Love in the time of COVID

True love wins. Even amid a pandemic.

When Lisa Northup and Jeff Farley exchanged rings and vows on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, it was on the front porch of Trinity Elms assisted living.

The bride’s mother, Trinity Elms assisted living resident Marjory Northup, was in an armchair in the lobby of the assisted living building in front of the picture window, with a copy of the service in her lap and a speaker broadcasting the service. The groom’s mother sat in an armchair outside with the couple, but made sure to stay six feet away.

Lisa Northup Farley, who lives in nearby Cana, Virginia, works at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. She and Jeff were dating in early 2020 but not yet engaged when Nita Cheek, life enrichment coordinator at Trinity Elms assisted living, jokingly said, “I’ll plan your wedding.”

At first, the couple decided to get married in the dining room, with their parents, residents, and a small circle of friends in attendance. The wedding was scheduled for late March.

Then came COVID-19.

The bride and groom considered a number of other options, but it always came down to family. They wanted their parents at the wedding. Even as the couple kept waiting and hoping, their marriage license expired. They were so determined that they bought another license.

Mindful of the LSC guidelines, and state health department requirements, Cheek and Campus Chaplain Beth Woodard planned a simple service reminiscent of days gone by, when a couple might wed in the minister’s parlor: a table holding a bowl of flowers and a pair of (LED) candles; the groom’s parents seated in comfortable chairs. Several aunts and cousins stood on the front lawn.

In the lobby, in chairs six feet apart, the bride’s mother and nine other residents enjoyed the service. The yellow roses were from the garden of another resident, whose daughter had delivered them for the occasion.

An electric piano, rolled out for the evening, allowed for music: the classic “Bridal Chorus” and “Wedding March” as well as Cheek providing a solo of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

“It was perfect,” the new Mrs. Farley said. “It was more than I could ever have imagined.”

Afterward, the couple, the family, and the residents shared sparkling cider in plastic flutes and cake squares from Dewey’s, a local bakery. Each cake square said, “I do.”

It turns out – as we sort of already knew – that a fancy, expensive party is not a requirement for beginning a loving marriage. The actual ingredients are simple and few: A bride. A groom. An officiant. Your loved ones. And, of course, God.

“Dearly beloved,” the service began. And it ended, as weddings usually do, with: “You may now kiss the bride.”

Tenderly, Lisa and Jeff pulled down their masks and exchanged a kiss.

Then they pulled their masks back up.

Written by Rev. Beth Woodard