It’s been called the "I Do Redo," and it explains why newlyweds across Long Island have two wedding albums to cherish. Technically, only one is a wedding album — the other collection captures a renewal of those vows.
It’s another example of how COVID-19 has shaken the wedding industry. Couples who’d planned on tying the knot last year faced a dilemma: Hold a micro-wedding that met pandemic mandates in 2020 or push the original big event to 2021?
Some chose to do both.
Part of the reason they chose to double up was that Cupid trumped COVID. Couples didn’t want to wait.
The redo made it “feel a little bit more official. It ended up being the best day of our lives.”Lara Hajjar, 30, of Long Beach
Economics played a role as well. Brides and grooms would lose vendor and venue deposits in many cases. Hence, a minimony followed by a maxi-mony.
"Sharing your joy with the people you love is an important aspect of what marriage is all about," says Long Island wedding officiant April Gismondi. A bigger gathering may make for, she adds, "a larger ripple of joy."
We follow three couples through the run-ups to their I Do Redos.
'We have to keep topping ourselves'
Lara Hajjar, 30, a teacher, and Chris Eckhardt, 31, an insurance broker, got engaged in 2018. In short order, their wedding date was squared away.
The Long Beach couple eagerly anticipated their big day set for Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020.
"Once the pandemic hit, we realized that couldn’t happen," she says. They pushed the date to Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021.
But waiting a year to officialize things didn’t sit well. And the prospect last August of "sitting on a couch watching Netflix was depressing."
So on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, before a dozen of their nearest and dearest, they wed in a 5-minute sun-soaked ceremony at their local town hall.
The date was no fluke. "That way in 2021, we would have an anniversary party," she says, adding her simple dress came from Reformation. Chris wore a blue suit.
Following a tented backyard party for 14 at her sister’s home in Long Beach capped by cake from Dortoni Bakery in Levittown, the bride’s childhood favorite, the couple mini-mooned in Montauk.
"We really loved our first wedding," she says. "It was so small and special." They considered canceling the 2021 event but would forfeit pricey deposits.
On Aug. 7, 2021, they publicly expressed their love at the Mansion at Oyster Bay in Woodbury. Nine bridesmaids and groomsmen were among the 175 assembled guests. The Delta variant caused a half-dozen last-minute cancellations, he says.
"Everyone knew that we were married," she says. Between her lacy gown, his formal black tux, heartfelt vows and the usual wedding whir, the renewal ceremony made their union "feel a little bit more official. It ended up being the best day of our lives."
After a honeymoon split between East Hampton and Aruba, the couple marvels at their double doses of happiness, and look to August 2022.
"We keep joking," she says, "that we have to keep topping ourselves."
'Life is short'
Victoria Andreotti, 25, is from Glen Cove, and Andrew Kerper, 27, grew up in Nesconset. They met at George Mason University in Virginia, where they live now and work as music teachers.
Their original plan was to wed on Long Island in 2020, since her sister was tying the knot in 2019. Their date moved to 2021 courtesy of the pandemic.
"We thought about putting off the 2020 wedding and waiting until things had mellowed out," she says. "We thought, ‘We’ll just do the one day and be done.' "
But the death of her uncle from COVID, a grandparent from a stroke, and an aunt from cancer in about 16 months was a wake-up call. "Life is short," she says. They plunged ahead with a streamlined minimony.
On Oct. 10, 2020, in Morgan Memorial Park in Glen Cove, her former high school band director, an ordained interfaith minister, officiated their ceremony before a few dozen guests. She carried white orchids, a nod to her late aunt.
Her white dress cost "a few hundred bucks," she says, adding that it was altered. Sleeves were removed and the material was used to make masks. The newlyweds wore them around an elderly relative at the reception at the Brookville Country Club.
They recall the event as "magical, peaceful and apt." While dancing was restricted, they chose a song to showcase their union: Ben Platt’s "Grow As We Go."
On July 31, 2021, the same song played again for a wedding that had, indeed, grown.
At the North Ritz Club in Syosset, 225 guests, including eight attendants apiece, attended the redo where she wore a poofy gown and vaccine cards or negative COVID test results were required.
"I opted to get a second dress," she says. "My mom and my sister and I love watching ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ on TLC."
"We always make fun of women who get two dresses. Then I became one of them."
The vows were a special highlight. In October 2020, the groom had the idea to write down their thoughts and emotions before the wedding and seal them in a box. They were never spoken until July 2021.
"We finally got to share our thoughts about each other," he says. "We both shared pretty much the same ideas."
'We learned how well we work together'
Michelle Schub, 32, an occupational therapist, and Michael McCarthy, 31, who works for the government, met on a blind date in 2015, and got engaged in 2019. They booked their wedding for 2020.
As the early months of COVID raged, they rescheduled their original big wedding to 2021 but decided to tie the knot sooner.
"We just wanted to be married," she says. "We were planning on buying a house soon and thought certain things might be easier as a married couple."
On Aug. 30, 2020, after a two-week flurry of purchases on Amazon and Etsy, Gismondi officiated the wedding in Michelle’s mother’s backyard in West Sayville. A best man and a maid of honor witnessed the union, while about two dozen loved ones, some in masks, gathered.
The couple’s curated Spotify song list overflowed with love.
"We had the most insanely gorgeous day," she says, adding that the small affair caressed their comfort zone. "Mike and I aren't big center-of-attention people. We had the most intimate wedding day."
They celebrated with day trips to Montauk, a Jamesport vineyard and Greenport.
Like other couples, they forged ahead with the second ceremony because they were invested in it. "We thought, ‘We're already married, let's not do the second one," she says. But that would mean thousands of dollars down the drain.
On Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, the couple’s ceremony at Westbury Manor celebrated with 85 guests, including three attendants apiece, wasn’t as intimate. But it was through-the-roof joyful.
In the run-up to the wedding, the Delta variant had emerged and loomed large. Several guests dropped out at the last minute. It was a reminder that life brings uncertainty.
"We took our rings off for the big ceremony, and did that part all over again," she says. "I realized how important it was for both of us to have the big wedding. We came away thinking it was so absolutely worth it."
Another takeaway, one they’ve thought about since returning from their Finger Lakes honeymoon, is about teamwork.
"We learned how well we work together," he says.