By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
When Alexandra Millson-Myers walked down the aisle on March 13, 2021 to marry her fiancé Joe Myers, everything seemed too good to be true. Sure, she had postponed her wedding twice due to COVID-19 – including once because she and her entire family had tested positive – but on the day itself, all she could see was Joe’s smiling face ahead of her.
Alexandra was so caught up in the moment that as she was walking down the aisle with her father, she forgot to bring her bouquet. It didn’t matter.
“It was the perfect kind of symbolism. I fretted about it so much, and then, when the time came, it didn’t even matter. We were there, and it was perfect,” Alexandra said.
Although it was not the wedding the couple had originally planned for, it was the kind of wedding full of small mistakes and big laughs that mirrored their whirlwind of a relationship.
Joe and Alexandra first met through Hinge, a popular dating app, in 2017 and immediately felt a natural connection, even when they were texting on the app.
Joe, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and currently works at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Alexandra, campus director of student support at KIPP Public Charter Schools in Washington D.C., shared pleasantries over Hinge and asked about one another’s ideal weekend plans. Even from their brief interactions via text, Alexandra said she sensed something different about Joe.
“One of the things that I remember specifically was he said, ‘I just really love to wake up and read the paper and drink coffee,” Alexandra said. “I don’t know why that struck a chord with me, but I could just picture it in that moment.”
However, ahead of their first date at The Army and Navy Club in D.C., both Joe and Alexandra admitted to feeling some fatigue with the dating process.
“We both entertained the thought of canceling on the other and not going through with it,” Joe said. “In retrospect, we’re both very happy that neither of us did that.”
Their first date was a night-long conversation that touched “all the third rails,” Joe said. It started at 5:30 p.m. at The Army Navy Club – Joe’s choice – and ended at 2 a.m. at Alexandra’s favorite dive bar, The Bottom Line.
“We talked about everything you’re not supposed to talk about on a first date. … We talked about religion, politics, marriage, children,” Joe said.
Almost immediately, Joe and Alexandra said they felt an ease and comfort with one another that made landmine conversations into intriguing opportunities to learn about one another.
By the end of their first date, the pair had already scheduled a second date for the following afternoon. From the start, Alexandra said she felt certain about their future. “I knew on our first date when we were sitting at The Bottom Line and talking about marriage that we were going to get married,” Alexandra said.
“It really was like one of those ‘when you know, you know.’”
However, she could never have imagined the path that they would take to get to that special day.
“It was a whirlwind few years,” Alexandra said.
Prior to going on their first date, Alexandra had applied for a Fullbright fellowship with the Department of State that would take her to Europe for a year. She was upfront with Joe about it, and Joe was fully supportive once Alexandra was accepted into the program.
“In my mind, we were going to make it work no matter what,” Joe said.
Although it was challenging, the couple said they took their long-distance year in stride. Joe eventually visited Alexandra in Brussels in October 2018 and proposed to her outside an alleyway in the Grand Place, a central square surrounded by opulent buildings.
“He totally caught me off guard,” Alexandra said. “I thought he was going to propose when I came back for Christmas because I was coming back for a couple of weeks. I knew it was coming, but I was shocked to say the least.”
Joe said he captured the surprised look on his fiance’s face with his polaroid camera, and the photo is still on the couple’s refrigerator.
Over the next year, they started to plan their wedding remotely. With an initial May 2020 date in mind, Alexandra’s mother went to visit venues and sent her videos. The plan from the start was to have a smaller, more intimate wedding, which made the planning process slightly easier, she said.
However, by the time Alexandra returned from Europe and moved in with Joe in May 2019, the couple realized that one year was not enough time to plan their dream wedding. They pushed the wedding back to Oct. 24, 2020, while still keeping it in Kentucky, Millson-Myers’ home state.
The decision proved fortuitous once the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March and couples started cancelling their weddings left and right.
In the lead up to the couple’s new date in October, they continued to plan their wedding, even as their guest list shrunk. Their 125 to 130-person wedding quickly became a more intimate 50-person event as friends and family members contracted COVID-19, and expressed discomfort with traveling.
“We kind of just took everything in stride and realized we’re living in 2020 right now and a lot of these people are not going to come and that’s fine,” Joe said. “We didn’t put pressure on people.”
Alexandra admitted that her fiancé was “more calm about that than I was.”
“It was heartbreaking for me every time I got a phone call. You can’t be mad – I wasn’t mad. It was just really heartbreaking and disappointing,” Alexandra said.
However, a shrinking guest list was a minor disappointment compared to what happened to Alexandra the week of the wedding itself.
She had gone down to Kentucky two weeks in advance of Joe to do some additional planning and spend time with her family. The weekend before the wedding, Alexandra’s mother began to feel sick. She insisted it was “just a cold,” but her symptoms concerned the family, Alexandra said.
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The family took her to the emergency room where she tested positive for COVID-19 – then Alexandra, her father and the majority of her family started to feel sick. Soon after, they all tested positive as well. COVID-19 swept through the family like a wave, but it hit Alexandra and her mother the hardest.
On the cusp of the happiest day of her life, Alexandra said she couldn’t get out of bed. She said she felt extreme fatigue and body aches, lost her sense of taste and smell and had a fever of more than 100 degrees. She also had a relatively rare symptom experienced by those with a specific blood type that results in bruising all over the body.
Alexandra and Joe ended up cancelling the wedding to keep their guests safe and their dream of a perfect pandemic wedding intact. They moved the date to March 13, 2021, which, fortunately, came as access to the COVID-19 vaccine had significantly ramped up.
“Because I’m an educator and we have a lot of medical professionals in our family, probably about 50 or 60 percent of our guests were fully vaccinated,” Alexandra said. “You don’t even think about when you’re planning a wedding, ‘Do I need to consider the vaccination numbers?’”
As Joe and Alexandra began to plan their wedding again, they realized more than just the guest list would have to change.
The venue, the Hotel Covington in Covington, Kentucky, allowed them to hold an entirely outdoor wedding for the roughly 60 guests who ended up attending. Table spacing and guest placement became essential for hosting a safe pandemic-era wedding, Alexandra said.
“My sister’s family, they weren’t vaccinated, so they had a further table that was more in the courtyard area versus we had tables of people that were doctors and worked together and they were all fully vaccinated, so they were together,” Alexandra said.
In some ways, the changes allowed her to enhance specific aspects of her wedding.
“What I tried to do, given the spacing and limitations with seating, I went crazy with the florals so it looked like a huge outdoor garden,” Alexandra said.
The couple’s personalized gifts to their guests were custom masks, custom matchbooks and hand sanitizer. In accordance with statewide restrictions for events, silverware had to be wrapped and guests had to have individual salt and pepper shakers.
Unfortunately, even with all the changes Joe and Alexandra made to create a safe event, Joe’s parents were unable to attend the wedding due to their age and previous medical history.
Despite the timing of their wedding, the ceremony itself remained as beautiful as they had imagined it, Joe said.
Prior to the wedding, Alexandra’s brother had become ordained online and ended up administering the ceremony, which Joe said “was very ‘us.’”
“The way I put it afterwards was it was perfectly imperfect because it made everybody laugh and we had a good time with the little screwups,” Joe said.
After several postponements and a COVID-19-related cancellation, Joe and Alexandra said the wedding they ended up having was everything they could have asked for.
“It did not feel like a COVID-designed wedding. Everything was exactly the way we had pictured it to be even though everyone was wearing masks,” Alexandra said.
Now that they’ve had a few weeks of time to reflect on their wedding, the couple said the pandemic certainly presented challenges for their big day, but it has also become a part of their journey.
There are two dates inscribed on the inside of Joe’s wedding band: Oct. 13, 2017, the day he met Alexandra, and Oct. 24, 2020, the previous date of their wedding. Joe said he has no intention of getting the date fixed.
“It’s not something to make you smile, but it’s just a reminder of that year and the coronavirus and living through that,” Joe said. “It’s a little reminder, and I don’t mind that. It’s a part of our story now, and it’s there forever inside the ring.”
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