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Pandemic disrupts Creighton weddings

Many couples pursuing marriage preparation through St. John’s Church were dealt a curveball by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With social distancing guidelines limiting large gatherings, grand weddings across the country have been all but impossible. St. John’s in particular is a popular wedding location for Creighton University students and alumni.

Recently, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the state would be easing social distancing restrictions. Wedding and funeral reception venues will be limited to the greater of 25 people (excluding staff) or 50% of occupancy. Self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited, and dances or other social events that require guests to gather outside of respective tables are prohibited.

The Rev. Lorn Snow, SJ, pastor of St. John’s Parish, says the parish began celebrating weddings again in mid-May. The church, he says, is following archdiocesan guidelines for liturgical celebrations. No one has canceled a wedding yet, he says, but some have rescheduled for spring 2021.

Still, in Nebraska and elsewhere throughout the pandemic, many couples with weddings on the calendar were forced to make difficult decisions about their ceremonies.

 

Morgan Brower and Stefano BlattCouple: Morgan Brower and Stefano Blatt

Morgan Brower and Stefano Blatt met as Division-I tennis players at South Dakota State University, where their friendship grew into a serious relationship. Once they got engaged, the couple planned a 200-person wedding for May 9 in Morgan’s hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The date fit in well with Morgan’s schedule as a dental student at Creighton’s School of Dentistry, where she just wrapped up her first year. The wedding would be an international event, with Stefano’s family members coming from around the world. The guest list included his parents, who live in his native country of Brazil, and his sister, who lives in Canada.

They first realized how much the global pandemic would affect their wedding when Stefano’s family had their international flights canceled.

“We started to rethink everything,” says Stefano, who works at a branch of First National Bank of Omaha. “It was very important that both of our parents would be here to celebrate with us.”

They have a tentative new date next July. “It’s been tough,” Morgan says of having to change everything so close to their wedding date. “It’s nice to know we’re not alone.”

A positive attitude has kept things in perspective.

“This is out of our control,” Stefano says. “No matter what happens, this is still something very important for us and the people we care about. They will be there for us whenever our wedding happens.”

 

Maddie Dellinger and Nick BraukmannCouple: Maddie Dellinger and Nick Braukmann

As a rising fourth-year medical student, Nick Braukmann’s studies at Creighton’s School of Medicine were upended by the pandemic. In a memorable end to the year, clerkships, rotations and classes were moved online.

But the coronavirus has also disrupted plans to marry his college sweetheart, Maddie Dellinger.

The pair met at Gonzaga University, where they both were involved in choir. While Nick moved on to medical school at Creighton, Maddie worked toward her master’s degree. She hopes to become a high school history teacher.

Their wedding was set for Seattle, with a crowd big enough to accommodate Nick’s large family. It would take place in late June, during a precious two weeks off for rising fourth-year medical students.

But then COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in the Seattle area. The wedding soon began to look much different, particularly because Washington state wasn’t issuing marriage licenses as part of its efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

So, alternate plans began to emerge. The couple had a small marriage ceremony in Portland, Oregon, Nick’s hometown. The couple’s immediate family and a priest equaled 10 people. It’s a far cry from the wedding they had hoped for when going through marriage preparation at St. John’s.

And while the process may have been tough, the situation has allowed them to grow together, Nick says.

“It’s different than what we planned, but we’re still really excited about it,” he says. “We’re getting married! That’s the most exciting thing.”

The Rev. Ben Osborne, SJ, chaplain in the School of Medicine, held a virtual meeting with other engaged couples in the medical school. It was very comforting, Maddie says, to talk with others who are in the same situation.

Nick and Maddie are planning a vow renewal for 2021, with the full celebration, ceremony and reception they originally had in mind.

And, they’ve been looking at the bright side of things. Says Nick: “We’ll have a great story to tell our kids one day.”

 

Casey Beazley and Kaiti-Lynn ZendejasCouple: Casey Beazley and Kaiti-Lynn Zendejas

After meeting in high school in Phoenix, Casey Beazley and Kaiti-Lynn Zendejas, NCATE’20, BA’20, chose to attend Creighton together.

Casey, a rising junior studying exercise science, and Kaiti, who graduated in May, were planning a double celebration – a party to honor Kaiti earning her bachelor’s degree and their wedding, scheduled for the end of May in Arizona.

But both those plans had to change due to the coronavirus pandemic. Commencement was held virtually, and social distancing restrictions meant their wedding plans had to be dramatically altered.

Turning inward on their faith and each other has helped soften the blow. But there were some hard weeks at the beginning.

“It sucked the fun out of wedding preparations,” Kaiti says of the stress of changing plans so close to their date.

The couple’s family has been very supportive through the dramatic shifts. And one silver lining is that everyone has let go of expectations around their big day, Kaiti says. Going through the marriage prep process at St. John’s has been crucial in helping the couple cope with this intense stress.

“I learned a lot more about myself, and Kaiti as well,” Casey says.

 

Kayla Thompson and Johnny TurcoCouple: Kayla Thompson and Johnny Turco

Kayla Thompson, BSW’17, and Johnny Turco, BA’18, JD’19, feel like they’re playing the waiting game.

“It’s been chaotic trying to plan a wedding when we have no idea what will be safe and allowed in October,” says Kayla, who recently finished a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The couple has a wedding planned for St. John’s in October.

“I find myself going through a cycle on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis of ‘how long can this last? October will be totally fine.’ To ‘I just saw an article with the headline Social Distancing until 2022,’” Kayla says.

Kayla says the pandemic hasn’t made her think differently about the idea of marriage. She and Johnny, a bankruptcy attorney, “are still excited to be married,” but the pandemic has forced the couple to reconsider the wedding they envisioned.

“We don’t know what our wedding will look like, and that’s something I’m struggling with. I’ve had this picture in my head of what I think my wedding will look like, and COVID-19 has forced me to let go of that,” Kayla says. “But I have no doubt our day will still be so much fun, and we’ll be surrounded by people who are excited to celebrate with us.”

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