Last Friday night, on the eve of what was to be their wedding day, Zac Simon and Nora Downs of Seattle were lamenting the cancellation of their special day due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Family and friends were originally scheduled to come in from various parts of the country to see the couple, who had been dating for six years, finally tie the knot, but shutdowns and travel restrictions and health concerns scuttled all of that.
“We were both just looking forward to it,” Simon said. “I didn’t want to push it back again — we can’t just have crappy things keep happening.”
So the couple decided to just do it. And then they hurriedly invited everybody so they wouldn’t “feel like jerks.”
Via texts and emails to family and other guests, Simon and Downs said the wedding was on, and to be there Saturday, April 18 — not in person, but via a Zoom call from the backyard of their home in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood.
All of those who were supposed to drive or fly into town for a casual wedding at McMenamins Anderson School in nearby Bothell instead got dressed up and joined a group video call at 3 in the afternoon.
On a sunny day at home, the bride, a registered dietician working for Washington State Department of Health, wore a white wedding gown and gold necklace. The groom, a health and safety manager at Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology, wore a grey suit and floral tie.
The proceeding was officiated by Simon’s best friend, Kevin Smith, out of Portland. About 20 guests attended in nine little Zoom windows from four time zones across the U.S., including as far away as Colorado, Arkansas and Maryland.
Flowers were arranged on a table around the laptop Simon and Downs were using to stream the ceremony — “we made sure that the shot looked good,” Simon said.
Simon’s sister, Nicolle Simon, who lives in Seattle’s University District, attended in person and stood the required six feet away in the yard, capturing pictures as the day’s official photographer.
The event started with folks introducing themselves to one another on the call. Simon’s father had not met Downs’ mother in person, for instance.
“Everybody kind of went around and said, ‘Hello, nice to meet you!’ It was kind of funny,” Simon said. “Then I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really know what to do, so I guess let’s just get started, and Kevin was like, ‘All right, dearly beloved,’ or however he started it. It was just very nice.”
After the ceremony, Down’s sister read something she had prepared and that prompted others to give their own little toasts over the call. The entire event lasted about 30 minutes start to finish. They didn’t stick around to eat and dance together online.
The hitch went off without a technical glitch, too. The Zoom screen managed to go to Simon and Downs when they shared a first kiss. Simon’s sister got some music playing at that moment — “This Must Be the Place” by The Talking Heads.
Instead of being on his honeymoon this week in Hawaii, Simon is going into work at ISB, the research institute co-founded by biotech pioneer Leroy Hood, to support those working on a COVID-19 study. Simon is dealing with?waste transport and chemical management because he feels safer doing it himself rather than asking others on his team.
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The coronavirus crisis has generated a good deal of questions when it comes to weddings and the hoops couples might have to jump through to make things official. Courthouses are closed for non-essential business, but marriage licenses can be obtained by mail. Simon and Downs still need to get theirs notarized, which he was planning to make happen when a co-worker is available. And the party at McMenamins, which wasn’t refundable, could still happen as an in-person celebration — future shutdowns and safety measures permitting.
But for the newlyweds, who turned some remote work collaboration software into a way to bring friends and family together, they finally had a day that didn’t feel like the previous two months’ worth. They got their beautiful wedding in the midst of uncertain times.
“It was just really magical, it was great,” Simon said. “I just really wanted to be married to her.”