After the pandemic postpones their wedding plans, a New York couple pulls together an unforgettable whimsical event while visiting family at Lake Oconee
Story by Tia Lynn Ivey | Photography by Robin Bish
Weddings drum up all kinds of iconic imagery, from elegant white gowns to velvety tiered cakes, from fancy centerpieces atop fine linens to rings of gold exchanged between the bride and groom in front of all their loved ones. But when a worldwide pandemic puts the kibosh on large gatherings, what becomes of a wedding then? One couple found out that a dream wedding could happen without all the traditional trappings and still be the most magical moment of their lives.
Sammi and David Rosen, whose wedding was postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic, decided COVID-19 couldn’t stop love, or their nuptials. The New York couple was visiting family in Lake Oconee when they received news that their wedding date would be postponed for the second time. Instead of despairing, the eager couple stayed positive and got creative.
In less than 24 hours, Sammi and David, with the help of a few family members, threw together a whimsical wedding on the lake no one would ever forget.
Live streamed for family and friends from coast to coast, Sammi and David pledged their love and lives to each other at the end of the docks outside of their aunt and uncle’s lake house on a beautiful spring day.
“It was a lot of fun. It was something cool and unexpected,” says David. “We are both pretty spontaneous and very adventurous. To do something like this, it just fit.”
“We figured this was the most family we’d be around for a long time with the pandemic going on,” says Sammi. “Our wedding was fun and interesting. It was a celebration of life and love with people we care about, both the family that was with us in person and those all over the country who watched on social media.”
It all began with a magnolia bush from Uncle Peter and Aunt Norma Gordon’s garden outside of their lake house. Sammi took one look at the flowers in full bloom and imagined her wedding bouquet.
“That’s where the vision began,” says Sammi. “That’s when I knew we could still pull off a wonderful wedding.”
Alison Gordon, David’s cousin and self-appointed maid of honor, jumped at the chance to plan a wedding on a whim.
“She went full-throttle to plan our wedding in less than a day,” says Sammi. “We agreed to it one night at dinner after drinking a bottle of wine and the next day we woke up to a wedding.”
“It’s great to plan a last-minute outdoor wedding, because you don’t need to plan for weather contingencies. It makes everything a lot more relaxed,” says Alison. “It was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen, because it was all about the simple celebration of pure love. Sammi and David are a great couple, and we are so happy to have Sammi part of our loving family forever.”
With less than 24 hours to plan the wedding, Alison logged onto Facebook to find recommendations for the last-minute affair.
“I reached out to the Lake Oconee Mom’s Facebook page and they helped steer us in the right direction for the few vendors we needed for the small wedding. I called Richard’s Wine Bar for recommendations on a musician to set the mood. Since they have such great music acts there, I trusted their opinion. They put me in touch with someone who recommended Ronnie Pittman. His acoustic music and lovely voice added such a simple, sweet element that produced music from a speaker just couldn’t provide,” recounts Alison. “Norma and I harvested magnolia blossoms straight from the tree for the bride’s bouquet, which turned out really beautifully. It was an honor to bring Sammi and David’s vision to life.”
Norma and Peter Gordon, David’s aunt and uncle, purchased the lake house in hopes that their entire family could enjoy the relaxing and scenic environment. To their delight, they never imagined they’d be hosting a wedding.
“As family means everything to me, we purchased the house in Reynolds two years ago as a true family gathering place to build family memories,” says Norma. “At a family dinner over Memorial Day the idea for this wedding materialized. Under the enthusiastic guidance of my daughter-in-law, and help from all family members, all of the details were taken care of within 12 hours. A beautiful, special, unforgettable wedding was born. What a truly special family celebration.”
On the wedding day, David borrowed one of his cousin’s spiffy outfits and Sammi donned a wedding gown from the Goodwill that Alison hunted down for her.
“It was actually a beautiful dress. For $50, I couldn’t have done better,” says Sammi.
Flower girls, wearing $2 dresses from the Goodwill, pranced down the dock aisle with freshly picked magnolias in their hair.
Alison tracked down “Reverend Sam the Marrying Man” of Watkinsville to perform the ceremony and Pittman strummed romantic tunes on his acoustic guitar during the nuptials and reception. Sammi and David vowed to love and cherish each other until death do they part while sliding gummy worm rings onto each other’s fingers to seal the promise. To honor the couple’s Jewish faith and wedding customs, the reverend brought a light-bulb in a bag for David to stomp on and break after the ceremony. After the couple’s wedding kiss, David joyously leaped into the lake to celebrate.
“He ‘took the plunge’ by jumping in the lake right after he said, ‘I do,’” says Alison.
The happy couple rode off into the sunset on a jet-ski with a “Just Married” sign on the back, taking a quick romantic ride across Lake Oconee. More than 500 people tuned in via Facebook Live and Instragram to bear witness to Sammi and David becoming husband and wife at long last. Sammi’s brothers in California dressed in their wedding party attire as they watched together. Even David’s 94-year-old grandmother tuned in from Florida.
“I think more people watched and got to see us get married this way,” said Sammi. “We still got to share our day with everyone we love, even though they couldn’t be there in person.”
For the reception, the bride and groom dined on a feast of homemade tacos, pigs in a blanket, and champagne. They swayed on the dock to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” for their first dance as a married couple as family lit sparklers and set off fireworks. Sammi and David cut into a rainbow cake from Publix with children toys used as wedding cake toppers.
“We used Dora the Explorer for me and a G.I. Joe for David,” laughs Sammi. “It was perfect.”
Sammi and David’s impromptu wedding was not what they originally wanted, but it turned out to be everything they needed.
“We realized you don’t have to spend a ton of money for a wedding, when we already have everything that really matters,” says Sammi. “It was still magical.”
“We decided to make the most of a bad situation,” says David. “You’ve just got to find moments of joy where you can and remember what’s truly important. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to go, but you play the cards you are dealt the best you can. We weren’t able to have a regular wedding, but we adapted and had the wedding we could. We didn’t cry to the universe over it, we made the most of it and it was still great. All that mattered to me was getting to marry my soulmate. Sammi is the love of my life and I couldn’t wait any longer to marry her.”
The now married couple embarked on a “road trip honeymoon” on their way back home to New York.
“We will never forget our Georgia wedding. It was perfect for us,” says Sammi.