Coronavirus Can’t Cancel Love

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Local Couple Shares Virtual Vows on Wedding Day

 Last month, as coronavirus caused shutdowns across the country, those planning to say, “I do,” were told…not anytime soon. Couples across the country were forced to move their spring and early summer wedding dates, to a hopeful late summer or fall nuptial. However, one local couple proved “love conquers all,” by getting a little creative and not letting coronavirus claim their special day. On Saturday, April 18, Michael McGee and Suzanne Valentine became Mr. and Mrs. by sharing virtual vows.

On April 18, 2013, Mike and Suzanne had their first date at China New Star in Brooklyn, ironically, one of the few Chinese restaurants still open in New York among coronavirus closures. Their take away wasn’t just leftovers, but a love that would last. In December 2018, McGee, a well-known Healy’s bartender, took a shot on a long-term commitment, and popped the question. Without skipping a beat, Valentine said “Yes.”

As the planning process began, the couple settled on the perfect date—a Saturday in 2020—April 18, which would be the seventh anniversary of that very first date. However almost a month before the big day, the prospect of that perfect date, started to slip. “On March 16, my office closed. I work for a high-profile personal injury law firm. It never closes,” Valentine said, indicating that it was a clear sign that their wedding celebration would have to be put off. Then shortly after, the wedding venue, Floral Terrace, all but made the decision for them. The couple was asked to book another date further out, and they settled on August 22. Fortunately, their vendors fell in line, making the change of date a little easier, despite the devastating blow of having to postpone. Cancelling the May honeymoon to Europe left more of a sting. However, when the couple announced the postponement, their friends and family, although sad for the couple, were more than understanding and marked their calendars with a new date of something to look forward to.

However, coronavirus was never really going to take their day away. The next day, McGee and Valentine went to the county court to get their marriage license before courts closed. “We knew we would get married no matter what on the 18th, because it was our seven-year anniversary,” Valentine said. But then came the question of how they’d pull the ceremony off, while making everyone’s health and safety, first priority.

Luckily, with everything from work to school switching gears to a virtual new reality, the idea of sharing virtual vows became a possibility. And when their officiant, Mary Brady, said she knew how to use Zoom, it became official. The couple would get married online. They thought about doing a private ceremony, but soon realized their wedding guests needed something more to look forward to than the next news broadcast on TV. So they were invited to share in the couple’s big day, with their families watching from a personal Zoom chat, and the rest of their friends watching on a Facebook Live stream.

The Rockaway couple decided to get married in Breezy Point, in the home of Valentine’s late grandparents, who were married for more than 50 years—a good omen, and where Valentine’s mother, who insisted on being there for the ceremony, now lives. The couple’s witnesses, Jim and Christine Slowey, also lived nearby and were able to sign their marriage license from their backyard.

With the ability to save the date, despite having to postpone the party, the biggest hurdle seemed to be cleared, but a few unexpected ones brought further change of plans, and even some comedic relief. The couple had planned to get married on the deck, but rain forced the ceremony inside, resulting in a quick rearrangement of cellphones and iPads on piled up boxes on the kitchen table to record the live ceremony to share with friends and family.

As McGee began reciting his vows, the couple suddenly vanished out of view as Valentine’s mother is heard in the background saying, “The dog did it!” Oliver, a Boston Terrier, and the stand-in best man for the day who was donning his own suit matching Michael’s, got a little more involved when he rubbed into a table leg, attempting to get his formal-wear off, but instead sending the iPad flying.

After a quick reset of the equipment, the vows continued, with the couple smiling through laughs rather than shedding happy tears, the thought of the mishap still fresh in their heads. As a socially distanced photographer captured the moment, they continued by exchanging rings, and upon the happy words of “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” the newlywed McGees shared a kiss.

As many as 900 viewers watched the virtual wedding, as friends and family from town, to as far as McGee’s family in Tennessee and even Ireland, got to witness the nuptials. Some helped the couple celebrate in whatever way they could by sending flowers, bottles of champagne and bottles of Jameson to their home. Meanwhile, friends started their own reception with at-home drinks, and one group even celebrating in a Zoom chat they called, “Table 19.”

“It was overwhelming to see how much everyone cared for us on our day,” the now Mrs. McGee said. As for the newlyweds, they celebrated at home by sharing wedding cake, a bottle of champagne and finishing the series, “The Crown” on Netflix. “Though it was not what we planned, it was everything we wanted,” Mrs. McGee said. “I think it showed that love prevails, no matter the situation.”

Now they are hoping their rescheduled wedding date of August 22 will also prevail, but they’ll reschedule again if needed. Whether on August 22 or another time, the McGees’ future wedding ceremony will not only celebrate their love, but overcoming the threat of COVID-19, with friends and family. After all, they’ll be able to do something that people are currently being told to avoid—join hands. The McGees plan to include the Celtic tradition of “hand-fasting,” in which a ribbon from Ireland will be tied around both of their hands, binding them together for life.

Coronavirus may have changed their plans, but the McGees say there are some perks. “My husband usually works nights and I usually work days, but since I’m working from home, we’re getting really good time together,” Mrs. McGee said. “I’m very lucky to be home with my husband and our dog. Everyone I know and love is safe. We’re very blessed.”

 By Katie McFadden

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