If you ask newlyweds Abena and Ade to pick a song to represent their journey so far, they’ll say “The Matrimony” by Wale and Usher without hesitation. It’s the Jerry Seinfeld monologue that opens the song that resonates with the couple the most: “Getting engaged is the first hill of the roller coaster,” the veteran comedian explains.
Two years ago, on April 3, 2018, Ade devised a genius plan. Instead of taking Abena, his girlfriend of 10 years to New York’s quintessential proposal spots—Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Conservatory Garden, etc.—he set up a surprise photoshoot-turned-proposal at a NYC hotel. After a few shots, Ade dropped to one knee and asked for Abena’s hand in marriage. A smile, a “yes,” and a kiss followed, along with two years of wedding planning. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the couple’s rollercoaster took a deep plunge.
The bad news came in waves. The venue Abena and Ade secured for their ceremony informed the couple that they’d be shutting down indefinitely; Abena’s final dress fitting was canceled, as well as her bridesmaids’ gown fittings and Ade’s final suit fitting, after a mandate forced all non-essential businesses to shut down. What’s more, the couple only had a short window of time to pick up their rings before the jewelry boutique closed up shop. But even as the virus overwhelmed hospitals and shut down schools and completely upended every aspect of the wedding, Abena, a nurse practitioner, and Ade, a special needs educator, knew the impending turmoil wasn’t enough to deter them from getting married on their original date, April 4, the day after their 12-year anniversary.
“There’s so much that goes into planning a wedding that people kind of forget what it actually is to be in a marriage,” Abena tells ELLE.com of their decision to follow through with their ceremony. Their Plan B? Asking family and friends to dial into the app du jour, Zoom, a video conferencing service that has become the go-to platform for virtual meetings, happy hours, and now, weddings.
“For us, it was the opportunity to finish what we started. We started this journey being engaged for several years, and even though things were changing, we didn’t want to use that as an excuse to not hold true to our hearts and do the only thing we wanted, which was to get married on the day we initially chose,” Ade adds.
Abena sat in her funk, though, as she watched the wedding she planned for the past two years crumble before her eyes, while also dealing with the very real consequences of the pandemic at work, like the NYC Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortage. Then Sandy, one of Abena’s bridesmaids and the “event planner” of the crew, brought up the idea of hosting Zoom wedding and gathered the entire bridal to bring the idea to fruition. What followed were dozens of Amazon Prime orders, a last-minute wedding dress purchase, and a DIY photo studio set-up, all culminating in a special, 50-person Zoom wedding put together in one week.
“Everything that’s going on in the world shines the light on how precious life is at this moment,” Abena continues. “This was an opportunity for all of us to get grounded in who we are. As far as the relationship between me and Ade goes, we’re grounded in our love and that’s all we needed. It felt right.”
Ahead, Abena, Ade, and the bridal party share their tips for pulling off a Zoom wedding in such a short time.