Lindsey and Brian Edwards Wedding photos by Lindsey Markle

by Lois Szymanski

Couples Redefine Weddings

Weddings across America have changed in so many ways, and Carroll County is no exception. COVID forced couples to be creative and to find smaller ways to do something big. After waiting so long, couples are digging in, holding weddings with personal desires trumping tradition. Local wedding planners are seeing the shift.

In 2020 and 2021, the pandemic caused a landslide of couples to cancel their nuptials. Then 2022 burst onto the scene. Wedding site The Knot reported over 2.5 million weddings in the United States that year. Of those, 934 were registered in Carroll County, according to clerk of court Heather DeWees.

“Things are changing,” said Alexis David, owner and lead planner at Ren & Co. Wedding and Event Planning in Hampstead. “Most people are not looking for a cookie-cutter wedding anymore. For example, I am planning a wedding right now [in Havre de Grace] where [the couple is] arriving by seaplane.

Today, almost any place of beauty could host a future wedding.


Lindsey and Brian Edwards share private vows.
Wedding photos by Lindsey Markle

Weddings today seldom happen inside a church. Instead, couples opt for outside weddings with unique settings. A friend or family member is often the officiant. David said she does not have one church wedding booked.

“They are hiring officiants that are not specific to one religion,” she said. “They do this to honor and respect their guests of multiple religions and beliefs.”
Westminster wedding planner Lexi Schafer of Events by Lexi agreed. “I do have one later this year at a Catholic church, but there are not many,” she said.
Outside weddings top the list of today’s venues, with barn weddings in the lead. “They want that rustic feel,” David said.

Lindsey Edwards and her husband, Brian, grew up in Carroll County, both attending Francis Scott Key High School. When they married on June 10, it was in front of the pond on her parent’s property in Keymar. “We wanted to hold it where we grew up,” Edwards said. “And we thought we could save some money by having it on my parents’ 12-acre property, with the pond as a backdrop. We set the arbor up right in front of the pond, then we had the reception on their basketball court so people could dance.”

David said unique is in. That’s what the Edwards wedding offered. “The bridesmaid and groomsmen entrance to the ceremony was a flip cup game entry,” she said. “Like the college drinking game where cups are set up with a little bit of alcohol, the first person drinks it and flips it until it lands on the base. The next person can’t drink until the person in front of them flips the cup. It hyped up the crowd before we came in and people seemed to love it!”

Then, at the reception, the couple held a reverse anniversary dance. Parties are normally invited onto the floor with the most recently married couples invited first. But they started with the longest-married couple.

Perhaps the most unique part of the Edwards wedding was at the reception, when the bride and groom jumped into the in-ground swimming pool, inviting guests to join them.

“We did a light-up tunnel with [people holding] glow sticks,” she said. “We ran through the tunnel and jumped in. Then everyone else followed. We stayed until about 2 a.m. Everyone was jumping in the pool and continuing the party!”

Lindsey and Brian Edwards held a home wedding at her parents’ property in Keymar.
Wedding photos by Lindsey Markle

Couples are looking for new and different — but tradition can be important, too.
“I just had a traditional Mexican wedding, a first for me,” David said. “The groom’s family flew in from Mexico. The decor included all kinds of beautiful colors and items shipped in from Mexico. The groom’s mom crocheted their favors. There was so much that was unique about this very intimate wedding. Then a mariachi band surprised the bride and groom by playing music at the end. It was a beautiful wedding.”


Sonny and Ashley Snodgrass held
their destination wedding in Florida.Wedding photos by Jess G. from La vie studios

Elopement weddings became popular during COVID, and stuck.

“Usually this is with 25 people or less,” David said. “They are usually held in places with a beautiful view. One I did in April or May was on the mountainside in Frederick. There were just 20 people there, and it was beautiful, with beautiful views.”

Schafer has seen these smaller weddings, too. She calls them micro-weddings.

Destination Weddings

Former Hampstead resident Sonny Snodgrass and his wife, Ashley, held their destination wedding at Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo, Fla.
“COVID was still in full swing, and Florida wasn’t as locked down. With COVID a lot of people wouldn’t have come anyway,” Snodgrass said. “If Maryland had gone into lockdown we would have had to cancel and lose money. We both love Florida, so we looked there, where guests could be outside, and although the reception was inside, it was very open-air.”
They married on a sandy white beach with the Gulf as a backdrop and a love tree beside them, flowers hung over the branches. The couple said it was everything they’d imagined.

Snodgrass said they used an alternative to placecards at the reception.
“We did ‘Take a shot. Find your spot,’” he said. “I bought a case of Jameson Minis. The green bottles matched the green in our flowers and on the beach. The table numbers were on the bottom of the bottles.”

Snodgrass said he doesn’t have a single regret.

“The No. 1 thing for me was seeing my wife coming down the aisle,” he said. “When she turned the corner, I was smiling so much I didn’t know what to do with my face.”

Then it was her turn to smile, when he surprised her with fireworks over the water.

Penguins and Puppies

Leahann and Justin Pacek were married at the Baltimore Zoo featuring penguins as a package choice.
Wedding photos by Leneé Freeman Photography.

Former Union Mills resident Leahann Pacek and her husband, Justin, were married on July 15 with 120 guests in attendance. When Justin said he wanted a special wedding, she said they turned to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, where they found multiple packages offered.
“The ceremony was supposed to be outside the mansion in Druid Hill Park [owned by the zoo], but it was hot and calling for a thunderstorm, so we had it inside the mansion,” she said. “It was really pretty. They have a list of animals, and you can pay for a zookeeper to bring them to the mansion house for cocktail hour. We had two penguins. I mean, who can say they had penguins at their wedding?”

Leahann and Justin also had a unique cake with kissing penguins on top, baked by Carroll County’s own Starry Night Bakery. After the ceremony, the couple was escorted around the zoo for photos taken of the same array of animals pictured on their cake.

Wedding penguins at the Baltimore Zoo.

Schafer said she has seen many couples including their dogs or pets in the wedding as well.

“The dog might be the ring bearer or flower girl,” she said. “One that I [coordinated] had three dogs involved. They wore flowers around their necks.”


Both Carroll County wedding planners noted one thing that hasn’t changed — love and commitment.
“In regard to marriage itself, I don’t see any differences at all,” David said. “You still see the same attitudes about love and marriage in the vows and in the maid of honor and best man speeches, too.