Amy Phuong: “It hit me. We’d been planning so long, and now, our wedding is not going to happen.”

For our 21st Century Plague project, we spoke with 17 Georgians about the toll of COVID-19.

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21st Century Plague: Coronavirus in Atlanta
Amy Phuong and Kerry O’Brate

Photograph by Audra Melton

For our 21st Century Plague project, we spoke with 17 Georgians about the toll of COVID-19. Below, Amy Phuong—vice president of government relations for the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena—describes how she and her husband quickly changed their planned 200-guest wedding into a small, livestreamed affair. (Phuong was interviewed on March 23.)

My wedding was set for March 28. We had everything planned. There were all the last-minute details that needed to be buttoned-up, but it was in position. I even had a final walk-through at the venue on March 4. We’d invited 200 people. I checked in with a few out-of-town guests in case they were having different thoughts [due to COVID-19]. They all responded, Nope, we’re good.

Mentally we were just ready to have this wedding. We had a very fluid wedding planned to begin with. It would be lots of food, beverages, dancing. The biggest worry was whether it was going to rain or not.

Even that week [of March 9], I started out feeling like, Okay, our wedding is so soon there’s no way it’s going to be impacted by any of the limits, the public bans, or the shelter in place stuff. Even though Italy at that time had made a turn for the worse, Kerry’s family is from Spain, and we felt good because they weren’t impacted the way Italy was. Then we got to Wednesday, and that’s when it dramatically switched. That’s when the Hawks had their final game. The NBA suspended the season. That was the same evening that Trump instituted the travel ban from Europe. Kerry’s family would not be able to make it.

It hit me Friday night. We’d been planning so long, and now, our wedding is not going to happen. It was emotional. It was helpful that the city told us we couldn’t have it anymore [by restricting public gatherings to under 50 people]. That made it a little easier, actually. Emotionally we didn’t want to put our family and close friends having to choose between their health and [our] wedding. It’s a celebratory time and you can’t give us a hug?

We thought, What’s preventing us from still getting married? So we went to the courthouse to get our marriage license the last day that the court was still open. That was Monday the 16th. We pulled up the weather app to look for a date when it wasn’t going to rain. It said Thursday. Bill Bolling [the founder of Atlanta Community Food Bank who was officiating] said, “Pick a pretty spot.” I thought, let’s just pick our neighborhood park, Cabbagetown Park. When Kerry and I first started dating, it was midway between our houses. The florist adjusted very quickly. She ended up doing this beautiful bouquet, last minute, finding what she could that morning. The photographers were supposed to travel for an out-of-town wedding that day that ended up being postponed, so they were available to take photos of us and still be socially distant.

My parents came, my sister. We had to keep it under 10, including the photographers. We had hand sanitizer. I picked up pastries from Alon’s that morning. We used Kerry’s Zoom account to do some livestreaming. We wanted to make sure family and friends got to be a part of it. On the virtual stream, somebody wore pearls, somebody put on a dress and make-up, someone wore a tuxedo t-shirt, one of the bridesmaids who couldn’t be there even wore her dress. There was a beautiful moment in the ceremony where Bill was addressing the virtual crowd. His remarks almost made the park feel like it was full. He did an affirmation: “Will you guys support this couple?” That was a beautiful moment, looking over at an iPhone on a tripod and hearing everyone say, “We will.”

We got back to the house, had some cake. We got hungry and Grindhouse was doing takeout. We had burgers and fries with my parents. We did a puzzle. We played Monopoly. We did a lot of yard work on Saturday.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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