For Karen Love and Justin Guiffré, that old Yiddish saying “Man plans and God laughs” rings truer now than ever before.
“We got engaged in November of 2018 and had an entire year-and-a-half to plan our wedding,” says Love, who grew up in Baltimore and graduated from the Park School of Baltimore.
Love and Guiffré, who live in Washington, D.C., originally planned to tie the knot on Mar. 21 at the United States Institute of Peace in the nation’s capital.
They refused to let the coronavirus pandemic stop them and, indeed, wound up getting married that day, “but in a park by our house with our photographer in person and the rabbi via FaceTime,” says Love, 37. “Strangers in the park started clapping, and one person drove around the circle honking for us.”
Says Guiffré: “It sounds crazy that we went through with it … but Mar. 21st was the day we chose, and we were ready to be married. In a situation we couldn’t control, the date we got legally married was something we could control, and that was important to us.”
Of course, the nuptials of Love and Guiffré were dramatically altered by the pandemic.
“A week-and-a-half before the wedding, people started saying the coronavirus may be a problem and guests weren’t sure they would be able to attend,” says Love, who met Guiffré nine years ago while working together. “At that time, based on the guidance [D.C. authorities were] putting out, gatherings of under 200 were still allowed. So Justin sent an email to our guests saying we wanted everyone to be safe and understood if they couldn’t attend, but based on the guidelines we were still moving forward.”
But as each day passed, the situation worsened. About a week before the wedding, Tabitha Roberts of Roberts & Co. Events, Love and Guiffré’s wedding planner, informed them that the Institute of Peace, which is a federal institution, was closing.
“What was most stressful for us was trying to figure out what we could salvage,” Guiffré says. “First, we were figuring out if we could have people fly in. Then, it was figuring out how to downsize and if we needed to find another venue.
“Once we came to our final decision of getting married legally on Mar. 21st with just the rabbi and photographer, we felt so much better.”
At that point, the couple thought the officiating rabbi would conduct the ceremony in person. But two nights before the wedding, the rabbi self-quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 at a Purim celebration. To move forward, Love and Guiffré took their wedding license to the rabbi’s house, slipped it under his door and he conducted the ceremony virtually.
When the wedding day arrived, the couple put on what was supposed to be their rehearsal dinner attire, walked over to nearby Sherman Circle Park and got married.
“Our florist delivered flowers she made wearing gloves and a mask,” Love says. “It also happened to be peak cherry blossom bloom, so we headed down to that area [near the Jefferson Memorial] and took pictures with the cherry blossoms. D.C. actually closed them the next day, so we snuck it in just in time and the pictures are beautiful.”
While Love and Guiffré’s families and friends couldn’t physically attend the ceremony, the couple wanted them to feel included.
“Before the ceremony, Justin and I drove extra flowers from the florist and Berger Cookies that were for our welcome bags to my parents in Baltimore,” says Love. “We left them outside their door as a surprise and drove home. I also posted on Instagram a lot. We wanted to make everyone feel as much a part of the celebration as we could.”
The couple’s friends and family also gathered on Zoom for a virtual celebration that included carryout food and costumes.
“The whole experience was very weird but very fun,” Love says. “I really underestimated the power and value of a virtual gathering. It was really emotional to have all our family and friends there for us. We felt so much love and support.”
The couple is now enjoying newlywed life and honeymooning in quarantine.
“We got married and have been fully quarantined ever since,” says Guiffré, 30. “But we have been dating for eight years and living together for a year-and-a-half, so we haven’t had to deal with many new adjustments other than the lack of outside social contact, which is weird.”
Love and Guiffré now spend their newlywed days as husband and wife teleworking in offices next door to each other in their home and taking their dogs for walks while wearing face masks. They also volunteer for Ward 4 Mutual Aid, a group of neighbors organizing a food pantry and delivering groceries to those who cannot leave their homes during the pandemic.
In November, the couple plans to have their rescheduled wedding celebration with the same vendors, location, and all of their family and friends.
“I’m having my second wedding much sooner than I thought,” says Guiffré, with his bride laughing in the background.
Says Love: “Now, we will have two anniversaries to forget. But really, with all the uncertainty, I’m so happy to be married to Justin and have that part less uncertain.”
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