Margaret Ellen Hocker and Tony Shaw were planning to say “I do” at the main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County surrounded by family and close friends. The couple met online in 2009 when they were both in college and bonded over study dates; Margaret was attending Mount St. Joseph and Tony was at the University of Cincinnati. Last year during her birthday party at Vinoklet Winery, Tony popped the question with her friends and sorority sisters in attendance.
“We never wanted to have anything too big, because both of us are introverts,” Margaret says. “The very first plan was to do something at the house and then that got backed up with trying to do something at the library, because I love the downtown branch.”
Then COVID-19 struck, and slowly venues started closing throughout the city. In the beginning, the library canceled all the events right before the day of their wedding, April 4.
They were already planning to have a virtual aspect to their special day so Tony’s mother, who lives in South Carolina, could be a part of it, despite living so far away. They created a Facebook group for his mother and other family and friends who were not able to make it, so they could be included.
It was about two weeks out from their April 4 date when they decided they were going to have the wedding from home. Margaret invited guests to wear white, explaining that their wedding wasn’t going to be a typical traditional one. To get everyone in on the fun, she invited her virtual wedding guests to show off their attire in the Facebook group. “I’ve planned corporate events, family reunions, and things like that, so I’m always looking for ways to make sure the attendees feel engaged,” Margaret says. Attendees shared their well wishes for the happy couple in video toasts.
The officiant, Terry Hocker, one of Margaret’s father’s siblings, is a pastor at Bound by Truth and Love Ministries and has been the family’s pastor for years. It was important for them to be involved with the wedding, the bride says, as they were there when Margaret’s and Tony’s son was born.
With their phones and a camera set up around their house, they started the livestream early so everyone had time to arrive. Following protocols, they made sure the officiant was more than six feet away but close enough to still hear them. The service included parts where Margaret’s father would have traditionally given her away and where Tony’s mother and sister would have given him away to the marriage as well.
The livestream wasn’t without a party, either. The couple shared their first dance and their DJ, Joey “DJ Que” Butts, a childhood friend of Margaret’s, busted out the jams remotely for the couple and their guests.
For Margaret and her sorority sisters, no wedding is complete without sisterly support. Five of the bride’s sisters showed up in the couple’s yard, so they could be there for her on her special day and sang to her (from a safe distance), something they do for all sisters’ weddings.
“Everybody told us they had the best time. We had other friends who are introverts who said, This is the best wedding I’ve been to!” Margaret says. “[It’s] uplifting that people can still follow the rules of social distancing but also still live their lives.”
To other couples considering a virtual wedding during COVID-19, Margaret says, “The most important thing is to remember one another and do the things that are still going to make your heart happy.”
DJ: Joey “DJ Que” Butts | Cake/desserts: Zenobia Ballard | Bride’s Blazer & Blouse: White House|Black Market | Skirt: Amazon Fashion | Bride’s Hair: Locs by LAH | Groom’s Blazer and Jeans: Ralph Lauren | Groom’s Shirt: Croft & Barrow | Invitations: Zola | Officiant: Pastor Terry T. Hocker