WORTHINGTON For two people who bonded over a mutual love of travel adventures and family get-togethers, the pandemic proved particularly painful — especially since their wedding was scheduled for the heart of the shutdown.

“Family is very important to us,” said Alex (Wetering) Kucera, a 2007 Worthington High School alumna.

“It really bothered me that all my cousins, aunts and uncles couldn’t actually see me get married in a church — that still chokes me up a little — because that was not at all how I had envisioned it.”

But despite the disappointments and numerous re-sets Alex and her husband Andy Kucera endured, the couple found their way to happily ever after, after all.

A fitting proposal

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After connecting on the dating app Bumble — “I never thought I’d do that, but I did,” laughed Alex — the pair, then based in Omaha, Neb., discovered they lived a mere mile apart.

“Our first date was at a pizza place nearby,” said Alex, where they quickly learned they both appreciated plenty of toppings, from pepperoni to mushrooms to prosciutto.

Alex, the eldest of Bill and Betsy Wetering’s four children, was immersed in her career as a speech pathologist, having graduated from the University of South Dakota and earned a master’s degree in the field at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Andy, an operating room nurse and a native of Lincoln, Neb., has two younger siblings and is a graduate of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha.

“I was amazed at her gorgeous eyes,” gushed Andy when recalling their first meeting.

“Alex is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. You can tell she genuinely cares about other people and loves with her whole heart,” he continued.

“She’s the best daughter, sister, friend you could ever ask for. I just knew right away she was the total package, and I had to lock her down.”

As their relationship progressed and the two shared trips to the Grand Canyon, Oregon and California, Andy began to hatch a plan.

“I wanted to get a ring worthy of her,” he said, taking advantage of a family association with a jeweler to secure a 1.5 carat diamond that was distinctively crafted.

On a rainy Tuesday, Andy received word that the ring was finally ready — an hour away in Lincoln.

“I was tired and planned to go to bed super early,” said Alex.

But Andy was motivated, forging through the driving rainstorm in his determination to have a ring on his girlfriend’s hand that very night.

“Usually I’m pretty prepared, but I was just very excited to propose,” said Andy, who called her upon returning to Omaha to see if he could come over.

When Alex answered the door in her pajamas, Andy got down on his knee in the rain and asked her to be his wife — a scene that could easily be imitated in the rom-com movies he indulgently watches with her upon request.

“I love my ring,” affirmed Alex.

The pair posed for photogenic, rain-free pictures while on a romantic trip to Greece about two months after their May 2019 engagement, having set a wedding date in August 2020.

Pandemic accommodations

An early casualty of the pandemic was Alex’s wedding dress shopping experience.

“I’d been dress-shopping a few times,” said Alex, “and noted a few I liked,” but she hadn’t yet made a final decision.

At the start of February 2020, Alex stopped by Bridal Traditions in Omaha as a solo shopper, quickly learning from the staff that COVID-19-related shipping and manufacturing delays were already a factor.

“They told me there was only one available of the dress I liked best and that if I didn’t order it that day, they couldn’t guarantee it would arrive in time for my wedding,” said Alex.

“It was a very pressurized situation.”

Stressed, Alex began scanning the store’s sales rack and found the perfect gown, an A-line model with spaghetti straps, a scoop neck and beaded bodice.

“I decided, ‘I’m buying THIS DRESS’ because it was right there,” said Alex. “I face-timed my mom to show it to her.”

More concerning for the couple were the increasing pandemic-imposed restrictions, infections and rising death rates, all deep concerns for an event with an initial guest count in excess of 300 and numerous senior relatives on the list.

“My family was on the extreme end of COVID-caution,” said Alex. “And with Andy working in a hospital and me doing regular fill-in work at nursing homes, they didn’t feel comfortable having us visit for months, even though we both wore full masks, face shields, gloves and gowns when we were in those settings.

“Things kept getting kicked down the road a couple weeks at a time.”

A wedding trip to Italy, for instance, became a pipe dream as discussions ensued about reducing attendees or postponing the wedding altogether.

“In mid-June Andy and I finally came to Worthington, and with his parents on the phone and my parents in person, we talked through it,” she said.

“We decided that even if Minnesota health guidelines didn’t allow for full capacity, we wanted our older relatives to be there safely, and we knew there was no way that someone wouldn’t get sick if we went forward with a big wedding.”

It was crushing, but the couple chose to forge ahead with their Aug. 8 wedding date — and a gathering reduced by a factor of 10.

With only immediate family plus their significant others, an officiant, a photographer and a few non-related bridal party members present, the Kuceras were married at St. Mary’s Catholic Church with a grand total of 30 people on hand.

However, most elements unfolded as if everything were normal; Alex wore her dress, her bridesmaids were dressed in aqua blue gowns and Andy and the groomsmen looked dapper in charcoal gray suits accented with deep purple ties.

Manager Tyler Knutson graciously accommodated the Kuceras at the Worthington Event Center, allowing for adequate social distancing. They served a meal prepared by Tony’s Catering of Brandon and a two-tier red velvet cake complete with cream cheese frosting from B’s Bakehouse of Luverne.

The flowers — including Alex’s striking bridal bouquet — were assembled by Seed & Stem 12:27 of Worthington, and local stylists Gabby Munkel and Khantalie Heig did the women’s hair while the bridal party dressed at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, which Tammy Makram opened for their use.

“Everything turned out very well,” said Alex.

Her groom concurred.

“It was a close-knit group and a very chill day, and we got to enjoy each other a lot,” said Andy.

“For me, marriage is really much deeper than just a ceremony — it’s a spiritual, mental and physical commitment.”

An “I-do” do-over

Initially, the Kuceras scheduled a May 2021 reception for their larger invitee list, intending to repeat their vows and basically restage their ceremony.

“But we’re not going to do the church part again,” said Alex. “I didn’t think I’d feel fully married, but after being legally wed for almost a year, I do.”

Public health considerations changed their plans a second time.

“By February, we weren’t sure how quickly our parents and other family members would be vaccinated,” said Alex, so they pushed their reception date back to August — almost exactly one year after they spoke their wedding vows.

“We’re picturing this as a normal wedding reception,” said Alex, noting the bridal party will again be fully attired in their bridal wear and a dance band will play.

“People have been waiting a year to help us celebrate,” said Andy, “and we want this moment to thank our family and friends for their love and support throughout our lives.”

Their Italian honeymoon will be rescheduled when travel is cleared for that country, and in the meantime, the Kuceras will fly to Cancun to toast their love and union.

“Andy is a very loving person,” said Alex. “He’s so reassuring — a go-getter, high-energy guy but also steadily happy. And he’s a huge Husker fan.”

Laughed Andy, “I just want her to be as passionate a Husker fan as I am.”

Despite the disappointments of the past year, the Kuceras are grateful.

“We are very blessed to be able to celebrate twice,” said Andy. “We had the small, intimate wedding and now we’ll get the big event; it’s going to be a great time.”

Added Alex, “I’m hoping for something a little more fun, a little more light-hearted, a little more conventional, like we had always pictured it.

“And I’m going to be so happy because this will make it feel complete.”