With the gravity of the coronavirus beginning to hit the media hard in late February and early March, Monroeville native Gayle Levine still had her eye on heading to Key West, Florida, with her husband, Alan, for the wedding of their daughter, Becky, on March 21.
“I kept saying to her, ‘We will come wherever it is,’” recounted Levine. News of the virus, however, “just got worse and worse and we thought, ‘If we got there, would they cancel our flights?’ We didn’t know if we would be able to get a car to drive home.”
Eventually, Levine and her husband had to come to the painful decision to not attend the wedding of their child.
“It breaks my heart to tell you this, I can’t even get the words out of mouth to say, ‘We’re not coming,’” Levine ultimately had to tell her daughter. Becky and her fiancé, Alex Damian, did get married on March 21 surrounded by friends, but the journey was far more circuitous than they ever intended.
Dreams of a beach wedding were initially nixed because of Becky’s grandmother’s mobility issues. Her grandmother, who lives just four hours away, would not be able to traverse the sandy terrain in her wheelchair. So instead they “found a wonderful restaurant that was able to accommodate us on their porch,” Becky explained.
Everything was falling into place.
“We found the restaurant; it was beautiful and had a view of the ocean,” she said. “We found a photographer and a nice place to stay. Everyone said they were coming. It was very exciting.”
Travel and health concerns due to COVID-19, though, began to alter the couple’s plans.
First, Becky’s grandmother, who lives in an assisted living facility, was restricted from leaving her residence.
“And then my sister, who works in a dialysis center, said she was leery about coming and eventually said she wasn’t going to come because she wouldn’t be able to go back to work afterward,” Becky said. Soon after, “everything fell through.”
Becky’s parents and her aunt eventually told her they were unable to make the trip to Florida. Since her aunt had planned to officiate the wedding, the pair had to find someone else to marry them. A friend stepped up to the task.
With none of the out-of-state guests able to attend, the couple thought about returning to their original plan of having a beach wedding.
But the mandate to self-distance made that plan impossible as well.
“They had closed most of the beaches and there was just this little spot,” Becky said. “It was so crowded. And we’re not supposed to be clustering together. It’s supposed to be less than 10 people. So I said, ‘OK, we can’t do this here.’”
Her fiancé had one last idea. He had a friend with a backyard large enough to accommodate the wedding and their small group of friends attending. There was just one problem.
“It was a boy’s backyard,” Becky said with a laugh. “There were all these tires and weights. It was a total boy’s yard.”
The day of the wedding, Alex and his friends transformed the less than ideal venue into an acceptable spot, complete with strings of lights.
Despite not having her loved ones physically in attendance, Becky found ways to use technology to close the physical distance between family and friends.
“I feel like they were there every step of the way,” Becky said. “I talked with my parents daily and FaceTimed them right after I put my dress on and we had a video going the whole time. I called them right after and introduced them to everyone.”
While Becky is grateful that she was able to use Facebook Live to stream the wedding, she admitted it felt odd.
“It was a little weird, sharing this really personal moment with everyone on the internet,” she said.
For Levine and her husband, the day was bittersweet.
“We were both going to walk her down the aisle,” Levine said. “It’s terrible, she walked herself.”
Still, the mother was grateful to witness her daughter being wed, albeit virtually.
“I was very upset when she walked in, but then I saw that she was smiling, and he was smiling, and they were smiling at each other,” said Levine.
The family plans to celebrate Becky and Alex’s wedding once travel restrictions and health concerns have passed.
“I kept telling myself we can celebrate later with the family,” Becky said. “It’s going to be less stressful. It’s just going to be a party and a celebration.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at email@example.com.