When it became clear that they would need to postpone their March 2020 wedding, Christine Piry and Joe Billingsley did just that. But determined to get married, the couple got creative and exchanged vows in a ceremony that met all of the local orders and CDC guidelines of the time. Here’s their story.
Editor’s Note: The coronavirus crisis is a rapidly changing situation, and we strongly encourage couples to adjust all plans according to the recommendations of the CDC and the directives of their local authorities.
The Original Plan
After getting engaged while sailing on the Potomac last summer, Christine and Joe planned a wedding for March 28, 2020 with 80 to 90 guests. “Friends and family were coming to town from California, Nevada, Florida, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and New Jersey,” Christine says,” to join the couple for a Catholic ceremony at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Old Town Alexandria, followed by a reception at Cedar Knoll overlooking the Potomac. “We really love the water and enjoy sailing,” Christine says, “so we wanted to bring in the nautical feel to the wedding along with my love for flowers.” A “romantic atmosphere with some maritime flare,” was the theme. But even the best laid plans….
“I remember vividly the weekend of March 14,” says Christine. Concerns about the coronavirus were getting more and more intense, she says, and several guests had informed them they’d no longer be able to make it. “We met with the Cedar Knoll team to discuss the declining guest count and to make plans to adjust the reception based on the new gathering limitation of 50 people.” That Monday though, Christine says, things took a “major turn for the worse… We knew we simply could not move forward with the plans as we had envisioned.” They immediately contact the church and the reception venue to discuss options. Ultimately they decided to postpone the reception one year, “to be celebrated,” Christine says, “in conjunction with a large vow renewal in the church.” The church however, agreed to still marry them on the original date.
The 2020 Ceremony
In keeping with the gathering and social distancing recommendations during that time, the couple hosted a “very intimate” ceremony at the Basilica of Saint Mary with just four immediate family members and their photographer in attendance, while other loved ones watched from afar online. “The church was fantastic!” Christine says. “They set up the ability to stream the wedding for all our friends and family to tune into online.” After the ceremony, they had a mini photoshoot around Old Town Alexandria, and then they picked up takeout from Cedar Knoll, their original reception venue, to enjoy back at their home. “Our meal was a mini version of what we had planned for the reception—oysters, steak, crab cakes,” says Christine. “They even made us a mini red velvet cake!”
A Special Touch
With the couple’s strong military ties—Joe is a veteran of the Iraq War who currently works for the Department of Defense and runs a nonprofit for the veteran and military community, and Christine is the daughter of a Marine veteran—the pair had originally planned to have rows of uniformed military friends with swords and sabers welcoming them “with a grand arch on the steps of the church as the new Mr. and Mrs. Billingsley,” Christine says. And while that couldn’t be due to social distancing and safety concerns, the couples says they were still lucky to have “two such swordsmen form a mini arch.”
The couple celebrated the nuptials with a one-night minimoon at the Inn at Perry Cabin. They’re planning to celebrate their original wedding plans with guests—and a honeymoon in Hawaii—next year.