of course, when COVID-19 hit and Governor Kim Reynolds extended the state’s social distancing proclamation to Apr. 30. Since that was only about two weeks before their original wedding date, it seemed unlikely they would be able to hold their event with all of their guests, or that people would even be willing to come.

                “Once the possibility came up that our original wedding would be cancelled, we pretty much knew that we didn’t want to wait longer to get married. We really didn’t have any reason not to get married (with Morgan already in Iowa City, and all of Caleb’s college classes now online), and we already felt like our engagement had been long enough,” the Jansens wrote. “So moving up the date just made more sense. The only issue was that our original pastor actually lives in Texas, so we had to find a new pastor and a new church to get married in. Our college pastor and church were gracious enough to help us with that!”

Caleb and Morgan Jansen, Apr. 18, 2020

                The two admitted going through all of the emotions and ups and downs was really difficult, especially in the beginning.

                “We had never made a contingency plan for ‘world pandemic’ (who does for their wedding??), so when it came, it was out of left field,” they wrote. “After a few weeks, though, we were more ready to make a decision instead of continue to wait to see if our wedding would be cancelled due to the state mandates. Eventually, we even came to be really joyful that we were getting married sooner.”

                Caleb and Morgan are grateful for their families and friends who have been so encouraging and helpful through all the changes and unknowns. “Additionally, we really believe that God’s timing and plan is better than our own, so in the end, we knew that whenever our wedding happened, and however it happened, it would be good,” they wrote.

                They consider it an unexpected blessing that they both enjoyed their actual wedding day more than the one they had originally planned. “Instead of having all of the craziness and pressure of a big wedding, we were just able to enjoy the day and actually have time to take it all in,” the Jansens wrote. “There was no pressure or production. It was just us and our families, and we are really thankful for that.”

                The couple had plans to honeymoon in Hawaii, which they hope to reschedule once life is back to “normal.” For the week after their wedding, they took time off work and spent a relaxing week at their apartment in Iowa City.

                The Jansens plan to have a reception and vow renewal in January 2021. In the meantime, Caleb will finish his senior year at Iowa State and start a job as a civil engineer in Cedar Rapids, and Morgan will attend physician assistant school at the University of Iowa beginning in August.

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