Nothing Can Stop Love
“Every couple is going to bump into issues [on their wedding day] – pandemic or not. Our story is on the extreme end of what could go wrong. Our number one advice is to be flexible. We ended up going with ‘Plan F’ after all these changes. Play out every possible scenario and come up with a solution for each. Your wedding will happen even if it’s not the one you envisioned.” Truer words could not have been spoken for Stephanie & Jeff who were married on June 20, 2020. Nothing can stop love between two amazing people like Jeff & Stephanie … but damn if the universe didn’t try!
I had some initial hesitation to booking Steph & Jeff’s wedding because June 20, 2020 also happened to be my own 15th wedding anniversary. I struck a deal with my wife which involved a three week vacation in Bora Bora and Hawaii in April if she allowed me to offer my services on our wedding anniversary. But just as my wife and I were dealt the disappointing news that due to the COVID-19 pandemic we’d be unable to take our #bucketlist vacation, Stephanie and Jeff rode a more harrowing emotional roller coaster on their way to the altar – in addition to missing out on their dream honeymoon in Paris.
Stephanie came to Florida in 2016 for work, but Jeff had other plans for her. At First Coast News, the couple quickly became food buddies because they were always the first two people to go back for seconds whenever there was free food. This was strictly a work friendship, despite the time that Jeff spent hanging around Steph’s desk, the spontaneous nerf gun wars, the Pokemon Go competition, and the fact that Steph thought Jeff was “underrated attractive” (whatever that means).
After her two-year contract ended, Steph went back home to Chicago to be with family. Over the next year and a half, against all odds, the couple actually grew closer to each other. Jeff played it cool and pretended he wasn’t gonna propose while they were living so far apart, but truth is he planned to ask her to marry him at Renfrew Castle in Scotland, home of the Renfroe family name. Of course, as we all know, Renfrew Castle was torn down in the 1700’s so this plan was foiled before it even began.
Luckily, at the site of the castle stood a memorial to the crown. Steph wanted a picture of Jeff ‘wearing’ the crown by crouching beneath it. Jeff took this opportunity to kneel and pull out the ring. After taking the picture and calling him a weirdo for not looking at the camera, Steph realized the full extent of what was going on and began hitting Jeff as if to say, “You tricked me, you handsome fool!”
The couple commissioned us to photograph their wedding shortly after Stephanie was the Maid of Honor during Christina & Jerry’s wedding which I photographed on June 22, 2019. I worked with Christina & Jerry to surprise the couple with a gorgeous 20X40 metal print which featured a favorite photo of the couple from their engagement session. Christina & Jerry were invited and intended on attending the wedding and wanted to be in the room when we presented the couple with their gift … the only problem now was, would the wedding even take place?
“Getting to this point has been a wild ride with things changing every day”, confessed Stephanie. “We didn’t even know if we would be able to get married until 3 days before our wedding date. We couldn’t get our marriage license until three days out because the Cook County Clerk’s office was still closed. Without a license, the church would not allow us to hold a ceremony. No one picked up the phone. No one emailed us back. The only way we got a response from Cook County was by begging through Facebook messenger. As a backup, we drove to Kane County and got a marriage license there, and Stephanie’s sister got ordained online to possibly perform a backyard wedding at her parent’s house”.
The couple’s original reception venue laid off its entire staff in March without informing the couple. It took months for the couple to finally receive communication and a refund. With no indoor dining permitted at the time of their wedding, it was nearly impossible finding reservations for a reception. Ultimately the couple opted for take-out instead and dined that evening in their apartment.
Stephanie says, “The week leading up to our wedding was the most stressful.” Since the couple didn’t know if their wedding was happening or not, Jeff’s parents, who were set to arrive from Florida, couldn’t book their flights until last minute. Stephanie’s mom was hospitalized the entire week of her wedding and didn’t get released until the day before. The couple planned to pick up their wedding rings at a jewelry store which was looted during the riots throughout downtown Chicago which were sparked when protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent. Jeff’s custom suit wasn’t ready until the day before the wedding. The situation with the church, St. Alphonsus, was very fluid: At first they were told to postpone their wedding date, then were allowed to have up to ten guests and then, the week of their wedding, the church raised the capacity as long as everyone wore masks and socially distanced.
Focus on what was important: Committing to each other in front of loved ones
“When the wedding day finally arrived, we were most looking forward to it actually happening! It didn’t feel real, because once again, we had zero time to mentally prepare for any of it. We didn’t have the moments leading up to it like a bridal shower, bachelor / bachlorette parties, getting ready and taking photos with our wedding party. We had no time to mentally prepare – not even a ceremony rehearsal! The chaos really forced us to focus on what was important: committing ourselves to each other in front of our loved ones”.