Matthias Witteman and Amanda Kuhn hadn’t planned on getting married in the midst of a pandemic, but when that reality confronted them in March, they were determined to say “I do” as planned, on April 26 at St. Mary Church in Riverside.
That meant the only people allowed inside the church for the ceremony would be themselves, their parents, matron of honor Ashley Weeks (Amanda’s sister) and best man Thomas Witteman (Matthias’ brother), the church’s organist/pianist and the celebrant, Father Brian Taber.
The rest of their families, relatives and friends were invited to watch the ceremony live via livestream from the comfort and safety of their own homes. And, of course, the big reception, and its expected crowd of 250 to 300 people, was off.
It was a lovely wedding, anyway.
“What ended up happening was beautiful and surpassed my imagination of what it could have been,” said Matthias, who grew up in Riverside and attended Riverside-Brookfield High School.
According to Amanda, her mother said it best: She and Matthias had the whole day together.
“We weren’t distracted and we were really able to focus on the sacrament of marriage and what we were doing,” Amanda said. “It was a huge blessing in disguise.”
For Taber, who says Mass at St. Mary’s on Sundays – his day job is as a teacher at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago – the ceremony was “a perfect example of family coming together in a moment of strife to celebrate what persists in spite of what’s happening in the love of Amanda and Matthias.”
“Keeping the date itself was a boon to my own spirit,” Taber said. “It was a sign that life goes on.”
Witteman and Kuhn, a Glen Ellyn native, met three years ago at a Catholic service-retreat community called Nazareth Farm in West Virginia. Kuhn was there working her second year as a staffer, while Witteman was attending as part of a student group from Dominican University in River Forest.
“She wouldn’t give me the time of day,” said Witteman.
But he was not easily discouraged. He decided to work on a little project, making a cross in the farm’s woodshop, which Kuhn conveniently oversaw. The two got to interact a bit there, but the romance began six months later after Kuhn returned home after the job ended.
Witteman shrewdly left behind the cross, which Kuhn held onto, thinking she’d give it back to him when she returned to Glen Ellyn. The two met for coffee … “and the rest is history,” Amanda said.
The plans for the April wedding had been made months before and when the governor announced the stay-at-home order, they feared they’d lose the investments they’d made in booking a reception venue and hiring other vendors.
“That Monday, I was just freaking out, thinking we’d just lost all of that money,” Matthias said.
But the vendors and the venue were able to work with the couple and arranged for the reception to be moved to a date in October. It’s a Thursday, so it’s not clear just how many guests will still be able to make the big party, but it also lands on Matthias’ birthday.
“I’ll never be able to throw him a better birthday party,” Amanda said.
Instead of the big day-of-wedding bash, Amanda and Matthias danced their first dance on the deck in the backyard of her parents’ home in Glen Ellyn after a brief horn-honking parade through Riverside from the church in car decked out signs saying “Just Married” and with cans trailing from the back bumper.
“It was really wonderful,” Mathias said. “People were waving and honking their horns.”
They also had to call an audible on the honeymoon – a road trip through national parks. Instead, they told the Landmark during a phone call last week that they were just that moment driving up to Wisconsin for a long weekend at a B&B.
“We’re going to be the only ones there,” Amanda said.