Lessons the Pandemic Taught Us: Reset and Realign our moments

Fifteen years ago I catered an absolutely beautiful wedding on the banks of the St. Mary’s River.
The bride had impeccable taste; but more than the aesthetic she was thoughtfully focused on her guest experience and comfort with every detail. Midway through dinner the clouds rolled in. I looked at photographer and asked him what he thought and he said, “I’m just here to document the day — everything else is your problem.” (BTW- not the first time I have been told that by this photographer!) Within minutes, the rain was coming down so hard that people had to huddle in the center of the tent. The rain did not stop that evening but as the soaked guests got comfortable with their new situation shoes came off, hair came down and the dance floor (now under 2 inches of water) became a grown-up disco splash pool. The party was a blast. I know I have said this many times: but we never could have planned or staged this, certainly did not hope for it, but it was the best possible outcome. And it happened organically.
The photos were magnificent: reminiscent of the old Coca-Cola commercials with carefree people playing football under a fire hose. The candid photos from that evening won awards.
Fast forward to fall 2019 and hundreds of weddings later …

The last pre-COVID wedding I catered could not have been more different. The entire evening was staged for a specific photo for the bride’s blog. The cocktail hour lasted more than two and a half hours while the bride, groom and photographer were off chasing the photo. By the time they finished the shoot, the restless guests were drunk, the dinner was cold, and the band only had an hour left on the clock.
I felt like I had landed in some sort of parallel universe where the success of this incredibly meaningful life event was not measured by the joyful guest experience, but by the number of Instagram likes.
Fast forward a few months …

The well-timed disaster what was the pandemic came along — and in a strange twist of events gave us a giant mulligan. We now remember and appreciate the actual privilege of spending time in the presence of people we love because we know what it is like to deeply miss them.
We are imprinted with the memory of Zoom holiday dinners, lame birthday celebrations outside in the driveway watching your loved ones drive by in the car. No question we did the best we could with what we had to work with — and people exploded with creativity while staying between the lines but it just was not the same.
So moving forward: how are we going to play the ball? We have a real opportunity to reset and realign our moments based on a renewed appreciation for human interaction and connection. Based on the trend for our summer and fall weddings, which seem to be smaller and more intimate with an attention to the interactive experience, I think we learned our lesson. Is it still possible to ignore the simple privilege that is an in-person, unmasked smile: much less leave a room full of the people you love most waiting for hours just to get that perfect shot?
And just like that, we have come full circle. •

Lisa Kelley is the founder and owner of The Real Food Studio in Leonardtown, where she makes food that is designed to deliciously nourish your body and is always #madewithlove. She and her husband Michael own Canards Catering and Event Production, a full-service boutique catering firm.