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Community spirit shines amid Covid-19 wedding limitations for Karstad couple

Billie-Jean Karstad, left, and her husband Seth moved up their wedding from the summer of 2021 to August of 2020 so they wouldn't have to wait for circumstances outside their control to arrive amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Geoff's Litrato photo

When Covid-19 limited the options for their wedding, Seth and Billie-Jean Karstad decided to do it their own way.

The couple planned to get married in the summer of 2021 but they moved the date up and tied the knot in August of 2020 instead.

“We came to the realization that we don't know when this global pandemic would end, and when the borders would be opened to allow us to invite all our family from down south. We didn't want to be sitting in limbo, waiting for circumstances outside our control to arrive,” Billie-Jean said.

It helped that all of their close family and many friends were already in Yellowknife.

But they knew it would be no ordinary wedding due to gathering limits and border restrictions.

The indoor limit of 25 people was too few for them, so they held the ceremony in a big field at Parker Park. A maximum of 50 people could attend.

Their reception was held in the yard and driveway of Billie-Jean's parents.

Guests were organized into smaller bubbles based on who was already interacting together outside the wedding, such as people from the same family or church.

The bubbles were separated from each other during the ceremony and reception, where designated people served food to the guests.

Fifty is a nice round number of people, but Billie-Jean said many others weren't able to make it.

“Much of our extended family were not able to come, and that was sad. There were people even within Yellowknife that we weren't able to invite because of gathering size restrictions,” she said.

One guest filmed the ceremony on a GoPro and streamed it to a Facebook Live event for others to watch.

And out of the limitations of their pandemic wedding, they made the best with what they had.

Since hiring staff like caterers would add to the people at the event and take away from the number of guests they could invite, their relatives and friends contributed as much as they could.

“We borrowed chairs and tables from the Yellowknife Alliance Church, and a lot of family and friends helped pitch in to get things like the food from the Co-op and Northern Fancy Meats, the cupcakes from the Cupcake Queens, or the limo to take us from the ceremony to the reception,” said Billie-Jean.

“Other stuff was prepared by family members, such as a brisket from Northern Fancy Meats being prepared by my dad, or shepherd's pie and vegetable being prepared by my sister.”

In a time when the pandemic has altered patterns of human intimacy, the Karstads found intimacy doing their wedding with their own community.