Nurse and first responder get married in socially distanced backyard wedding: 'We aren’t promised tomorrow'

Lauren and Donnie Thomas got married before virtual guests and neighbors watching from a safe distance. (Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Thomas)

After getting engaged in August 2018, nurse Lauren Rovinsky and first responder Donnie Thomas threw themselves into “going all out” for their dream wedding, inviting nearly 200 guests to a beautifully restored farm in Pennsylvania and booking a DJ, live musicians and a photo booth — “the whole nine yards,” the bride says. But then the coronavirus pandemic struck, and stay-at-home orders took effect, and so the couple spent March 27 saying “I do” not as they’d originally envisioned but on their own back deck, in a socially distanced ceremony witnessed by their dogs, a handful of loved ones watching from computer screens and some neighbors seated on the other side of the fence, in folding chairs placed at least six feet apart.

“It felt like it all happened so fast,” Lauren — who now goes by her married name, Lauren Thomas, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. The bachelor party had taken place in Florida over the March 6 weekend, when coronavirus precautions still largely amounted to rigorous hand washing and limited physical contact. Within days, however, WHO had declared the outbreak a pandemic, and out-of-state guests began pulling out of the wedding, which was to be held in Blue Bell, Pa. By March 16, the couple made the “difficult and emotional decision” to postpone their wedding because ”we could not bear to put our loved ones at risk by attending our wedding.”

Though they were able to postpone the large-scale celebration until May 17 — “which at the time seemed far enough away, but is now looking more and more unlikely,” Lauren admits — the couple decided not to let their original wedding date go to waste. Instead, they organized a ceremony at their Huntingdon Valley, Pa. home, a sentimental spot where they got engaged after meeting on Tinder in 2013. Special touches like flower deliveries from friends, a last-minute dress snagged online after the state’s stay-at-home order prevented her from getting ahold of her original gown and decorations from neighborhood kids helped them pull off the back-up wedding, in which Lauren’s brother served as officiant.

“When we were thinking about what to do on that day to make it special, we realized, we have an officiant, we have our marriage license and our rings, what else do we need? We can totally still do this,” she says.

“Although nothing like we had planned, our wedding day was still so special,” the bride adds. “Our neighbors’ children made us signs and posters saying ‘Happy Wedding Day,’ which they hung outside for us to see. Donnie and I spent the day together before separating to get ready. I made him wait outside before coming out so that we could still have that ‘moment,’ as if I was walking up the aisle. We used our champagne flutes my mother bought us for the wedding ... One of our neighbors recorded our wedding on his phone from across our deck. It was a beautiful sight to see everyone come together in any way that they could to help us make our day special.” 

She says that their parents — who watched online along with siblings, the maid of honor and best man — were “obviously absolutely devastated” to miss out on the event, but the couple’s jobs in health care and law enforcement demanded that extra precautions be taken.

“With Donnie and I being essential personnel, we could not risk exposing them to anything we may have been exposed to at work,” says Lauren.

Despite the upheaval, the day went off without a hitch.

“My favorite moment of the day was seeing Donnie when I walked out of the door to him,” says Lauren, who surprised her new husband by walking out to an acoustic version of “Let’s Get Married” by Bleachers. “That moment was everything I could have ever dreamed it would be and more. The look in his eyes as I walked toward him with one of our favorite songs playing ... I just knew that we were doing the right thing still getting married. In that moment, I had no regrets.”

The couple — whose planned honeymoon to Greece in June seems uncertain — wrapped up the wedding night festivities in a manner befitting a pair of diehard Philadelphia Eagles fans: by watching Super Bowl highlights from 2018.

Just a few days into marriage, the Thomases are still holding out hope for their dream wedding to one day go on as planned.

“We all deserve this celebration,” Lauren says.

But the uncertainty of the coronavirus threat has left them certain that they were right to not wait.

“Some people asked why we still wanted to get married on March 27,” she says. “Why we didn’t live-stream it. Why aren’t we just waiting until our postponed date? And the answer was simple. With what Donnie and I do for a living, and under the current circumstances we are living in, we know that tomorrow is not promised and we did not want to spend one more day waiting to be married.

“Donnie and I have been together for six years, living together for four. We have two dogs and a cat and while Donnie is already a part of my family, it was important to us to make it official. No matter what happens tomorrow, Donnie and I were able to make promises of forever to each other and our families. All in all, the important message is that you shouldn’t wait. Always say ‘I love you,’ say you’re sorry, hug your loved ones tight (well, air-hug). We aren’t promised tomorrow.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides. 

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