“It was an endless conversation of, like, ‘What was your graduation like?’ ‘When was your last day in school?’ ‘What did you do in quarantine?’" Maeve McGuire said of making friends at college in fall 2020.
"None of us got our senior spring and have been deprived of so many things that, even just being on campus and eating lunch outside and with a group of people you've never met was really joyful.”
“I haven’t seen my family in almost a year. It’s a strange time to be building a life in a brand new place," Sarah Willeman said of getting engaged and married during the pandemic. "It does bring you in touch even more with whatever’s inside you and gives you a chance to find ways to do all the things that really nourish you on a day-to-day basis.”
With gatherings banned, couples eyeing marriage have had to rethink their plans since the spring of 2020. Traditions like engagement parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding ceremonies and receptions and honeymoons were all but impossible to stage safely over the past year.
Some couples delayed engagements and nuptial plans, canceled venues. Collectively they cleared the normally glutted summer and fall wedding season in the Aspen area.
But, of course, love endured.
Many couples, some spurred by the existential urgency of a deadly pandemic, opted for private elopements and small, simple outdoor ceremonies to seal their commitments. They won’t have a first kiss in front of a cheering crowd of loved ones to look back on, but they’ve begun a new chapter together amid a generational crisis and certainly have a story to tell.
Sarah Willeman and Brendan Doran’s is among the most colorful and dramatic of love stories to play out in Aspen during the pandemic.
Aspen-based psychiatrist and social worker Kathleen Callahan’s appointment book is fuller than ever, as are her colleagues’ in the area. That’s a good thing, she believes, because it means people are reaching out for help and talking about their mental health.
The national crisis has made anxiety and mental health challenges a near universal experience.
“We've all gotten to experience anxiety now,” she said. “So because we've all experienced it, maybe it's more normal. We can connect on it. We don't have to hide behind it anymore. … I think it's much easier for people now to talk about it and to seek help.”
Bride Olivia Burns and groom Kyle Lehman take the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain to celebrate their wedding on Thursday, March 4, 2021. The two are from Denver and have been together four years. They got engaged in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the entire wedding party planned to ski to the bottom in their wedding attire.
Aspen High School senior Kat Goralka, 18, left, receives a rose from her lacrosse head coach Amanda Trendell during a surprise senior day rose ceremony at her home in Snowmass Village on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. “I think they’ve put in so much hard work even in the offseason and I don’t want three months to be the center point of their career,” Trendell said. “So ending on a more personal note to recognize their hard work … I think is a really great way to celebrate it.”
Nikki Ward, 7, center left, and her mom August Ward stand outside of their home in Aspen Village as friends sing happy birthday during an organized birthday drive by in Aspen on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. During the day, Nikki was zooming her friends from school and her family had planned a treasure hunt and piñata to surprise her for the evening. Her mother got emotional, because she didn’t know that so many people were going to show up for the surprise. She said that many friends and neighbors had left birthday gifts for Nikki outside of their home all day. “This is a birthday we’ll never forget,” said August.
Pixie Witt, left, reacts with excitement as the list of scholarships that her daughter Morgan Witt was awarded are announced at the scholarship drive-thru event on the Aspen School District campus on Thursday, May 28, 2020. “It’s amazing,” said Pixie about her daughter’s scholarships. “It’s been a long four years and it’s a great success.”