Adobe Stock / malkovkosta
Instead of canceling their ceremony altogether, the Fort Montgomery newlyweds postponed it to May and snuck away to the Berkshires to exchange vows in private.
Love in the time of COVID-19 is a tumultuous thing.
With the entire wedding industry on a near standstill in the Hudson Valley, local couples face the difficult decision of either canceling their ceremony entirely, postponing it to a later date, eloping, or some combination of the three.
For Hudson Valley bride Philomena Dethlefsen, her wedding was a sure thing. It was in the books for March 28 at the Devonfield Inn in Lee, Massachusetts, just a two-hour drive from her home in Fort Montgomery. On that day, she’d walk down the aisle to meet her fiancé Derek, with her teenage daughter Phylicia standing nearby. After saying “I do,” she’d celebrate with loved ones in the Berkshires before jetting off for a honeymoon along Italy’s Amalfi Coast a few months later. In short, she’d be living the dream.
But COVID-19 hit the Hudson Valley before her dream came true.
When NYS on Pause went into effect on March 22, Philomena knew the wedding she’d envisioned would not happen as planned – at least, not for the time being. So, the bride-to-be thought fast. To start, she rescheduled the ceremony to May 30, a date which she hopes will still be possible as the situation progresses. At the same time, she and Derek made plans to sneak away to the Berkshires to exchange their vows in private.
“Adapting our plans started to become stressful,” Philomena admits. As she and Derek continued their commute to New York City (Philomena is the editor at a nonprofit organization while her fiancé is a surveyor) during the early days of the outbreak, they couldn’t ignore the impact the virus was having on the region. Yet they also knew that they already had their wedding license set for March 28, with the owner of the Devonfield Inn as the officiant.
When their commutes to the city came to a halt and the inn contacted them to let them know they’d need to delay their ceremony until May 2, Philomena saw the silver lining. Yet just as she started making postponement cards, state regulations for public gatherings in Massachusetts changed again, forcing her to push the date back to May 30. Even then, she stayed positive.
“With the formal date changes, we decided to use our original wedding weekend to stay at the now empty inn (it would be formally shut down the day after) and go ahead and do our vows with Doug [ed. note: one of the inn’s owners],” she says. Conveniently, Edith Wharton’s The Mount nearby still had its gardens open to the public. As a literature buff, Philomena knew that the stoic beauty of the estate’s landscape would be a dream for wedding photos.
On March 28, Philomena and Derek exchanged their vows at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. Doug Bagnasco, one of the co-owners of the Devonfield Inn, was the officiant. In addition to their photographer, Edward Acker, who stopped by to say a quick congratulations, the only other guest at the ceremony was Hank, their Bernese Mountain Dog and best man.
The duo kept the affair simple and distinct from their upcoming ceremony. They chose to forgo wearing their respective outfits in favor of an understated Love and Lemons halter maxi dress for Philomena, a simple suit for Derek, and a puppy wreath for Hank. To celebrate, they streamed the occasion for friends and Derek’s parents on Zoom.
“We are so glad we went ahead and married,” Philomena enthuses. “We wanted to start our life and I think the small ceremony was comforting in a unique way.”
Now that the couple are officially married, they’re taking the period of self-isolation as an opportunity to put all the personalized touches they dreamed about into place as their wedding approaches. As nature lovers (Derek proposed during one of their hikes near Mohonk Mountain House by tying the ring around their dog’s neck), they’re looking forward to a warm-weather ceremony. Derel already build a wedding arch for the occasion, and he and Philomena customized their own signs and décor. Philomena is also making her own limoncello, along with most of the food and her signature cannoli.
Of course, likely the best part of postponing their wedding is the opportunity the later date provides them to celebrate with their family and friends. Due to quarantine restrictions, Philomena’s daughter Phylicia, who introduced the couple to one another, was unable to attend the first time around. Understandably, Philomena can’t wait for them to celebrate as a family.
“[Phylicia] thought [Derek] seemed funny and lighthearted, so she insisted he date her mother!” Philomena recalls. “We look forward to being at the inn and the gardens with loved ones.”
When the big day arrives, Philomena and Derek look forward to savoring their happiness with family and friends. The bride will finally don her blush-colored sweetheart ballgown, while the groom will wear a navy tuxedo. Both outfits currently wait quietly inside the couple’s home, serving as not-so-subtle reminders of their impending nuptials.
“My gown for our formal wedding hangs in our bedroom, looking stunning but anxious,” Philomena jokes. “She wants to be worn.”
As for Derek’s tuxedo, shipping delays due to the COVID-19 crisis meant it got lost in transit and didn’t arrive before their initial wedding date anyway. For Philomena, it’s just another sign that everything is working out for the best, even if it’s not what she originally envisioned.
“We really are trying to stay positive and use the extra time to our advantage,” she says. “My advice [for couples in a similar situation] would be to do what works for you and make the delay work to your advantage. We are blessed with a great crew who has kept up the excitement of our formal wedding.”