Arkansas couples overcome vagaries of covid and delays to celebrate love



June 25 went perfectly for Alejandro Solarte DeSalvo and Michael DeSalvo Solarte. It was their wedding day and the couple exchanged vows at the Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, California, surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills.

Like many couples during the pandemic, Alejandro and Michael were unsure about marriage services.

They lived in New York City, where Michael worked in the City’s Office of Management and Budget under the direction of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Alejandro worked in a restaurant.

In August, Alejandro proposed.

“He had planned this big deal, but the covid hit and we were all quarantined,” said Michael, 27. “But he decorated the apartment and there were candles everywhere and his family and my family helped plan it.”

They were thinking of a small wedding a few months later, but didn’t know how things would turn out with the virus creeping in and the vaccines not ready.

“We didn’t feel comfortable having our families around if they hadn’t been vaccinated,” said Michael, “so everything was really up in the air. There was nothing we could do.”

They decided to wait until February 2022 and have the ceremony and reception in Little Rock, where Michael grew up and where they now live. Michael is a program associate at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Alejandro works in the beauty industry.

But Alejandro had another idea.

■ ■ ■

A few months ago, while scrolling online, he found a contest called Dreaming On in California, which was sponsored by non-profit marketing company Visit California and aimed at people who had postponed the celebrations until 2020.

“I wrote my name and told the story about us, and thought I would never hear from them,” Alejandro says.

Ah, but he did. On June 1, which was also his 24th birthday, Alejandro received an email from Visit California telling him that they were one of 10 couples chosen to get married at Carneros Resort and Spa. Alejandro and Michael paid for their plane tickets to San Francisco, and everything else was paid for by Visit California, they said.

“I was like, is it real,” says Michael.

Of course, there wasn’t much time to prepare.

They found fancy suits, booked their flight, and flew to California.

After a few days in San Francisco, they traveled to Napa Valley, where they stayed for two days while their wedding plans were worked out.

“There really was no stress,” says Michael. “Visiting California has planned every little detail.”

With dogs Bear (left) and Phoebe, Reagan Muse and Dr Cody Timmermann are enjoying a fall outing in 2020, as their wedding plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette / Wallace Lee)

“It was super stress-free,” says Alejandro.

“It was such a great experience,” says Michael. “We were treated like family and everyone was super nice. The celebrant was so nice and kind.”

The ceremony was broadcast live on Zoom for their families to watch.

“The weather was perfect and sunny and it wasn’t too hot,” says Michael. “We said our vows and the celebrant said some nice words, and that was it. It was amazing.”

■ ■ ■

Wedding plans weren’t entirely stress-free for Reagan Muse Timmermann and Little Rock’s Dr Cody Timmermann.

They met in 2012 as freshmen at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and got engaged in March 2019.

The plan was to simply suggest casually, explains Cody, resident physician in internal medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“The motivation behind this is that Reagan is a bit mischievous, so I just acted like it didn’t matter.”

Of course, that was a big deal, and he secretly threw a party that night for her at her parents’ house in North Little Rock.

“It was a good surprise,” said Reagan, a registered nurse at CARTI.

The couple, both 27, set a wedding date for May 9, 2020 and worked with Little Rock’s wedding coordinator, Shelia Vaught.

“With wedding planning, once you’ve booked your date, you can kind of just take care of the rest,” Reagan said. “It kind of all lined up about three months after the engagement. We were just ticking the boxes.”

And then, well, you know.

“The closure has occurred [in March 2020] and covid was becoming more and more of a thing to worry about, ”Reagan says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially had an eight-week shutdown window that would have ended on May 8, the day before their planned wedding.

“Between March, when it all melted, and April, we were going to continue trucking,” Cody says. “We weren’t going to have everything we wanted, but we knew we wanted to go ahead and do it.”

Reality began to set in, however, and it was obvious that a large gathering would not be wise. At Vaught’s request and out of concern for the health of their guests, they postponed their date for a year.

“We just decided it was safer,” Cody says.

But it wasn’t any easier.

“It was really the unknown,” Reagan said. “The hardest part was getting suppliers and all the little things that you don’t think about, and having to coordinate those dates. You are losing things that you originally thought you had because of the date change, but our suppliers have been very understanding. was a really frustrating time for them. “

Reagan and Cody Timmermann tied the knot on April 24, 2021 at St. Edward's Catholic Church with vaccinated family and friends in attendance and masks available for everyone.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Lela and Lyla)

Reagan and Cody Timmermann tied the knot on April 24, 2021 at St. Edward’s Catholic Church with vaccinated family and friends in attendance and masks available for everyone. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Lela and Lyla)

Even in February 2021, a month away from the wedding, they still had not secured a venue. They thought they could resort to an outdoor setting with tents, but Vaught came and booked the Little Rock Country Club.

“She had an event moved from that date,” Reagan says.

■ ■ ■

Vaught has been hosting weddings in Little Rock for 25 years.

“I ended up having to postpone about seven or eight weddings last year,” she says. “Some of them were reprogrammed more than once, which was really difficult.”

Vaught advised couples not to compromise on their dream wedding, but to wait until it was safe, although at the time there was no way of knowing if it would be six months, a year or more.

“I tried to express to them that they could wait so that they could still have the wedding of their dreams,” she said.

She has helped reprogram venues, florists, photographers, caterers, bands, DJs – the complex “puzzle” of people that must be put together for any large wedding.

One bride, she says, hosted a smaller service in 2020 when churches opened up to 50 attendees and had her reception a year later on her first birthday.

In March, in-person weddings returned, Vaught says.

“I did a couple of them last year, but I wasn’t comfortable,” she adds. “After making a couple, we decided we weren’t going to do it anymore. Thank goodness my wives have rescheduled.”

■ ■ ■

Cody and Reagan tied the knot on April 24 at St. Edward’s Catholic Church with family and friends in attendance and masks available for everyone.

With hills in the distance, Michael DeSalvo Solarte (left) and Alejandro Solarte DeSalvo exchange vows on June 25, 2021 at the Carneros Resort and Spa in California's Napa Valley area.  The couple won a contest sponsored by Visit California to get married at the resort.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Max Whittaker)

With hills in the distance, Michael DeSalvo Solarte (left) and Alejandro Solarte DeSalvo exchange vows on June 25, 2021 at the Carneros Resort and Spa in California’s Napa Valley area. The couple won a contest sponsored by Visit California to get married at the resort. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Max Whittaker)

“I think our marriage was 100% vaccinated,” Cody said, although a few out-of-state guests were unable to attend due to different vaccination rollout schedules.

“We wouldn’t change a thing,” Cody said. “We were so happy with the way it turned out. We finally got lucky and everything went perfectly. It was fun, and it was kind of like everyone’s first big outing. since a long time.”

“For me, I wanted to do it all at once,” Reagan says. “Church, party, and that’s it.”

They were planning on honeymooning in Croatia, but this was put on hold.

“We booked and paid for in 2020,” Reagan says. “But we’ll let things clear up a bit.”

They plan to take a trip to Florida later this year.

Alejandro and Michael have postponed their honeymoon until next year.

As for married life: “We have always felt like a married couple,” says Michael. “We always do things together. Our lives are really linked and we are one unit. I married my best friend.”

“I feel the same,” says Alejandro.

Michael DeSalvo Solarte (left) and her husband Alejandro Solarte DeSalvo share a moment on June 25 before their ceremony.  The couple had postponed their plans to marry until 2022, but won a trip to get married at the Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, California thanks to the non-profit Visit California.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Max Whittaker)

Michael DeSalvo Solarte (left) and her husband Alejandro Solarte DeSalvo share a moment on June 25 before their ceremony. The couple had postponed their plans to marry until 2022, but won a trip to get married at the Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, California thanks to the non-profit Visit California. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette / Max Whittaker)



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