Claudette Monroy and Dave Johnson celebrated their wedding with fewer than 10 guests as coronavirus changed their plans.

Claudette Monroy and Dave Johnson celebrated their wedding with fewer than 10 guests as coronavirus changed their plans.

People who planned their weddings for this spring watched the coronavirus turn into a full-fledged public health emergency like an accident happening in slow motion.

As the crisis worsened over the last month, graduations and proms were the next to be canceled or postponed.

Claudette Monroy and Dave Johnson used the opportunity to focus on what was most important to them—their marriage, and not the party. High School seniors like Maren Dunn are learning a valuable lesson in the importance of perspective.

How are people adjusting their plans and dealing with the possibility of missing out on once in a lifetime moments?

Produced by Victoria Chamberlin


  • Claudette Monroy Johnson Newlywed
  • Dave Johnson Newlywed
  • Maren Dunn High School Senior, Woodrow Wilson High School, Washington, D.C.
  • Iman Huschmand Founder and CEO, Exclusively Entertainment


  • 12:32:02

    KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. People who planned their weddings for this spring watched the coronavirus turn into a full-fledged public health emergency, like an accident happening in slow motion. As the crisis worsened over the last month, graduations and proms were cancelled or postponed. Claudette Monroy and Dave Johnson used the opportunity to focus on what was most important to them, their marriage, and not the party afterwards. High school seniors like Maren Dunn are learning a valuable lesson in the importance of perspective.

  • 12:32:32

    KOJO NNAMDIHow are people adjusting their plans and dealing with the possibility of missing out on once-in-a-lifetime moments? Joining us now is Claudette Monroy and Dave Johnson. Thank you both for joining us. Claudette Monroy, I'll start with you. You and your husband Dave planned to be married on March 20th, with nearly 200 guests. When did you start thinking you might need to make some changes?

  • 12:32:54

    CLAUDETTE MONROY-JOHNSONI think at the end of February. You know, we followed the news and we knew that things were escalating in China and Europe. So, it felt like we were racing against time before the virus made it to the U.S.

  • 12:33:12

    NNAMDIYou decided to get married two days earlier, on Wednesday, March 18th, rather than on the 20th. What made you do this instead of simply postponing?

  • 12:33:23

    MONROY-JOHNSONI think we were in a very difficult situation, because it was the week of our wedding when everything started getting cancelled. And Mayor Bowser started putting restrictions on mass gatherings. And, on Monday morning -- I think on, like, Sunday night before our wedding, it seemed like we were still going to be able to have our wedding. But, on Monday morning, it just kept being, like, reduction of, like, number of people that could be together.

  • 12:33:54

    MONROY-JOHNSONSo, we just wanted to get married, and my family -- I'm from Mexico, so I already had people from Mexico. You know, my mom and my sister, they were already here. And I think for me and Dave, like, we were just excited to get married. And it was really, really difficult to make the decision to not have the wedding that we wanted. But, at the end of the day, like, we were ready to move in together and start living -- yeah, being together and starting our new family.

  • 12:34:25

    NNAMDITalking about rapidly changing plans. Dave Johnson, you and Claudette were partners in the decision to carry on with some kind of wedding. What were the most important things to preserve?

  • 12:34:37

    DAVE JOHNSONYeah, I think for us we, you know -- like Claudette said, you know, her family was here from Mexico. My family was here from Pennsylvania. And so just, like, having our families present at the time of our marriage was, like, the most important thing. It would've been awesome to have, like, a huge party, too, but it was real important to have our families there.

  • 12:34:57

    DAVE JOHNSONAnd we also just wanted to preserve our timeline. Postponing just seemed like such a -- I don't know, so much emotional energy. We had already put so much planning and time into it, we were just ready to be married, so we just wanted to make it happen.

  • 12:35:10

    NNAMDIClaudette, after you made the decision, what did your ceremony end up looking like?

  • 12:35:16

    MONROY-JOHNSONYeah, I'm so grateful we had friends and family that made it happen. So, instead of having 200 guests, we had a ceremony with 10 people. And we ended up live streaming it on my Facebook page. And we had, I think, like around 300 watch it live. And then, the last time I checked, I think, last week was 800 people had watched the Facebook, yeah, the streaming that we did.

  • 12:35:46

    MONROY-JOHNSONSo, it still felt very special and the ceremony, we put so much time and effort in doing this bilingual ceremony. So, we were still able to have that. And it just felt like, you know, people were supporting us and sending us, like, so many messages and calling us. And just, like, we feel, like, all of our community, like, around us.

  • 12:36:11

    NNAMDIWell, 800 people. It looked like a lot of people at least enjoyed watching the ceremony. You made the decision to keep some of your wedding vendors, including the owner of a taco truck. What motivated you to do that, even though you wouldn't be needing 200 meals?

  • 12:36:27

    MONROY-JOHNSONYeah, you know, for me, I'm an immigrant and, you know, I have just tried to work so hard. And I know what it's like to just not have steady income. And for this family, you know, we don't know how long this is going to be, and we didn't -- it was a way to honor them and respect them, you know, so to just be generous, because we're all in this together. We're all being affected by what's happening.

  • 12:36:58

    MONROY-JOHNSONAnd the woman that was our vendor, she was so scared that I was, you know, going to cancel. And she had already purchased everything for the meal. So, yeah, Dave and I talked, and even though, you know, it was, like, a big chunk of money, we still just wanted to support the family because, you know, we know they might not have work for another two months or three months. Who knows how long?

  • 12:37:26

    NNAMDIDave, what's your advice to other couples that find themselves in that situation?

  • 12:37:31

    JOHNSONOh, wow. (laugh) Yeah, I'd say -- I mean, for us it was...

  • 12:37:37

    NNAMDIFocus on the marriage.

  • 12:37:38

    JOHNSON...I mean, it turned -- exactly, focus on the marriage, yeah, yeah. I mean, I think a real turning point for us was, yeah, to focus on what were the things that were most important. I mean, I think you're in a state of kind of like, I don't know, emotional despair and, like, high emotions. And so focusing on the most important things to us was really helpful.

  • 12:38:02

    JOHNSONAnd, I think, you know, maybe the other thing is like there's a lot of fear happening right now. There's a lot of, I don't know, judgment, different things. I think it's, like, most important to be safe during this time. But, I mean, also know that you can never make everybody happy. And so you've got to do for you and your family, while keeping safe.

  • 12:38:23

    NNAMDIAnd, Claudette, what are your honeymoon plans, now that it's not recommended to travel?

  • 12:38:28

    MONROY-JOHNSONWell yeah, we had to cancel our honeymoon. We were supposed to leave on Friday to go to California. So, yeah, we're going to postpone, but I told Dave that because our wedding, you know, didn't happen, like, the big party, that he has to take me on two honeymoons now. (laugh) So, I love Miami, so I told him that we have to go to Miami and California.

  • 12:38:52

    NNAMDIDave, you've got several honeymoons now on the horizon. Good luck to you. Joining us now is Iman Huschmand, the founder and CEO of Exclusively Entertainment. That's an events and production company based here in Washington. Iman, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:39:10

    IMAN HUSCHMANDThank you for having me. Appreciate it.

  • 12:39:12

    NNAMDIYou are kind of on the other side of this equation, here. How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the events companies?

  • 12:39:21

    HUSCHMANDYeah, I mean, it's been -- I mean, in many ways, we were the first domino that fell as a result of the virus. And I think it was when all these events and leagues, sport leagues, all these were being canceled. I think that's when people were starting to get a reality check that, wow, this is really impacting us. But, really, the people that were also impacted tremendously were all the individuals that were involved in the organization and the planning of these events that we all get to enjoy. You know, there's a lot of hardworking event and wedding professionals that, you know, are the ones that make it all happen. And, you know, we were significantly impacted and are essentially in a comatose right now.

  • 12:40:02

    NNAMDII know that all of these cancellations and a ban on large events means financial hardship for companies like yours and for individual vendors like DJs, caterers. How are events vendors accommodating clients while also dealing with the financial burden that you're facing?

  • 12:40:21

    HUSCHMANDYeah, I mean, this has been between a hard place and a rock, you know. Obviously -- and also the timing of this was really, really bad for people like myself that are just getting into wedding season. You know, between Christmas and Valentine's Day is where the most amount of proposals happen. So, between February through May is when, you know, we usually get the influx of inquiries, especially coming out of hibernation.

  • 12:40:45

    HUSCHMANDJanuary, it's dead as a doornail for wedding industry professionals. You know, we just look for an inquiry to come in, for a contract to be signed. So, we're waiting for hibernation to end, and then that's when the virus hit, so we never got those inquiries. We never got that revenue coming in. And, at the same time, all the events which are the second part of the payments coming through where we actually execute the events were obviously being postponed and cancelled.

  • 12:41:10

    HUSCHMANDSo, on one hand, we're dealing with the financial repercussions and challenges. On the other hand, you know, we want to be there for our clients. And, obviously, we are being extremely accommodating. Any event that has been postponed, we essentially honor the deposits, and we just are able to execute those events whenever they need us and whenever we are able to do it.

  • 12:41:34

    HUSCHMANDAnd, at the same time, any new inquiries are nonexistent. So, it's all about preserving customer service and taking care of our clients and being understanding of the situation that they're in. And, at the same time, really just trying to stay above water, which is why right now any type of stimulus package or loans from SBAs that's being available, you know, we're all just waiting and hoping that they can come to our rescue. Because if they don't come to our rescue, anybody that's planning any kind of celebration in 2020 or even 2021 will have a hard time finding people like us that are, you know, in love in helping and producing these events for them.

  • 12:42:14

    NNAMDIIman, there's been a lot of discussion about whether many restaurants in this region will survive this shutdown. Do you have a similar concern about events companies and vendors?

  • 12:42:25

    HUSCHMANDYeah, I mean, absolutely. I actually think that local restaurants, mom and pop restaurants are actually the ones that, as long as they can make it through the storm, they're actually going to come out stronger. Because I think the local community will huddle around especially the mom and pop shops, and not so much the larger restaurant chains. So, as long as they do good promotions and marketing and outreach in the community, I actually have a lot of confidence that the community will rally around those small business owners.

  • 12:42:52

    HUSCHMANDAs far as people like ourselves, it's really to be determined. I really hope that they will look out for us and they would want to at least put down deposits for future celebrations or get gift cards. It really is going to take a whole village to kind of huddle up and huddle around small business owners. I mean, if people are lucky enough to be working from home and still have a steady paycheck or have been furloughed where they're at least getting some type of money, hopefully they'll look out for others that don't have those privileges, that don't have those benefits and continue to kind of keep the economy going once we hopefully get out of this two-, three-months phase where everything is essentially on a shutdown.

  • 12:43:35

    NNAMDIHere's Allison in Silver Spring, Maryland. Allison, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:43:41

    ALLISONHi. Yes. We have our only daughter who's graduating from Temple University on May 7th. And, of course, that's been postponed. And although I think that she's rolling with the punches, it's been kind of a gut-punch for us to not see her walk across the stage and have the ceremony and my sister to come up to visit. And we have a niece who's graduating from high school over in Oly (sounds like) and I have a niece graduating from Boone College. And they're all over -- all their plans are over, too. So, it's depressing but I try to take it from the young people's perspective which is you just take it in stride. And that's what they're trying to do and I try not to get ahead of myself.

  • 12:44:25

    NNAMDIIndeed, you seem to be learning a lesson from your daughter, here. She's rolling with the punches, you not so much.

  • 12:44:34

    ALLISONNot so much. My husband's a little bit better. I'm like, oh my God, this is an honor student. She worked so hard. And she's like, yeah mom but, you know, this isn't forever. So I said, okay. All right.

  • 12:44:47

    NNAMDIWell, then, I would advise that you listen to our conversation with our next guest. And thank you so much for your call and good luck to you. Our next guest is Maren Dunn, a high school senior at Woodrow Wilson High School. Maren, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:45:01

    MAREN DUNNHi. Thank you for having me.

  • 12:45:03

    NNAMDII mentioned that you're a senior at Wilson High. How has coronavirus changed the way this important year looks for you?

  • 12:45:10

    DUNNWell, so far, our prom and graduation has not been cancelled yet. We actually are in school pretty late with DCPS, so our graduation is scheduled for June 17th. And our prom is supposed to happen early June, so that's actually something that's lucky for us. But, yeah, so far, we're out of school until April 27th, and it's looking like that'll probably last through the end of May. And every sport season has been cancelled, obviously, and it's just -- it's not so great.

  • 12:45:48

    NNAMDIWhat sport were you playing?

  • 12:45:50

    DUNNI play varsity lacrosse.

  • 12:45:52

    NNAMDIOh, okay. And, of course, that's been cancelled. There's a friend of yours who was on the baseball team, who was the captain of the baseball team, right?

  • 12:46:04

    DUNNYeah, my friend, her twin brother actually was captain of the baseball team, and he's been playing baseball for basically all his life. And he was really looking forward to his season, and it just is completely cancelled, and it's awful.

  • 12:46:22

    NNAMDISpeaking of twins, you have a twin sister. Is she in the same situation?

  • 12:46:25

    DUNNYeah, she is actually a coxswain on the boy's crew team at our school, and all of her regattas have been cancelled, as well.

  • 12:46:35

    NNAMDIYou are enrolled in several advance placement courses and extracurricular activities. How has the transition to online learning and meeting been going?

  • 12:46:47

    DUNNHonestly, it just varies class-to-class. When we were out of school, DCPS announced it kind of on the last Friday. So, we only were able to see basically half our classes because we're on a block schedule. So, there just wasn't a lot of time for teachers to communicate to the whole class about exactly what was going to be going on with distance learning. And so each teacher is kind of adapting differently.

  • 12:47:16

    DUNNPersonally for me, everything has been going well, except for my AP stat class. I really needed the lesson time in class to comprehend the material. And the Zoom, we're doing some Zoom conferences, it's just not the same at all, because our teacher can't put up a PowerPoint. And it's basically just made learning a lot harder, especially for math.

  • 12:47:47

    NNAMDIMaren, you will likely have to choose a college without having made a visit in person. How are you working around that? Are you worried about it?

  • 12:47:55

    DUNNYeah, honestly. It's not the most ideal situation. I'm actually choosing between three schools that I originally didn't really think about. I haven't visited two of them. I haven't even been to the state that one of them is in. And, so, yeah, it's definitely not ideal. I'm just kind of making the best of virtual tours. And, so far, all the colleges have been pretty accommodating and they've been putting up a lot of online material to try to make it easiest for seniors to decide. But, yeah, it's difficult.

  • 12:48:39

    NNAMDIHere is Laverne, in Northeast Washington. Laverne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:48:45

    LAVERNEYes, hi. Last year I was involved with the Jamaican Dental Mission, which for 20 years, had been providing dental services to over 1,000 patients over a four-day period. And this was in July of last year. It would've been again in July of this year. We don't know where we stand. It was one of the most rewarding and hardest experiences I ever had. And for all the other volunteer programs outside of the U.S., I don't know what's going to happen. We don't know where we stand, and it's sad. It's very, very sad, because it was a very, very worthwhile mission.

  • 12:49:23

    NNAMDIIndeed, it is, indeed, and the future of that mission might be threatened. Laverne, I'm hoping that it is not but good luck to you. Speaking of creative ways of doing things during this coronavirus pandemic, here is Jennifer in Aldie, Virginia. Jennifer, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:49:43

    JENNIFERHi. Good afternoon. A few stories. Just that I am a preschool teacher and I am carrying on with Zoom meetings, because it allows the four-year-olds to all interact with each other, which they absolutely love. So, that's been fantastic, thanks to Zoom. My youngest daughter had to cancel her June wedding that was in Israel, so we are throwing a virtual shower for her, because, obviously, we're not being able to get together and have the shower. And she will postpone the wedding until fall, understanding the most important part is that the found each other, they're in love and they're going to get married.

  • 12:50:18

    JENNIFERBut most creative and the fun one that I'm celebrating with all of this is that I am a practicing doula, as well, which is a childbirth coach. And I had planned to deliver my fifth grandbaby in San Francisco to my eldest daughter. And I planned to fly out and, of course, cancelled the flight because of the high risk and going into a hotspot, San Francisco proper. We were able to do all of her early labor and keep her at home out of the hospital, via Google Duo.

  • 12:50:47


  • 12:50:47

    JENNIFERSo, I would go on and off mute, because I'm also caring for my grandchildren here in Virginia, two-year-old twins, who like to be vocal. So, I would, during the contractions, be with my daughter in San Francisco, and out of contractions, be with my two -- (laugh) the grandchildren here in Virginia, toggle back and forth.

  • 12:51:07

    JENNIFERAnd, I'm happy to say, three days later, after going back and forth, with allowing some two and three-hour sleep periods for my San Francisco daughter, delivered a grandson. I was in the labor room -- again, via Google Duo -- able to talk her through the contractions, be able to talk back and forth with the nursing staff and the midwife that was there with her. And she was home the very next day with a healthy 8.3 pound, 21" grandson.

  • 12:51:32

    NNAMDIWow. Congratulations, Jennifer. My head is spinning. I don't know how you did it, but somehow you did, and that's the kind of innovation that's required during this pandemic. So, thank you so much for sharing that story with us. Maren Dunn, so far, Wilson High School remains committed to hosting the prom in June, and has not cancelled graduation, like Virginia schools. How will you feel if those events end up being cancelled?

  • 12:51:57

    DUNNWell, obviously, pretty upset, but I just trying to remind myself that, again, everybody else is going through the same thing. And what is most important is stopping the spread of this pandemic.

  • 12:52:11

    NNAMDIWell, what has this experience taught you and, for that matter, your twin, Avery, about expectations and reality?

  • 12:52:19

    DUNNWell, it's definitely taught us to appreciate school a lot more, and just all of the things we get to do in our day-to-day life that I think everybody is kind of guilty of taking for granted. I know, hopefully, when -- that this is going to be over at some time, and that when it's over, I will definitely be more aware and just grateful.

  • 12:52:44

    NNAMDIHere is Karen in Silver Spring, Maryland. Karen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:52:48

    KARENHello, Kojo. I was so happy to be part of the 65th annual Hexagon show. Hexagon is Washington's only original political, satirical, musical comedy review. This year's show was called "One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State." And as we have done for the other, you know, past 65 years, we're a local charity, but each year, we put on a big show. It's all volunteers to benefit a different local charity. And, this year, our beneficiary was to have been Smile, which empowers local LGBTQ youth.

  • 12:53:26

    KARENSo, we brought up the show on the 6th, had two evening performance on the 6th and 7th and the matinee on Sunday the 8th. And then coronavirus hit, and so we had to cancel the rest of the run. But we have a great show. Hopefully, we -- you know, we put it in a can, and hopefully we will reopen the can, because it's all newly written every year. They have a first writers meeting...

  • 12:53:52

    NNAMDI(overlapping) It sure is.

  • 12:53:52

    KAREN...every September. All the music is newly composed, and we do that...

  • 12:53:56

    NNAMDI(overlapping) Its' a great show.

  • 12:53:57

    KAREN...we don't pay any royalties, so we can maximize what we give to a local charity. So, it was a fabulous show.

  • 12:54:09

    NNAMDIWell, we'll have to see what happens with it. It is a fabulous show. Before we go, Iman, you have said that for events companies like yours, the longer this crisis stretches on, the harder it will be just to restart your business. Why is that? You only have about a minute.

  • 12:54:23

    HUSCHMANDYeah. So, I mean, you know, when we provide, for example, entertainment, lighting, photo booth services for important occasions, it's important that we have the technical expertise of individuals on our team. And these are individuals that, right now, since there is no work, they've gone off and look for other places to work. And so, once we do start getting events again in four, five, six months, hopefully, the biggest challenge is going to be finding new staff and training new staff to make sure that we continue to provide the quality of service that, you know, people expect from us and other wedding vendors. It's a major challenge.

  • 12:54:54

    NNAMDIIman Huschmand, Maren Dunn, Dave Johnson, Claudette Monroy, thank you all for joining us, and good luck to you. Today's show on life's milestones was produced by Victoria Chamberlin. And our discussion on the impact of the pandemic on people experiencing homelessness was produced by Richard Cunningham.

  • 12:55:13

    NNAMDIComing up tomorrow, on The Politics Hour, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser join us to discuss stay-at-home orders and the latest coronavirus news. And our invitation to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to join us still stands. That all starts tomorrow, at noon, on The Politics Hour. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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