Local couple alter 200-guest wedding plans a week before the big day due to COVID-19 restrictions
Fifty years from now, when Paxton and Paige Smith sit down to tell their grandchildren about their wedding day, they’ll have one doozy of a tale to share.
The couple’s original March 29 wedding plans consisted of spending a full weekend with guests from all over the country, concluding with a magical, 200-guest ceremony and reception Sunday evening with all the bells and whistles.
“Lots of yummy food, dancing and good music,” Paige said.
But as the COVID-19 virus began to spread across the country earlier this spring, restrictions on large gatherings were put into place, and the couple’s plans went out the window.
A week before the wedding, Paige and Paxton learned they would only be able to have 10 people at the venue, a far cry from the 200-plus guests they had expected. There was disappointment, heartbreak and stress, but in the end, Paxton and Paige said everything worked out for the best.
“It’s all still somewhat unbelievable,” Paige said. “It’s crazy that all this happened during our wedding time. It will be a story to tell, for sure!”
True love finds a way
The couple joke that their love story could be the plot line for a romantic comedy.
“We were the high school sweethearts that broke up and then found our way back to one another after many years… and now we’ll live happily ever after!” Paige said.
The couple first started dating in 2011 just after Paige graduated from West Plains High School and Paxton had just finished his junior year at Gainesville High School.
“We had a mutual friend, and we just started to hang out,” Paige said. “After about two months, we were both infatuated with one another and experienced a true young love for almost three years.”
But as the two entered adulthood and started to grow and mature, they split up.
“We ended up going our separate ways for a few years. We needed to grow apart before we could grow together,” Paige said.
Paige and Paxton spent their time apart growing up and dating others, but they both soon found each other yearning for that first, true love they had shared.
Paxton’s mother, Karla Smith, said she and his sister, Shelby, “always knew it was Paige.”
“No one else ever compared…,” Paige said. “It took us dating other people to realize the love we felt for one another. We are best friends. Paxton is the person I want to share my good and bad days with, and he feels the same.”
The couple reunited in 2018, and the rest is history.
“Mom always told me that what was meant to be would find a way,” Paige said. “God knew we could be great together. We are so thankful he led us back to one another.”
Paxton asked Paige to marry him last March, and she enthusiastically said yes.
An emotional rollercoaster
While Paxton and Paige were excited for their upcoming nuptials, life has been very busy for the pair over the last few years. For a while, Paxton was teaching and coaching at Dora High School, and Paige was in a doctoral program in occupational therapy at Arkansas State University at Jonesboro.
“We didn’t really get to start enjoying the [wedding planning] process until the beginning of February, when I passed my national board exam,” Paige said. “I’d been studying since August, and before that I was finishing up my doctoral program.”
The couple had spent about a month planning the details of their special wedding weekend when the COVID-19 pandemic loomed overhead.
“Exactly two weeks before our wedding, we really started getting nervous as to what was coming for our big day. It was an emotional rollercoaster that whole week,” Paxton said. “We’d spoken to the venue that weekend, and they told us they were trying to stay open if at all possible. They seemed positive, but we were aware that things and people were about to be limited in a way that [the venue] had no control over.”
The venue director told Paxton and Paige they would be limited to a total of 200 people. That number seemed do-able with a few modifications. The couple began modifying the plans.
But a few days later, they got another call.
“Then it was [limited to] 50,” she said.
They were trying to figure out how to drastically adapt their plans to have only a quarter of the guest list when the phone rang again.
“They said we were only allowed to have 10 people,” Paige said. “Our hearts broke more and more with each call.”
Paxton and Paige said they’d expected there would be additional restrictions at their wedding as they watched the horror of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping throughout the world, but it still wasn’t easy.
“We all cried. It affected the whole family,” Paige said. “It just didn’t seem fair, and there was nothing we could do about it.”
A tough decision
Just a week and a half before their scheduled wedding, Paxton and Paige had to make a tough choice.
“Do we do it with 10 people? Do we move it back to December, the first open date available at the venue? Do we move it back a year?” Paxton said.
The venue offered another option.
Paxton and Paige could still get married March 29 as planned with 10 people in attendance and then hold an additional ceremony and reception at a later date, allowing their original 200 guests to celebrate the matrimony. The couple said that felt right.
“Paxton and I didn’t want to let the coronavirus put a hold on our love and commitment to one another. We were so ready to be man and wife,” Paige said.
They reached out to all the local vendors they’d booked, explained the situation and made arrangements for their new plans.
“Our venue was truly amazing throughout this entire process. The owners stayed in close contact with us the entire three weeks leading up to our wedding. They gave us a few different options to choose from and tried to ease some of the pain the pandemic was bringing.”
A perfect day
On March 29, the couple gathered at their venue with their parents, siblings and grandparents and became husband and wife.
They got an unexpected surprise when they were told that the couple’s beloved dog, Smitty, was allowed inside the venue and could serve as their “best boy.”
“Since there was only going to be a handful of people there rather than hundreds, we got approval from the owners for him to be a part of our wonderful day,” Paige said.
The couple said their wedding was small, intimate and full of love. Because there were so few guests, there were few distractions from the real reason they’d gathered.
“It was more magical and loving than I had ever imagined it being. It truly felt like it was a day of our love and commitment to one another,” Paige said. “I feel like we often get so caught up in the glitz and glam of life…. I’m such a people pleaser, and Paxton is too. We want those around us to enjoy themselves and have a good time before we focus on ourselves. It was so nice that our wedding day was solely about us becoming husband and wife. It wasn’t about the music or food or number of guests there. It was just about Paxton and I. We got to spend the entire day just being present with one another. Our entire focus was on the other one. I never knew exactly what my wedding day would honestly be like, but it was all so perfect.”
The couple had also planned to leave right away for a five-night honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun.
“Luckily, we were able to just move our dates back to September,” Paxton said. “We went though a travel agency, and they were very helpful through the entire process.
‘A blessing in disguise’
The couple, now blissfully married, plan to hold a ceremony and reception sometime around their one-year anniversary.
“We’re just going to re-do the whole thing! Getting ready, walking down the aisle and even a vow renewal. It’ll be followed up with the dinner and reception we had planned,” Paige said. “It’s not the most ideal situation to have to wait a year to celebrate our marriage, but we are just counting our blessings and thanking the Lord that we were still able to get married when we’d originally planned.”
The couple purchased a house in West Plains last month and have now moved in. Paige is working in West Plains as an occupational therapist for the Jonesboro (Arkansas)-based company Engage, and Paxton has transitioned to a new position as a sales representative for ACS Warranty in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
“I truly think that this all is a blessing in disguise. God took a crazy time in our lives and gave Paxton and I the most beautiful, perfect day we could have dreamed of,” Paige said. “He knew from the beginning that this would all happen. He knew we could handle it and would come out stronger in the end. I will forever treasure the day we vowed our lives together.”