Claire Panter and Matt Walz thought theirs would be “the last wedding standing.”
As their wedding date, March 28, drew nearer, Panter said she kept hoping their wedding would happen as planned.
“But then slowly but surely, it all got shut down,” said Panter, who is getting her master’s in social work at UK. Walz will graduate with an accounting degree next year.
When Panter and Walz got engaged on Nov. 11, 2019— one year after Walz first asked Panter out— they pictured a big wedding.
“We’re both super extroverted and love people,” Panter said. “And so we invited 300 people, and we just imagined it being, obviously, like a big celebration.”
The venue would be Walz’s mom’s church, and many of the vendors were their friends.
“Being in campus ministry, somebody can sing, somebody can paint, you know, everything,” said Panter, who started getting to know Walz at Baptist Campus Ministry ultimate frisbee games. “That’s what we really wanted, was it to be something where all of our friends and family felt like they had a part in it.”
But on March 28, most of those friends and family watched the wedding via Facebook Live.
Panter and Walz held out hope as long as they were only hearing recommendations about not having large gatherings, but once the Center for Disease Control and Gov. Andy Beshear started putting numbers to it, the couple made changes.
First they cut their guest list to 50 people, and church leaders said they could still have the wedding there. Then they reduced to 30 people.
But once the orders said no more than 10 people gathered, the church canceled, and Panter had to look for a new venue.
“I don’t want Andy mad at me,” Panter joked. “So what Andy said was our deciding factor, usually.”
Panter and Walz began looking for any outside location to hold their ceremony, but the day before the wedding, Lexington Parks and Recreation closed golf courses, trails and parks. By that point, Panter was anticipating just getting married at the courthouse.
But that day, she happened to be at the Lexington Cemetery— it was “kind of a God thing,” she said. She decided it would be a beautiful spot for her wedding, though some of her friends and family at first thought a cemetery was an odd spot for a wedding.
On the morning of the wedding, the bride and the groom each had to get ready alone.
“That sucked,” Panter said.
Then, in her wedding dress, Panter had to drive herself to her own wedding.
“I could barely touch the pedal,” she said. “It was just hilarious.”
Of the 14 people who gathered for the wedding, the only two who stood closer than six feet apart were the bride and groom. Panter’s father didn’t really get to walk her down the aisle; he just walked next to her down the aisle.
But, Panter said, she loved what their wedding ceremony ended up being— “a simple declaration of our love.”
She and Walz knew that “God’s hand was all over it,” she said, from pointing them to the perfect location to giving them a beautiful day to protecting them from the financial struggles that other couples have had due to coronavirus cancelations.
“Over the course of the few weeks, the Lord changed our hearts and just made us grateful for whatever we were able to have, which was the tiny little intimate ceremony that we did have,” Panter said.
They do want to celebrate with their friends and family, so they’ll plan a “second wedding” when they can.
“But as far as getting married in the middle of a pandemic,” Panter said, “I thought it turned out all right.”