COVID Weddings: The Sanders

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by Kristina Domitrovich // Photos by Lauren Wood Photography, LLC

McCarthy and Drake Sanders knew each other going back to middle school. In high school, they were friends, but when Drake graduated two years earlier than she did and joined the Army, they lost touch. One day, McCarthy bumped into Drake’s mom, and the two caught up; his mom told Drake about running into McCarthy, and the two rekindled their friendship and started dating.

In July 2019, Drake told McCarthy they were going to have dinner with some friends, so the two got ready. Before they left, they were feeding some horses behind their house, and Drake asked her to marry him, and she said yes.

They began planning their wedding, and the two fell in love with a venue in Oxford and set their wedding date for Oct. 10, 2020. McCarthy wanted a fall wedding, and the venue had it open.

“We booked (the venue) and I had everything planned, everything was going great,” she said. “And then they called and canceled.”

 “That was pretty out of nowhere,” Drake remembers. “They called on a weekend and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to limit your party size down to 10 people inside.’ Immediately, we just kind of looked at each other, there really wasn’t a way to salvage any of it, so it was back to square one with nowhere near the amount of time, and it was a scramble from there.”

Their venue called the first week of August, about two months out from their wedding date. They decided to move the date up and get married on Sept. 5.

“We literally threw everything together,” Drake said. “By that time, we kind of hit the point to where it was like, ‘Okay, we’ve had so many things that we planned for almost a year taken out of our control, let’s try and start making decisions and venue and plans, and things like that, that we can have a little bit more control over, and just go ahead and nail everything down.’”

With this new motto in mind, the couple decided to plan for their ceremony to be in the backyard of her family’s house, overlooking a lake in Saltillo. When they were starting these plans from scratch, Drake remembers it was “the height of COVID as far as restrictions.”

They had to take their original guest list of roughly 200 and drop it down to less than 25 to meet requirements at the time for outdoor gatherings. McCarthy said she was initially disheartened by the new reality for their wedding, but she said when the day finally happened, she enjoyed every minute of it. They were able to have their parents, siblings, grandparents, and they could each have one close friend.

“Even though everything had kind of taken a shift and gotten really stressful there for a second, it was probably the most peaceful way to go about it,” Drake said. “Because we had kind of already come to terms with how things (were) going to go that day, as far as being taken away from the original plans, so we just got out and made the most of it. Her dad and I went hunting that morning, and she had kind of had a little girls’ day at her parents.”

McCarthy said she was very relaxed by the time the day rolled around. Luckily, the couple’s wedding planner was still involved, so she took over the day of.

“I had no worries, I wasn’t stressed out,” she said. “I just got to sit back and get ready, and I didn’t have to worry about anything. It was nice.”

For the ceremony, the couple rented an outdoor tent, and had florals and greenery all throughout. At the end of the aisle, there was an arbor decorated with fabric and more floral elements. There, McCarthy and Drake stood alone with their officiant and were married in front of their close family. Afterward, they went to a restaurant they had reserved, where they celebrated with about 50 of their friends.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” she said.

In the end, though it wasn’t what they had originally planned, they both said it was their dream wedding.

 “I think, even given the chance to go back and just do it normally, the way it ended up was probably better than we could’ve even pictured it,” Drake said. “Everything worked out so much better, to really take all the stress away, it made it that much more special.”

Where are they now? 

After the wedding, Drake and McCarthy returned from a week together in Destin Beach, and now live in Saltillo with their 6-year old Yorkie, Sophie. Drake is an Air Force contractor as a mechanic on the base in Columbus, and McCarthy teaches high school. Soon, they plan on taking their original honeymoon to Jackson Hole, a valley between the Tetons and Gros Ventre mountain ranges in Wyoming.

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