After meeting at a college party and bonding over an obscure band that they were each convinced only they knew of, it didn’t take long for Robert Shane and Courtney Durham to become fast friends. Each harboring a secret desire for more, their friendship lasted throughout their college careers. It wasn’t until after graduation in 2012 that their desire to be more than friends won out.
The couple kept their strong relationship going, despite the trials of distance that came with Courtney’s pursuit of a graduate degree. After six years of dating, Rob and Courtney knew that the time had come to create a life together. “We'd been discussing marriage for a while and had a trip to the Austrian Alps coming up, so I had a hunch that he might do it there. One night, a few weeks before our trip, Rob called for our nightly chat. Unbeknownst to me, he was actually on the phone while driving from his house in Pennsylvania to where I was in New Haven, Connecticut, in the middle of a snowstorm. Turns out, he'd gotten the engagement ring finished a few hours earlier and just couldn't wait. He finally arrived around one a.m. and woke me up. When I came downstairs to let him in, he got down on his knee on my front porch. I’ll never forget how special that moment was, surrounded by the serenity of the snow that blanketed the trees and the stillness of that midnight scene,” Courtney says.
Two years later on May 24, 2020, Courtney & Rob walked down the aisle at Carlyle House Historic Park. Courtney was wearing a beautiful dress from BHLDN with a plunging neckline and lace detailing on the back, donning a vibrant bouquet made from neighborhood blooms and arranged by local florist, Jennifer, at Atelier Floral Designs. True, the original plan had been a big wedding near Charlottesville in the Shenandoah foothills, but COVID-19 necessitated that their plans be changed. While they could have easily postponed their wedding until circumstances allowed their vision for the day to be fully realized, they shifted and made their special day happen anyway—just in a slightly different way. “Carlyle House has some really stunning gardens and a very intimate setting in the back. When I called the manager, Andrea, to inquire if we could hold a quick elopement ceremony out back on their original wedding date, she not only said yes, but also went out of her way to get the gardens in tip-top shape and oversee the public access areas to make sure we didn't go over ten people.” Their venue determined, the couple still had a few details to iron out, not the least of which was finding an officiant. “We had put out a call to neighbors seeing who might be able to officiate without needing to access the County Clerk's office in person. Several neighbors suggested Mayor Justin Wilson, and we figured it would be another cool twist to our story for our kids someday. He was immediately and positively responsive when we asked.”
“My wife and I got married a few days after 9/11, so I know a little something about getting married at crazy times. It has been an absolute honor for me to help couples whose plans have been scrambled by this pandemic. Love can even overcome a pandemic!” - Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson
Zoom marriage license in hand—“We raised our right hands to the laptop camera!”—Courtney and Rob exchanged vows and were pronounced husband and wife. Joining their guests for a small reception, everyone dined on a picnic of boxed lunches before cutting into a two-tiered vanilla cake with raspberry-lemon curd filling and buttercream frosting made by Courtney. Happy that not even a pandemic could stand in the way of their love, the newly married couple was off to start their life together, looking forward to a future honeymoon in Slovenia.
"It was a joy to work with Courtney and Rob; to support their small ceremony during these challenging times. I don’t feel like I did much. However, I do understand how little things like sweeping and being on site to ensure their privacy for half an hour make a huge difference. And a ceremony always makes people smile walking by. We’ve even had construction crews break out in cheers when a couple kissed!! Love abides all things! - Andrea Tracey, Carlyle House | email@example.com
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