The first “save the date” card told the couple’s love story. “Their first date was 17 hours long,” it reads.
The second “save the date” — after COVID postponed the wedding — featured a custom-designed crest. “We needed something,” said the bride, Garrett Wood, a business consultant. “We couldn’t go with romance again.”
When it was (inevitably) time to design a third “save the date,” the bride already had a fresh angle: a pretty watercolor of the couple — and their infant son.
“It’s not just about the two of us anymore,” Wood said. “At this point, I’m more interested in what [the baby] is going to wear to the wedding than what I am.”
In some cultures, having a baby out of wedlock was once the ultimate taboo. It was the reason for shotgun weddings, and why almost everyone knows the lyrics to the old playground song that instructs on the “proper” order: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.”
Social norms have been changing for a while, and now, thanks to the pandemic, here come a bunch of babies who were conceived after the deposits were put down but before the first hors d’oeuvre was passed.
“Couples want to move forward with their lives,” said wedding planner Mandy Connor, founder of Boston-based Hummingbird Weddings & Events. “That’s something COVID couldn’t take away from them — the ability to have a baby.”
The pandemic famously led to an unexpected drop in births nationwide, with economic and general uncertainty holding couples back.
But within that trend, the data from Florida — one of the few states that publishes vital statistics by marital status in a timely fashion, according to demographer Lyman Stone — show something interesting.
During a period of widespread event cancellations, from May 2020 through January 2021, the share of births to married parents in that state fell considerably compared with parents who are unmarried, said Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies
“It looks like the wedding was interrupted,” said Stone, “but they still had the baby.”
But recently, with many weddings back on — including those postponed from last year — the share of births to married parents is now above the prepandemic trend, he said.
Couples in their 30s are more likely to rush a baby than those in their 20s, wedding planners said.
In Charlestown, Jordan Litke, 34, and her fiancé decided they’d try to conceive after they had to postpone their planned November 2020 wedding. “I didn’t want to burn a year of fertility if we waited until we had the wedding we wanted,” she said.
When the pregnancy test came back positive, the couple were thrilled, and also — very briefly — worried they’d be judged.
“Is it weird that we are having a child before getting married?” they wondered. “Should we go to City Hall?”
They decided it wasn’t weird, and that they weren’t going to City Hall, and have even back-burnered re-planning the big celebration with friends and family.
“We want to enjoy this time with the baby,” Litke said. “She’s only this little once.”
Having a baby first isn’t for everyone, as Wood found out when she tried to sell her engaged friends — all in their 30s — on getting pregnant now.
“If you know you are in love, and this is your forever partner, why not?” she asked.
“None of them are super religious so it’s not that,” she said. “Maybe it’s because they still have entire weddings to plan.”
With some couples facing years-long engagements because of the pandemic, pre-event pregnancy has become common enough that Samantha Joder of Kaleidoscope Events addressed it in a blog post, “A Bump Before the Bouquet.”
“Whether it was your plan to have a baby or not or whether you’re concerned with what your folks will say because *GASP* you’re having a baby before you’re married, it’s definitely an exciting adventure,” she wrote. “Always remember, you don’t have to go the traditional route. It’s your life!”
COVID-induced serial postponements are also leading to challenges with the bridal party, with some weddings being struck by multiple pregnancies, meaning that dresses (that may have been disliked to begin with) need to be tailored or re-bought.
“I had one wedding where two members of the bridal party were pregnant and one had just given birth,” Joder said. “It’s stressful.”
Meanwhile, as wonderful as it may be to have a baby with your true love, wedding planners say that some brides who’ve dreamed of their big day since they were little girls have trouble letting go of their perfectly choreographed plans.
In June, one bride — who had been planning a $100,000 garden wedding on an estate — dealt with the disappointment by pivoting to a dream baby shower.
It was held at a high-end restaurant overlooking Boston Harbor, a site chosen after event planner Sabrina Ely checked out nearly 20 venues.
Pictures from the day show lush floral arrangements and the expectant mom in a sparkly, bump-hugging, strapless gown.
“It was more lavish than some weddings,” said Ely of Defined Luxe Events.