NEWARK — With cars to the left of them and cars to the right, Newark native Makalah Crawford and Salvadoraj Josue Santos walked up the “aisle” at Perkins Park in Newark, stopping at the outdoor alter to exchange wedding vows.
While the couple’s plans to marry in Arkansas were scrapped because of the coronavirus, they were determined to start their life together as husband and wife despite the continued need to social distance.
We have drive-in movie theaters making a comeback across the country. Well, now we have drive-in weddings.
Some 20-25 cars rolled into Perkins Park May 23 to witness the wedding of Makalah and Josue, who met three years ago at Harding University, a Christian college in Searcy, Ark. They were to be married May 11 in Arkansas, having put down money for a reception. But the event was scuttled by COVID-19.
Their graduation ceremony, scheduled for May 5, also was postponed.
“They just had to pick up and go,” said the bride’s mother, Lisa Healy.
They did, going to Makalah’s hometown of Newark.
With a teaching job secured in Kissimmee, Fla., Makalah and her fiancé didn’t want to head there without rings on their fingers.
“They wanted to get married,” Healy said. “They did not live together.”
So, Healy contacted Mayor Jonathan Taylor, a family friend; Taylor, in conjunction with Police Chief Mark Thoms, signed off on the park ceremony.
“We stayed in line with the governor’s executive orders” on gatherings, said Taylor, who attended the event with his wife, Cari. He said all social-distancing orders guidelines were followed and the wedding did not violate state limits on gatherings, given that people were in or near their cars.
He admired the perseverance of the couple to get married through a pandemic that has altered our way of life so dramatically.
“People are being creative in this time of need,” Taylor said.
Instead of church pews, cars were parked to form a “U,” with space on each side to create an aisle for the bride, groom and wedding party to proceed to the altar, Healy described. There, Makalah and Josue were married by Pastor Dave Owens of the Church of Christ in Liverpool, Onondaga County, the Healys’ church.
Some people watched the ceremony from their cars, while others got out — all with proper social distancing, Healy reiterated. Some wore masks.
A brief reception followed, and safety was paramount there too. Individual cupcakes were distributed to the attendees, and each person was allowed to wish the couple well — from six feet away. Those attending signed a guest book, with hand sanitizer nearby.
With coronavirus transmission concerns still there, the drive-in wedding provided peace of mind for the guests.
“This way people could come,” she said. “They didn’t have to feel nervous. It gave everybody an opportunity to share their day and socially distance. It worked out perfect.”
Lisa said her daughter didn’t let the wedding detour dampen her spirits. She pointed out to Makalah that she’ll have something to tell her children and grandchildren about the day she got married in the middle of a pandemic.
‘“It was certainly a memorable wedding,” she said. “She doesn’t miss that she didn’t have more.”
Makalah said as much on Wednesday while traveling to her new home in Florida with Josue.
“We were so blessed to be able to have our big day, surrounded by so many people who love us,” she said by text message. “Despite all of the challenges, we were able to commit our lives to one another and be a part of something special. We will always remember this day and are so thankful for all of the support from our wonderful community.”
That included Corey Komer, a disc jockey and singer who provided music for the ceremony — and the couple’s first dance — at no charge.
Besides Lisa and her husband, Dave, Makalah’s father, Tim Crawford, also attended. Unable to attend, but sending a wedding message read at the ceremony were Josue’s parents, Mariela and Roberto Trejo.
Taylor said he was glad to be among the guests for this most unusual of weddings.
“It turned out to be a great memory,” he said. “It was a beautiful start to their marriage.”