When Matthew and Bethany Vogel got engaged in January of 2019, they had no way to foresee the virus that would upend events worldwide in spring 2020, including their wedding.
They were scheduled to marry April 25 at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church on East Burnett Street in the heart of Germantown, the same parish where her parents were married and where she attended school.
The sacraments are at the center of life for many Catholics. But, at a time when gatherings of 10 or more people are discouraged, celebrating the sacraments the way we’d like to is all but impossible.
Bethany turned to prayer when the severity of the virus became apparent. Should they postpone their wedding? Should they just have a civil ceremony?
“I prayed on it a lot to decide what was best. We always relied on prayer and our faith — knowing that it would work out,” she said in an interview a few days after their wedding.
The couple decided to go forward with their original date, April 25, with only the priest, two witnesses and a photographer.
“It may not be what we had pictured in our mind but it turned out even better than we could have imagined,” Bethany said.
Matthew agreed and said the challenge of the situation brought them closer.
“We know we’ll have challenges ahead and that we can face them together. God will always looks out for us.”
Matthew’s best man live-streamed the ceremony from his phone so family and friends could view the nuptials.
Father Chris Rhodes witnessed the sacrament and said he “did not hesitate” to go forward with the wedding. He said he was supportive of the Vogel’s desire to get married despite the scaled-back wedding.
“They wanted it to still be a special day and we talked about how to navigate that,” said Father Rhodes. “For me, I wanted it to not only be celebratory but also (considered) how could I bring the reverence of the sacrament as well. I thought about how I could demonstrate that when it was just us.”
The couple said that even though it wasn’t the wedding ceremony they originally planned, it turned out better that expected.
“It’s not at all what we had planned. Honestly, it’s one of those things where you have all these plans and God just laughs at you. It’s definitely a day we will not forget,” Bethany said.
Following the ceremony, the newly-married couple received a surprise that brought tears to their eyes. When they stepped onto the church steps for a few photographs, a parade of cars drove by honking and cheering. It was their close family and friends.
That led to an impromptu wedding reception in the adjacent parking lot. Family stayed in or near their cars as Matthew and Bethany cut a smaller version of their originally-planned cake and danced to Matt Stell’s “Prayed for You.”
Nearby Germantown residents gathered on front porches and sidewalks to cheer for the couple.
Bethany said the surprise reception was more than she could have expected.
“We are very blessed with our family and friends that they were able to pull off a surprise. I’m usually able to detect those things. It worked out perfectly,” she said.
The couple plan to hold a vow renewal on their first anniversary in April 2021 and host the reception they originally planned on that date.