Photography by Danny Fulgencio
Getting married during a pandemic showed newlyweds Darci and Darren Shultz what really mattered.

“In 25 years, it doesn’t matter what our reception or wedding looked like, it matters that we got to get married,” Darci says.

The Lake Highlands couple were married on their pastor’s porch March 23 — just before Dallas County instituted a shelter-in-place order — surrounded by 10 socially-distanced attendees. Months of planning for an April 5 event were undone in three days, Darren says.

Similar to their nuptials, Darci and Darren’s first few months as a married couple were far from ordinary due to the pandemic. They spent their wedding night at a Dallas hotel.

“We planned a longer stay, but everything basically shut down [because of COVID] at that point,” Darren says.

Darci and Darren’s planned honeymoon to an adults-only resort in Destin, Florida, is on hold until travel restrictions are lifted. But the two say they have made the most of “pseudo honeymoons” through small trips to San Antonio and Fort Worth.

As the pandemic keeps the social security office and court doors closed, Darci and Darren are still waiting on their official marriage certificate. Legally, Darci’s last name is still not Shultz, she says.

“You can’t just go up there and make it happen,” Darren says. “We have to go through a few more hoops to make it happen. It takes a little bit longer.”

Even with the delay of name changes and certificates, Darren says they are grateful to still be staying afloat as the pandemic causes stress for many families across the country.

“In the grand scheme of things, we’re really blessed that we’re both still working,” he says.

Amid the COVID chaos, the newlyweds were able to purchase their first home off Forest Lane in mid-May. Sheltering in place in their new home brought the family of three even closer, Darci says, since work and soccer practice were not in the way.

“It was kind of nice just to have two weeks of just him, our daughter Claire and I at the house,” she says. “It was kind of forced family time.”

Darci works three days a week as a new mom and baby nurse at Baylor University Medical Center. Darren has been able to work from home as a software engineer, which he says has “been a blessing.”

Darci and Darren had planned a belated wedding celebration in September, but decided to cancel since a number of family and friends live outside Dallas, work in the medical field or have medical complications.

A celebration has become less likely as the couple’s one-year anniversary approaches in a matter of months.

“It’s something that’s passing, and at this point, I don’t even know if it’s on hold. The timing of it is kind of gone,” Darren says.

However, the newlyweds have enjoyed mini-celebrations with family members that have been able to travel and visit.

“Eventually we’ll get around to everyone we have on our list,” Darren says.

While the plans here and there have fallen through, Darci says all has made her grateful for the new life she has with Darren.

“As much as you’re kind of disappointed that you didn’t have the big wedding and reception that you had hoped for originally, we were able to get married and start our lives together,” Darci says. “That’s what was really important.”

For couples with upcoming COVID weddings of their own, Darci suggests focusing on the five most important elements of the wedding, such as ensuring attendance of specific family members.

“When other minor details fall apart, it’s not as disappointing,” she says.

Boiling Darci and Darren’s wedding down to what was important to them was “almost a relief,” Darren says.

“For months we were like, ‘Where are we going to have our wedding?’ ‘How many people are we going to be able to have?’” he says. “Don’t be so tied to expectations.”