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Happy to Be Here: A different kind of wedding


No matter how much planning goes into a wedding, something always goes awry. Mostly it is small things that can be overlooked – at least after the initial disappointment.

Maybe the caterer forgets the champagne; maybe the dog eats the bride’s father’s shoes; maybe one of the speakers gets the time off by an hour; maybe Uncle Harry enjoys a few cocktails before the ceremony; maybe a slow freight train hold’s up the bride’s car at a railroad crossing.

Maybe umbrellas are useless in a torrential rainfall and maybe even a flood gets in the way. I remember shooting a photograph of a wedding party stranded on the steps of the Cuttalossa Inn during one of the Delaware River floods of 2004, 2005 or 2006. Bridesmaids watched as the river came closer to their perch and guests were nowhere to be seen. The inn closed after that flood and it has not reopened.

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a new light on weddings. Some brides and bridegrooms have reset their dates months or a year away. Some cancel the big receptions and ceremonies and find scaled-down alternatives – like marrying in a park or on a beach, with a local mayor or a friend officiating.

Kaelyn Lelie and Jaxon Vallely did not let COVID-19 stand in the way of their May 9 ceremony. Jaxon, who recently graduated from medical school, was about to start a pediatric residency in Norfolk and it was time to move on.

“All wedding plans had to be changed and reception postponed until next year, but we had a small intimate wedding in New Hope with just immediate family,” said Sandra Vallely, mother of the groom.

The bride wore a wedding gown with a sweeping train and her attendants dressed in matching colors. Leslie Crilley, a family friend, made matching masks. Friends and family did drive by on River Road with signs, sounds and shouts.

There were plenty of friends to enjoy the moment – both Jaxon and Kaelyn are from New Hope. They met at New Hope-Solebury High School and started dating in senior year. “Eight years ago!” Sandra exclaimed.

Matt Reilly, a high school friend, officiated.

Most brides plan a wedding to be different from other weddings, a unique and memorable experience. “It was truly a unique wedding day during these unusual times,” Sandra said.