Lindsay and Ryan Luterman-Sevel say they subscribe to that classic line from the 1989 film, “Field of Dreams” — “If you build it, they will come.”
In the case of Lindsay and Ryan, that meant renewing their wedding vows on Sept. 13 before 70 to 80 family members and friends on a makeshift bimah at a newly improvised drive-in theater in Harford County’s Fallston community.
“I hope people will be inspired by our story,” says Lindsay, a yoga instructor and novelist. “People should get married if they want to. The pandemic shouldn’t stand in anyone’s way.”
It’s been a long, bumpy journey for Lindsay and Ryan, a video editor who like his bride grew up in Northwest Baltimore attending Temple Oheb Shalom.
Both 24 and residents of Mays Chapel, they were first set up by their fathers three years ago.
“We were both a little resistant, but my dad said we were the same exact person with the same interests,” Lindsay recalls. “I met Ryan and saw he was just like me. We’re both typical Baltimore people. We like to talk a lot and have loud Baltimore voices.
“We felt like we always knew each other, like we were missing pieces that fit together.”
After getting engaged, Lindsay and Ryan planned to hold their wedding on Mar. 21, 2020, at Historic Acres of Hershey, an events venue in Elizabethtown, Pa.
“I fell in love with the place, it’s so beautiful,” says Lindsay. “We just booked it and said, ‘This is the place!’”
But by early March, they and their families realized that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to render that simcha impossible to hold at the venue. “It was hard not to have that wedding, but I guess it was meant to be that way,” Lindsay says.
Still, Lindsay and Ryan refused to let the coronavirus stop them in their tracks. “I just really wanted to get married to him,” Lindsay gushes. “I wanted to call Ryan my husband and get married in front of God.”
Because they had a Pennsylvania marriage license, the couple scrambled to find another venue in the southern or central portions of the Keystone State. Most places, however, were already turning away bookings at that point.
They wound up getting hitched on Mar. 15 at the historic Gettysburg Hotel in downtown Gettysburg, with Lindsay’s 83-year-old grandfather, Cantor Melvin Luterman, Oheb Shalom’s cantor emeritus, officiating.
Less than 20 family members and close friends were able to attend, while others watched the wedding via Facebook Live. The ceremony was followed by a luncheon at the hotel’s restaurant.
“I was just so grateful we were still able to get married,” says Lindsay. “We knew we had a small window of time. We had to really rush to make it all happen, and Ryan had to buy a new tux at the last minute. But as long as we could get married, that was what was important. It was very special, small and cute, and having my grandfather do my wedding was always my dream.”
Nonetheless, Lindsay and Ryan wanted to have another wedding at a later date to allow more of their friends and family members to celebrate with them in person.
“We weren’t able to have everyone there, and not all of our grandparents were able to come,” Lindsay says of the Gettysburg nuptials. “We wanted to have our dance and speeches and everything.”
Says Ryan: “We would’ve gone the virtual route, but I think a fair amount of Jewish grandmas would not be able to do that on Zoom.”
They originally planned to hold the renewal wedding on May 31 but scrapped that date when they saw life was not returning to normal so fast. They opted for September.
“We started brainstorming and one day I said to Ryan, ‘Hey, let’s just do it at a drive-in theater,’” Lindsay says. “He said, ‘That’s a great idea!’”
The next day, one of Lindsay’s yoga students mentioned that the Horizon Cinemas Fallston had created a drive-in theater in its parking lot due to the pandemic. Lindsay immediately called the owner, who offered the venue.
“It’s a family-owned business and he just wanted to help in any way he could,” says Lindsay. “He’s just a good guy with a good heart, and it took a lot of weight off our shoulders.
“When I told my grandmother, she cried. … The support we’ve gotten from everybody has been incredible.”
At the wedding, which was again officiated by Cantor Luterman, guests sat in their vehicles and listened to the ceremony and reception on their radios through the theater’s piped-in sound system. Fittingly, grandparents’ cars were afforded a front-row view, and a big surprise of the ceremony was a trained hawk that delivered the wedding rings to the couple on the chuppah.
The ceremony was held on a bimah made by Ryan consisting of wood pallets. He also made the chuppah, on which the couple enjoyed their first dance as (renewed) husband and wife.
“We were so blessed to be able to have [the first wedding], so this is just a bonus,” says Lindsay.
Music at the ceremony and reception was performed over a microphone by a string quartet, and boxed vegetarian lunches — mozzarella, pesto and tomato sandwiches, with homemade potato chips and pasta salad — were provided, catered by Stock’s on 2nd restaurant in Harrisburg, Pa.
“It’s all light fare, but it’s good food,” Ryan says.
The lunches were delivered by the groomsmen and left on the hoods of guests’ vehicles. Desserts included pre-wrapped cupcakes and cookies.
Always adhering to social distancing guidelines, the bride and groom walked among the cars during the reception, waving and talking to guests from a safe distance. Among the wedding’s party favors were special face masks created by Ryan bearing the couple’s initials.
In addition, Lindsay and Ryan had some creative games for attendees to play from their cars, including an activity called “Who’s More Likely to Do This, Lindsay or Ryan?” Guests offered their responses by flicking either their right or left turn signals.
In case of inclement weather, Lindsay and Ryan purchased a big tent to cover the wedding party and chuppah during the ceremony.
“We’re just happy to be married,” says Lindsay.
A New Normal
All of the proceedings were documented for posterity by a wedding photographer and videographer. In addition, guests were asked to take selfies on their phones and send them to Lindsay and Ryan. The photos will be transformed into a commemorative collage.
“I know it’s unique, but in a way it’s the new normal,” Ryan says of the wedding. “With this kind of thing, you can look at cars to your left and to your right and see people you know and be part of a ritual and part of a community. We decided to make the best of it all and make it an event, while following all of the safety guidelines.”
Says Lindsay: “We just feel this is the way it was meant to be, so why not make it a unique wedding?”