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REAL WEDDING:: ELIZABETH LEVY + GREG PELLERIN {Love in the Time of Covid-19}

REAL WEDDING:: ELIZABETH LEVY + GREG PELLERIN {Love In The Time Of Covid-19}

Written by: Jessica Burke

Photos by: The Red M Studio

No doubt you’ve read many stories about couples having to postpone their weddings due to the current coronavirus pandemic. This is not one of those stories. Elizabeth Levy and Greg Pellerin had planned to get married on the most popular date in the whole year – 10/10/2020. The details had all been carefully arranged and already paid for and the couple, both geochemists, were looking forward to celebrating with their family and friends in the fall. And then the pandemic delivered a blow neither were expecting.

“My fiancé, this past week, lost his job, and with it any healthcare benefits *in the middle of a pandemic*,” Elizabeth shared in a Facebook post on April 18. Realizing that any illness or accident that might befall Greg could lead to financial ruin, the couple contacted her HR department to see what their options were for getting Greg covered under her insurance. “They said we’d need to be married to add him to my benefit plan,” Elizabeth explains.

With their wedding date months away and a pandemic raging, the couple made the decision to move their wedding up.  On April 10th, exactly six months before their original wedding date, the couple began planning a second, much smaller wedding that would take place in a week’s time.

The process began with attempting to secure a marriage license. The couple’s officiant and dear friend, Diane Lundeen, “had to listen to me cry when we pulled up at the courthouse in Algiers to get a wedding license and found a “closed” sign on the door directing us to the office in the CBD,” shares Elizabeth. “Upon arrival there, we were stopped by security because they, also, were not issuing licenses. At Diane’s direction, we went online and filled out the paperwork, then called on Monday morning and made an appointment at the Gretna courthouse for Wednesday, the only day they are accepting appointments. Greg went without me, bringing my drivers license and birth certificate, and came home with a marriage license in hand.” (For a list of area courthouses and contact information, click here.)

Once the legal details were handled, Elizabeth spent the rest of the week planning the more fun details of their mini-wedding. “I called Bywater Bakery to see if I could order a cake. I spoke with Chaya, who let me vent to her about what was happening. We decided on a berry Chantilly cake with white icing and lots of edible glitter. When I picked the cake up, on the order sheet it read, “MAKE AS BEAUTIFUL AS POSSIBLE!!!” It was, and I cried (yet again). Chaya had mentioned on the phone that a lot of people were requesting their deposits back for their wedding cakes, and once I saw how beautiful and special they had made our tiny wedding cake I placed an order for a full size cake for October. I paid in full, and even if everything goes to crap and we can’t have our wedding in October, I’ll be damned if I ask for my money back; The tiny cake was enough.”

Elizabeth and Greg found that the caterer for their October wedding is currently closed so they decided to order food – three kinds of paella! – for their mini wedding from Lola’s which is a favorite date-night restaurant of theirs. Greg made the call for the food the morning of the wedding while Elizabeth was at NOLA Brewing Company picking up the wedding favors: appropriately, bottles of hand-sanitizer that the brewery has been producing to help ease shortages caused by Covid-19 (order yours here #supportlocal).

While she was out, Greg called her about the catering order. Lola had thrown in two bottles of sangria, pistolettes with house-made garlic butter, and some garlic mushrooms and insisted that Greg take the paella in the pans because “it’ll look nicer that way.”  Greg told Elizabeth, “I told her it doesn’t matter, but she says it’ll matter to you!”  “And it did matter,” Elizabeth shares. “And I cried again.”

“Marianne and Steve from The Red M Studio were my original photography choices,” says Elizabeth. “I think they capture the best “candid” shots, which are my favorites. I’ve known Marianne for a really long time and she’s uniquely familiar with my story as an adoptee, so she was especially excited to photograph our wedding. As a bride, I was pumped to get her and Steve, even more so once I found out our wedding date was super popular: October 10, 2020 #hindsightis10102020.”

“Elizabeth’s wedding was scheduled for the most coveted date of the year, 10/10/2020, so when I heard her voice on the phone, my heart sank,” shares Marianne Sabrier of The Red M Studio. ” I just knew she was going to cancel.  I heard her say “my fiancé lost his job,” but was relieved when she quickly followed with “and we’re still going through with the event in October”.  Then I nearly fell off the chair when she stated, “but we’re getting married TODAY! Can you be there?”  I didn’t think twice about it.  Of course we would be there to document this joyous occasion.  I’ve known this bride since she was in grammar school with my son, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world, much less let this go undocumented.  We popped batteries on the charger, dusted off our gear, donned a mask and were out the door.”

“Prior to the wedding, I had posted on Facebook that we were getting married on the porch and anyone who wanted to drive by and honk could, resulting in a lot of our friends and family clogging up the street hooping and hollering, as 300 people looked on using Facebook Live video,” shares Elizabeth. “We moved our record player outside and played various mixes of ABBA, Carole King, Heartworn Highways, and a few tracks from the Voyager Golden Record. Our readings were “The Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan and Neil Gaiman’s wedding toast to a friend. It flew by.”

"We hadn’t ordered our wedding rings yet," says Elizabeth, so she had to think outside of the box. "I was kind of thinking along the lines of those Celtic ceremonies where they bind hands, but I had no ribbon or rope. I had the idea right before the wedding when I was flipping through Diane’s wedding itinerary, saw the “ring exchange”, and was literally like “aw crap! That’s kind of a big part of all of this.” I went through my grandmother’s sewing kit, grabbed the prettiest red thread, then handed it off to Marianne for pictures with my engagement ring while mumbling, “with this string, I thee wed,” followed by maniacal laughter."
"We hadn’t ordered our wedding rings yet," says Elizabeth, so she had to think outside of the box. "I was kind of thinking along the lines of those Celtic ceremonies where they bind hands, but I had no ribbon or rope. I had the idea right before the wedding when I was flipping through Diane’s wedding itinerary, saw the “ring exchange”, and was literally like “aw crap! That’s kind of a big part of all of this.” I went through my grandmother’s sewing kit, grabbed the prettiest red thread, then handed it off to Marianne for pictures with my engagement ring while mumbling, “with this string, I thee wed,” followed by maniacal laughter."
Elizabeth and Greg's ceremony took place on the front porch of their house in Treme with Diane Lundeen officiating.
Elizabeth and Greg's ceremony took place on the front porch of their house in Treme with Diane Lundeen officiating.
Elizabeth's biological mother dropped off a wedding present for the couple on their porch prior to the wedding: "two fully functional n-95 masks covered in glitter, courtesy of my step-dad, that proceeded to shed glitter everywhere like magic pixie dust through the entire ceremony," shares Elizabeth.
Elizabeth's biological mother dropped off a wedding present for the couple on their porch prior to the wedding: "two fully functional n-95 masks covered in glitter, courtesy of my step-dad, that proceeded to shed glitter everywhere like magic pixie dust through the entire ceremony," shares Elizabeth.
While most of the couples guests watched the ceremony on Facebook Live video, a few ventured out and wished Elizabeth and Greg well from a safe, social distance.
While most of the couples guests watched the ceremony on Facebook Live video, a few ventured out and wished Elizabeth and Greg well from a safe, social distance.
After the ceremony, the newly weds pose for photos with their four-year-old son, Frank.
After the ceremony, the newly weds pose for photos with their four-year-old son, Frank.

“Shooting a wedding from a safe, social distance is not really a challenge thanks to long lenses,” says Marianne Sabrier of The Red M Studio. “It is quite challenging trying to give direction from six feet away, but given that we were there to mostly document, that wasn’t a big deal.  We’ll have plenty of time to catch up on the posed shots in October.”

Marianne from The Red M Studio set up "socially distant" group portraits. "Shooting with a mask over my face is a little disorienting, but taking the necessary precautions is so important," she explains.
Marianne from The Red M Studio set up "socially distant" group portraits. "Shooting with a mask over my face is a little disorienting, but taking the necessary precautions is so important," she explains.

“We moved our record player outside and played various mixes of ABBA, Carole King, Heartworn Highways, and a few tracks from the Voyager Golden Record.”

Elizabeth and Greg cut their Berry Chantilly wedding cake from Bywater Bakery with their son Frank watching.
Elizabeth and Greg cut their Berry Chantilly wedding cake from Bywater Bakery with their son Frank watching.

“Do I have any advice?” Elizabeth says. “Yes, there is no such thing as waterproof mascara. Otherwise, I’m going to take the route of Neil Gaiman and not pretend to know anything about anyone else’s journey to love and happiness. I found mine simply, and even though we had a much more complex celebration planned, neither the situation that precipitated our moving our ceremony up nor the COVID-19 pandemic could keep us down. You do you; I promise it’ll be perfect.”

“We’re still planning on celebrating on our wedding date, but we haven’t decided if we’re going to have another ceremony,” says Elizabeth. “I think it would be fun to have a re-do, especially because the 300-ish people who were watching on facebook live couldn’t really hear our vows or readings.”

And we’re sure that all their guests will be waiting to hug and congratulate the happy couple this fall. And their wedding vendors, so many small businesses who have been drastically affected by the pandemic, are looking forward to helping them celebrate then too. “I’m so happy to have been a part of this joyous celebration,” says Marianne Sabrier. “I think it’s the first time I’ve ever left a wedding without hugging my clients, which made me a little sad, but being able to witness such genuine love and joy more than made up for it.”

 

Wedding gifts included "essentials."
Parade chairs with flowers, placed six feet apart on the sidewalk, serve as seating for the wedding guests.
Elizabeth and Greg's wedding favors: bottles of hand sanitizer from NOLA Brewing Company.
Glitter-covered N95 Masks
Meat and Seafood Paella, the couple's favorite, from Lola's in New Orleans
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