The house on Highway 32 had always caught Brent Whitfield’s eye. For nearly a decade as he made service calls for AT&T near where he’d grown up in Chelsea, he’d been enamored by the home’s lines, and its modern design clad in rustic wood. The first time his job took him on its wooded property he was more than happy to see it up close, but little did he know the significance the place would soon take on in his life.
When Brent came over to tell the homeowner he was finished with the job, they started to chat right inside the front door of the house. It was there that he immediately noticed the owner’s daughter McKenzie sitting on a chair a few feet away. Thirty minutes of conversation with the whole Williams family later, he left a business card with the owner.
Afterward McKenzie found the card and sent a text message to Brent. She’d enjoyed talking to him. Perhaps they could continue the conversation over coffee? And so they did.
Before too long McKenzie moved back home from Mississippi, where she had gone to college and had been living, and following their engagement, they were making plans for around 200 guests to join them as they wed overlooking a canyon in Albertville, Alabama.
And then came the coronavirus, encroaching on their May 24 wedding date. A few weeks into quarantine, the couple realized their original plans were no longer feasible to keep their friends and family safe and started looking at a Plan B.
The problem was location. No churches were allowing anyone inside, and parks were closed. They toyed with the idea of getting married at a family friend’s lake house. And then what might seem obvious dawned on them: Why not marry at the home where they first met?
And if they were simplifying their plans, they figured why wait? So they checked on their photographers Nathan and Amber Crumptons’ availability and moved their date up to April 18—only two weeks from when they set it. “With all the other uncertainty, why would we put it off longer?” McKenzie says. “We could go ahead and start our lives together.”
A self-proclaimed hard core do-er and Enneagram Type 3, McKenzie set out to make her revised wedding to-do list and check it off—quickly. Brent wasn’t able to get a tux or a suit in time, so they ordered his wedding attire online from Banana Republic. McKenzie, though, was able to have her dress fitted as planned Diane’s Formal Affair. A family friend, Annette Turner, who had planned to make their dulce de leche wedding cake said she could scale it down, and they got Taziki’s to cater for the 12 guests.
McKenzie recruited a friend from growing up who does floral work, Rebekah Dodd, to make her bouquet and find flowers top the cake. “I told her the colors I wanted, but barely anything was available,” McKenzie recalls. “She said, ‘How about succulents for the cake?’ At that point I said, ‘Let’s use whatever you can get.’” And in the end, the floral touches were just as beautiful as McKenzie had imagined, accompanied by some of her parents’ plants. “All of our community rallied together to make it happen,” McKenzie says.
The day before their intimate wedding McKenzie, Brent and their parents gathered the string lights they bought off Amazon and white candles they’d found at Walmart (TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s were all still closed), along with fabric a family friend had from their daughter’s wedding and set to transforming a back porch into an intimate wedding venue, using pieces of McKenzie’s parents’ porch sectional to form an aisle. A friend did the calligraphy on a chalkboard sign at the entrance to the house they setup with antiques from McKenzie’s parents’ house, just as they’d planned for their Albertville ceremony.
By the time they’d finished setting up, they were all still in sweat pants and leggings for the rehearsal—fitting quarantine attire, after all. “It was such a whirlwind,” McKenzie says.
The wedding day itself started nearly nothing as originally planned. McKenzie kicked off the day with a set of tears talking to her grandmother on the phone—a sweet moment she’ll always remember. A makeup artist wasn’t able to come, so McKenzie recruited the woman who had done her makeup for all the other formal events in her life: her mom. Soon after their job was done, her bridesmaids were on Zoom for a first look at the bride and to pray together, and they surprised her by wearing their bridesmaid dresses on the call.
McKenzie’s brother wasn’t able to travel with his family—including the flower girl and ring bearer—to marry them as planned, but Brent’s dad, an ordained minister, stepped in instead. In the end, Brent says the most challenging part of the day was when he saw his bride walk down the aisle and not “losing it” crying as their friends and extended family watched the ceremony on Facebook live.
For photos the couple posed in the house’s wood-paneled master bedroom and outside in front of garage doors—spots they never would have picked out but in end the end looked a lot like the rustic venue they’d originally booked. They even took a few with McKenzie sitting in the chair by the front door where she’d been when Brent first saw her. “We really feel like the Lord laid it in our laps to meet one another in that way,” McKenzie says. “We were able to shave a sweet moment back where it all started.“
After the ceremony, the newly-joined family—both sets of parents, and Brent’s sister, brother-in-law and their five kids—headed inside and spent time together and laughed around the kitchen table with the new Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield. In the end, it was nothing they’d originally planned, but more sweet and intimate than they could have imagined.
“The biggest thing was we wanted to savor the whole day,” McKenzie says. “There wasn’t an agenda. We were truly able to relish every moment and laugh. It stripped away anything that can be distracting, and it was about our ceremony and commitment to one another.”
When we talked to the couple in May, they had a delayed reception on the calendar in Albertville in September, but those plans were still up the air based on how COVID-19 plays out. They hadn’t been able to honeymoon in Mexico as they’d originally planned but were hoping to get a trip on the books soon, especially since they only had four days off for the wedding before returning to work, Brent with AT&T and McKenzie at a physical therapy clinic and as a dance instructor. But what they knew for sure was that the day they’d committed to spend their lives together was one they’d never forget in the best way.