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No matter who you are or where you live in Buchanan County, COVID-19 has impacted your life in one way or another over the last few months. The school year came to an abrupt end at all levels. Proms were cancelled, and graduation ceremonies were delayed. There were layoffs, and many businesses closed or greatly reduced their hours. High school, college, and professional sporting events ceased. Churches began holding online services. Easter and Mother’s Day were celebrated at a distance.

You may even know someone who became ill, or died, due to the coronavirus.

Imagine if you were engaged to be married with a wedding date set in 2020. How would you change your plans in this midst of this pandemic and deal with the social distancing rules? It’s more than something to imagine for a couple of local brides and their respective fiancés. And it just so happens they are part of one family.

Two Brides Named Haley

The coincidences don’t stop there. Both brides have the same first name – Haley. And until August 15, unless COVID-19 leads to the rescheduling of one set of nuptials, the brides have the same last name for now – Fowlkes.

Haley McElhose married Jesse Fowlkes on June 13. Jesse’s sister, Haley Fowlkes, will marry Dakota Even on August 15.

Still confused? Read on.

Haley (McElhose) and Jesse Fowlkes

After dating for three years, Haley (McElhose) and Jesse Fowlkes were married on June 13, 2020. They are the children of Brian and Melanie McElhose and Joe and Melissa Fowlkes.

While COVID-19 didn’t change the date of the wedding, it definitely made an impact on the day’s events.

According to Haley (McElhose), 24, a licensed practical nurse from Independence, “We were planning on sending out 300 invitations…our original venue [The Old Fifty-Six, Grundy Center, Iowa] was a milk barn that was turned into a wedding venue. The ceremony was to be held outside and the reception was supposed to be inside the barn.”

While they still held a small wedding ceremony outside the venue, the couple gathered with family and close friends at the their small acreage for a celebration.

When asked how she and her husband Jesse, 30, a farmer and business owner from Independence, handled the changes to their plans, Haley (McElhose) said, “We just took things with a grain of salt and are happy we are married! Everything turned out really well. Everyone has been very helpful and understanding about the situation. We couldn’t have done it without our family and friends helping with food and setting up tables to eat! The vendors were understanding, too.”

After having their wedding plans modified due to the pandemic, the new Mr. and Mrs. Fowlkes seem equipped to deal with whatever may come their way in the future.

She said, “[Jesse and I] are very much alike in the sense of change. We both usually just go with the flow and are understanding of one another. Both of our families can make fun of any situation!”

Haley Fowlkes and Dakota Even

The “other” Haley Fowlkes, 25, is a dental assistant at Kegler, Kegler & Arend. Her fiancé, Dakota Even, 25, is a sales representative at Bill Colwell Ford. Both are from Jesup.

Haley is the daughter of Joe and Melissa Fowlkes. Dakota is the son of Gary Even and Tami Even.

“We met in high school our freshman year and have always been good friends,” said Haley. “We started dating about four years after we graduated. We’ve been ‘dating’ for two and a half years.”

Haley and Dakota have had more than a few obstacles put in their way when it comes to the planning of their 2020 wedding.

“Our initial wedding plans were for May 30, 2020, at St. Athanasius Church. Our reception was to be held at Henderson Event Center in Independence. Five hundred guests were invited, and the majority of those were family (ha ha). Our families are large, mainly his.”

The outbreak of COVID-19 led to a number of changes for their big day.

“It has been best for us to move the date so we can enjoy our big day with all our loved ones,” Haley said. “The new date is now August 15, 2020. We’ve had to get a new food vendor, DJ, and photographer. All of our vendors have been very understanding of this whole situation.”

Many couples might have given up in a situation like this, but not Haley and Dakota.

“We handled [the changes] well. I was a little more stressed about finding some new vendors, but Dakota was great with assuring me that things will all work out, and they did!” said Haley. “We have gotten nothing but great support and understanding from family and friends.

“Not everything goes as planned, and sometimes you have to roll with the punches in life. We have been nothing but positive about this whole experience, and that is what we love about one another. We couldn’t have made all the changes so smoothly without each other.”

That positive mental attitude will sustain Haley and Dakota in their future married life.

“We can’t wait until August for our big day and for all of our family and friends to be there with us!” she said.