This past summer, Jim and Karen Boots of Redwood Falls received a request from their son, Collin, to Skype with them. The day was June 19, 2019.
According to Karen, they had just chatted with Collin the week before, and so they thought another conversation was a little unusual.
This time when they saw him on the screen his girlfriend, Jessica Byington, was with him, and they then found out why that meeting was so important.
Collin and Jessica were announcing their engagement.
Plans began immediately, and, because their son lives in California, Jim and Karen also started their own plans to make a trip to the west coast.
Karen said the couple wanted a small wedding with a restaurant for a venue. It took a while to find what they desired, but in the end they found it in a location by the ocean in Long Beach.
A group of 31 guests would be invited.
According to Karen, since Collin and Jessica both work in aerospace, the invitations and the rings had a space theme. The rings are made of titanium with a meteorite inlay, and the couple designed a launch patch for their marriage.
Karen said she and Jim planned to travel to California with their daughter Bailey and her family, including her husband Jacob, and their children, Matthew, who is two, and Lucy, who is six months old.
They were leaving March 19 and staying through the weekend. A meal with their future daughter-in-law’s family, which was going to be the first time they would meet, was scheduled. The wedding was set to be held Friday, March 20.
Other activities, including a Saturday visit to Universal Studios, and a Sunday morning brunch, were also part of the itinerary.
Then the news of coronavirus hit, and everything started to change.
By March 8 the visit to Universal Studios had been cancelled, and a few days later others started letting Collin and Jessica know they would not be attending due to the increasing coronavirus health issues.
Up until March 16, the Boots clan was still planning to attend, but then their daughter and her family opted to not make the trip, as Bailey’s husband works in a senior care facility.
At that point, Jim and Karen were going to be the only travelers still planning to be there. Then Collin had a conversation with his parents advising them to stay home.
Two friends were still planning to attend the wedding as witnesses.
“Restrictions were increasing daily in Los Angeles,” added Karen.
The venue was closed, so the wedding was held in their back yard. By that Friday, California had restricted all unnecessary movement outside of people’s homes.
While Jim and Karen would not be there physically, they still wanted to be “present,” and so an idea began to develop. Jim and Karen would make a trip to Duluth to be with their daughter and her family, and through the wonders of technology they would watch the wedding more than 1,000 miles away.
The Minnesota wedding guests dressed up in the clothes they planned to wear to the wedding and even made their own wedding meal.
“We watched the ceremony online and toasted the new bride and groom,” explained Karen, adding they had a four-course meal and took plenty of pictures to share with Collin and Jessica.
Later that day they also had a Skype conversation with the new couple where they were able to congratulate them personally.
Karen said they missed the fact they could not be there physically to watch them say their vows up close, offer hugs and to meet the newest members of their extended family, but she added they were happy to have the chance to watch it.
No, Karen said, it is not the same as being there.
According to Karen, a live stream was set up through Discord, and that company, which typically only allows for 10 links as part of a private group had increased that option to 50 because of the coronavirus situation. A laptop was hooked up to the TV.
Although there were a few technical difficulties, people from Minnesota, Florida, Utah, Oregon, Great Britain and other locations were able to take part in the wedding online.
Karen admitted this was not the way they wanted things to be, but they feel good that they were able to make it a memorable day. She added the planning of a menu, dressing up and being with family took away some of the pain of not being there.