ROCHESTER, Minn. — Social distancing couldn’t keep this couple apart, and their love wouldn’t wait for COVID-19 to pass.
Despite the challenges imposed by stay-at-home orders, Lori Ringen and Joshua Poencet were determined that their wedding would go on — and it did, just not the way they initially expected.
When their pastor welcomed them at their wedding with the words, “Joy cannot be contained; beauty and new beginnings cannot be contained,” it was online via the video communications app Zoom.
Perhaps appropriately, given their online wedding, the two met on the dating app Bumble.
Ringen said she’d taken a year away from dating to focus on her career as an orchestra teacher at Friedell Middle School and for the Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestras. When she was ready to start dating again, Poencet was her only match on Bumble.
Ringen asked Poencet to marry her while they were snuggling on the couch one night, and, with a kiss, he said “Yes.”
In addition to drumming for the Rochester Caledonian Pipe Band and other local groups, such as Backup Sound System, Poencet works at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in their Operations and Outreach Ministry.
When he and Ringen decided to get married, since they’re both musicians, they had a hard time coming up with a free weekend for their wedding, and rather than waiting the long months until August, their first available weekend, they decided to have a small wedding at Gloria Dei and get married over Ringen’s spring break.
“As things became more and more locked down,” she said, “we knew we needed a Plan B and C. We gave the pastor the wedding license just in case we couldn’t have the wedding in person.”
When Gloria Dei announced their need for members to stay home following the governor’s order, Ringen and Poencet started making plans for their Zoom wedding.
Ringen’s two children, Zachary (13) and Jasmine (11), were part of the reason the couple didn’t want to postpone their wedding until after COVID-19 abated.
“Kids need stability, and with growing closer to Lori daily, I wanted to be a part of all aspects of her life, including raising her kids as a parent and partner,” Poencet said.
“We were going to continue to grow closer as a family,” Ringen said, “so we needed to take the next step.”
Zachary and Jasmine both read Bible verses at the wedding, and Jasmine was put in charge of the rings.
Before the ceremony took place, Ringen and Poencet collected flowers from the grocery store to position around their basement and in front of the backdrop Ringen had borrowed from her church.
Then, it was just a matter of finding the sweet spot in front of the low ceiling fan, navigating the different camera-frame size in HD, and using some netting to rig the balloon drop for the post-nuptial celebration.
After 18 years as a pastor, Dave Berg, who officiated the ceremony, said this was his first online wedding.
“My wife and daughter were the witnesses, since I needed signatures on the marriage license,” he explained.
Overall, though, he said the process was “surprisingly easy” and that Poencet and Ringen were really creative in finding solutions.
Berg said the wedding felt like an in-person wedding since he was able to interact “seamlessly” with Poencet and Ringen.
“Without this technology, the warmth of their family and friends would have been missing, and the wedding itself may have been postponed altogether,” he said.
About 58 guests virtually attended the Zoom wedding.
“It was so great watching friends and family clicking in and waving and then, yes, getting jazz hands,” Poencet said.
Some of those guests included grandparents unfamiliar with computers and streaming devices. The couple held a Zoom rehearsal happy hour to help them practice and make sure everything would work.
The wedding featured musical performances from Chris Roberts, who was sheltering in place. Ringen said one of her favorite moments from the wedding was looking over at Poencet and seeing him shed a tear while the Rascal Flatts song “Broken Road” was performed from afar.
Abby Siems, a guest at the wedding, posted photos of her high heels on social media. Calling the Zoom wedding the “coolest thing ever during this #stayathome order,” she wanted to show she’d gotten dressed up for the special occasion.
Laura Willis, one of Ringen’s friends and co-workers, said she was honored to be the bridesmaid. She’s had to use Zoom a lot lately for videoconferencing with co-workers.
“During regular weddings, guests are usually focused on the bride and groom; however, during a Zoom wedding, you can see the facial expressions of all of the guests,” she said. “It was touching to watch the grandmother, parents of the bride and groom, and friends nonverbally communicate their joy watching the couple express their love for one another.”
After the wedding, Ringen, now Ringen-Poencet, and Poencet, took a just-married tour past the homes of friends and relatives, sharing waves and smiles from a distance. Then, during dinner, friends shared their dinner photos on social media to be part of the celebration.
Since their wedding, which was held April 3, Ringen-Poencet and Poencet have been navigating all the stresses that come with working at home with two adults, two kids, three dogs and two cats in a three-bedroom house with no desks and only one music room for four musicians.
They’re taking things in stride, and, as Poencet puts it, “learning this dance together.”
Berg might sum up this adventurous couple’s wedding and new life together the best when he said, “The spirit of the couple, their excitement, love and creativity in the face of crisis really made the day what it was — a pretty sweet thing.”