The Holy Family steps in to help with wedding cancelled by COVID

Kevin and Courtney Norris were married at the Chapel of the Holy Family in Charleston during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Provided)

HANAHAN—When wedding bells were silenced for a young couple living in Virginia, the Holy Family stepped in to help them realize their marriage vocation.

Kevin and Courtney Rose Norris met on a Catholic dating app. They only met once before Kevin, a U.S. Navy officer, was deployed. But once he returned, it took just a handful of dates before they knew they were meant to be together. They got engaged and secured a wedding date for June 2020, at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

But the day after Courtney’s wedding shower in March, the COVID-19 pandemic intercepted the couple’s plans. The academy had to shut its doors to the public and their wedding was canceled. 

“We were kind of at a loss as to what was going on with the world because Covid had shut down everything,” she said.

They didn’t know whether to plan another wedding, a smaller wedding, or put it off. Also, by that time the wedding had to be held in Charleston because Kevin was stationed at the Nuclear Power Training Unit and was not allowed to leave the area.

There was hope, however. Kevin had gone to high school with Lexie Segrest Neary, former assistant director of the Diocese of Charleston’s young adult ministry. She connected them to the Office of Family Life to see if they could help the couple put together a small wedding in Charleston.

“We were very much ready to get married and very much looking forward to being married,” Courtney explained. “In our minds, though we wanted to have the big party with all of our family there, what mattered to us was sacramentally getting married.”

At that point, the dynamo known as Kathy Schmugge stepped in, diocesan director of Family Life. Though all churches were closed during the beginning of the pandemic, Schmugge was able to secure a rare privilege: permission to hold the first wedding Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Family at the Diocese of Charleston’s pastoral center. The exception was made because of the possibility of another deployment for Kevin.

Though that was a blessing, the couple had to rethink how everything would look. All ideas, such as bridesmaids and nautical themes, had to be thrown out the window.

The ceremony took on the theme of the Holy Family because they were just going to be with their parents and siblings. That meant they had the awkward task of calling and uninviting people, but they found other ways to include them.

“We tried to make it so that everyone who was previously going to be included could have some way of participating,” she said.

One of those ways was inviting people to pray the Holy Family novena with them in the days leading up to the nuptials, set for May 16, 2020. They also livestreamed the ceremony, which allowed family and friends anywhere in the world to watch.

“Just having that connection of people despite it being a time when everyone was so disconnected was really nice,” Courtney said.

In the end, the Norris wedding had nine people, including the parents of the bride and groom, each of their brothers, and Courtney’s priest from her childhood in New Hampshire.

“It wasn’t the wedding that I had envisioned. It wasn’t what I would have ever planned. There were definitely some things that I missed, but I think it was the wedding I needed,” Courtney explained.