On a cold December evening in 2018, my fiancé and I sipped Old Fashioneds in a cozy Sonoma County bar, riding high from an emotional afternoon. Hours earlier, while Jerry and I were touring Hanzell Vineyards, admiring the oldest pinot noir vines in California, he suddenly got down on one knee and asked me to spend my life with him. I was shocked: not that he asked me to marry him — we had been together for years — but that I didn’t see it coming! All I could say was, “Of course!”
And that began our great adventure — an adventure, it turned out, that was much more dramatic than either of us could have predicted. After all, a pandemic was something that only existed in my sci-fi novels. And we were fortunate to have a few blissful months of old-fashioned wedding planning before the harsh realities of what a pandemic really meant hit home.
While I would never wish an experience like we went through on any engaged couple, it did prove to me what I already knew to be true — that Jerry and I are right for each other. Life is messy, but having the right person by your side is everything. We faced these challenges together, hand in hand, as a team, and that’s what marriage is all about, right?
But sitting in the bar that winter night, with stars in our eyes, I had no idea what was in store for us. Innocently, we began scribbling on a couple of bar napkins what would be the first draft of our guest list. One hundred names of our closest friends and family stared back at us.
Almost immediately the list began to grow — only a few names at first, then a few more, and before we knew it, our invite list was pushing 150. Where were all these people going to go?
We toured almost every wedding venue in town before deciding on the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. It checked all our boxes — a classic Santa Barbara style with an intimate ceremony space and a beautiful stone courtyard with plenty of space for dancing and strings of lights that begged for a party.
Next on the list was The Dress. This required a cohort of five women including my mother, Jerry’s mother, my maid of honor, Jerry’s sister, and my soon-to-be niece. They all crammed in the boutique’s lounge, sipping Champagne while I shimmied in and out of bridal gowns. My dress was the last one — lucky number seven. As soon as I saw myself in that long-sleeved, lace gown with a dramatic neckline, I knew it was the one.
I tried to hide my excitement when I stepped out of the dressing room. But when I saw tears springing from my mother’s eyes, I knew it was a keeper. I have never loved a dress more. And “the best news?” declared my maid of honor, “It’s on sale!” She’s a keeper, too.
Wedding planning was going better than expected. We selected flowers, sampled tastings, and met our new favorite person — our Month-of Wedding planner. Jerry and I spent a few nights stuffing, stamping, and sealing our invitations. It was such a relief when we finally dropped them off at the post office. All the heavy lifting was behind us.
We had done it.
And then March 13 happened. The Indy office went virtual overnight. The staff was told to work from home for the next two weeks. But two weeks became a month, and a month became indefinite. Rumors began fluttering around town — friends were delaying their May and June weddings. News of wedding postponements filled my social media feed.
That’s when I did what every adult woman does when she begins to panic — I called my mother.
Together we decided that it was too soon to know what the situation would be in August. We would wait until Memorial Day before making any decisions. I promised to remain calm. But the weeks ticked on, and the news only got grimmer. Memorial Day arrived, and I took off my rose-colored glasses.
Jerry and I began talking in circles, weighing different options over and over. My poor parents fielded our phone calls daily, patiently listening to our every plan. We even started talking about moving the date to 2021. That’s when I sat back and looked right at Jerry and said, “August 15 is our date.” He smiled at me and replied, “I know.” We might have lost our Plan A wedding, but we were determined to stick with August 15. It was our date.
The next few weeks were slightly crazy. We conjured up plans — B, C, D, E, F, and G — plans that were almost immediately discarded as soon as they were put in place. It was exhausting.
At the time, there was no coherent guidance for weddings. Our vendors were all working at different levels — some were in full swing, pivoting to fit the moment, while others were forbidden to operate.
The governor had the power to shut operations down within hours — what if he decided to shut our county down days or even hours before our wedding?
Then there was also the moral responsibility. What if someone got sick, or worse, because of our wedding? Was it even possible to get married?
Here we were, weeks before our wedding day. I was supposed to be swimming in bridal bliss and mentally preparing for the biggest day of my life, but instead I was wondering if it would even happen at all.
Four weeks before August 15, Jerry and I found ourselves sitting in my parents’ backyard. With gin and tonics in hand, we devised what we called Plan Z.
Plan Z was designed to work no matter what.
We moved the wedding to my parents’ backyard, limited the guest list to the wedding party and immediate family, and figured out proper COVID-19 measures. Everything would be outside, seating safely spaced, guests gifted sanitizers, and all vendors on board with the protocol. I even found the perfect mask to match my dress. We toasted to Plan Z — we finally had a plan.
August 15, 2020, arrived and it was truly our day. Morning showers moved through town, just enough to keep us on our toes, but also to wish us good luck. “It rained on my wedding day,” my mother told me. “And look at us: still going strong after 35 years.”
Hours later I was standing in my parents’ dining room, arm in arm with my father, about to walk down the aisle. In less than an hour, when Jerry and I finally kissed, the next chapter of our life began.
The evening was filled with delicious foods and wine, but the toasts were my favorite part. My father gave a welcome toast that had everyone in tears by his third sentence. And during the best man’s speech, he spoke the kindest words a bride could hear on her wedding day, “Sometimes you go to a wedding,” he said, “and you know it’s not going to last. But this. This right here. This is the real deal.”
For years I had heard brides talk about their wedding day as the best day of their lives. I’d roll my eyes. I didn’t get it. I thought that they were talking about their dress or the party. Now I realize that it’s the love. Not only the love I feel for Jerry, but it’s the love I felt from all over. Everyone was radiating love and Jerry and I were the reason why.
Every day, the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent works hard to sort out truth from rumor and keep you informed of what’s happening across the entire Santa Barbara community. Now there’s a way to directly enable these efforts. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.