This Florida Couple Replaced Their Formal Wedding in Colombia with a Micro-Wedding in Georgia
Stephanie Lisiecki and Alan Levinson meticulously planned a destination wedding for 100 guests in Cartagena, Colombia, for March of 2020—but when the borders closed due to the pandemic, the couple knew they needed to pivot. "When COVID-19 hit and we realized we couldn't travel, we initially thought of just moving the wedding to South Florida and began planning it at a big hotel in Miami," Stephanie explains. "But as things progressed, gatherings of more than 10 people became prohibited and finally the hotel closed. By this time, our marriage license had expired, and our county wasn't extending them or issuing them without appointment. We then started looking in Georgia (where I grew up), because they could issue the marriage license quicker."
The pair still wanted a getaway for their guests at a venue that had a storied past as well as beauty, and Jekyll Island Club Resort on Jekyll Island fit the bill. "It was gorgeous, and had so much history—it was involved in the first transcontinental phone call in 1915," Stephanie says. "[It has] gorgeous trees, long walking trails, bike rentals, boat tours—it feels like you're visiting your favorite grandma's summer house."
The couple decided that the best and safest option was to invite a small group and Zoom in the rest of their loved ones. "The re-planned wedding was easy!" Stephanie exclaims. "At this point, we'd spent a year planning this elaborate weekend. When it all changed, we decided we wanted easy and stress-free this go around. We booked the venue and made one call to the florist. We asked Allison at Hand-Painted Weddings to make a new invitation and envelope for us, which turned out amazing. And I did take some time planning new welcome bags for the guests to receive in their hotel rooms."
With just their parents, their bridal party, and their bridal party's significant others gathered on a June evening, Stephanie and Alan exchanged vows beneath a travel chuppah adorned with greenery and flowers. The bride wore a flowing gown of champagne chiffon instead of the corsetted dress she had planned for Cartagena, and the bridesmaids wore black as previously planned. Dinner was an intimate gathering in a private space at the resort's restaurant on the beach, a casual affair with everyone ordering what they wanted. "It wasn't any of our original plan," says Stephanie, "but in a way, this wedding was better than the one we'd planned meticulously for over a year. It wasn't as detailed, but it was calm, care-free, and a joyous getaway for our friends and ourselves."
The couple's bespoke invitation suite was turned around in record time by Hand-Painted Weddings; the final result featured a watercolor rendering of the hotel as well as a floral design repeated on the custom stamps.
A Wonderful Welcome
Upon arriving in their hotel rooms, guests were greeted with welcome bags that the bride put together herself: "I wanted cute snacks, something cozy (a Turkish towel), chapsticks, sunscreen (we all went to the pool the morning after the wedding), and little touches of Georgia (honey jars and peach-flavored spritzers)."
Since her formal wedding dress—the one she'd planned on wearing to their Colombia celebration—was delayed, Stephanie had to quickly find an alternative. "I knew I didn't want an all-white dress, but I still wanted it to feel 'bridal,'" she shares. As soon as she put on her ethereal chiffon gown from the The White Magnolia Bridal Collection, she felt calm. "The color was champagne with hints of peachy-pink underneath," Stephanie says. "This seemed perfect for a summer wedding in Georgia."
Best Foot Forward
With a single phone call to A Courtyard Florist, Stephanie secured a classic bouquet of all-white roses, which she personalized with a locket containing photos of her late brother.
A Traditional Tux
Alan wore a black tuxedo from the Vera Wang collection for Mens WearHouse; his white boutonnière matched Stephanie's bouquet. He accessorized with a watch that belonged to his late paternal grandfather and carried a picture of his late maternal grandmother in his suit jacket.
Stephanie's bridesmaids followed the original plan, donning long black dresses in a myriad of styles. Though one of her 'maids couldn't make the event, she did find a way to surprise her bride on the big day. "We had a few heartwarming toasts [at dinner]," says Stephanie, "including a virtual one from a bridesmaid of mine who was in Maine and couldn't make it due to having to quarantine for 14 days upon return. She'd gotten all dressed up in her gown and videotaped her speech, sending it to us the morning of. Alan and I are both extremely close to her, so receiving that made us cry. In a way, it was better than it being in person, because we can keep it forever."
The groom and other men in attendance wore traditional Jewish yarmulkes fashioned from white linen and accented with a printed banana-leaf detail, with the couple's original wedding date and location still inscribed inside.
The Dotted Line
Between an emotional first look and their ceremony, the pair signed their Ketubah in front of family only. "Our Ketubah is beautiful and was designed and sent over from Israel," notes the bride.
Sweet Ceremony Décor
The setup for the ceremony was sweet and simple. "We had white chairs set up on the Riverview Lawn," says Stephanie, who is Christian but was delighted to include Jewish wedding rituals in the ceremony per Alan's religious background. "The chuppah was a last-minute travel option from our local Temple. We threw white chiffon over it and had our florist add white roses and plenty of greenery."
Due to heavy winds, the tallit, the prayer shawl, was held above the couple's head throughout the service, rather than attached to the top of the chuppah.
A ring exchange and the recitation of the Seven Blessings rounded out the ceremony—which was officiated in English rather than Hebrew. And finally, Alan joyfully broke a glass at the conclusion of the service, before the group moved on to dinner.
When asked if she has any advice for other couples planning their wedding during the pandemic, Stephanie says this: "Definitely plan and make it yours. Take inspiration and alter it to fit you, your future spouse, and your families and friends. But above all else, give yourselves time with those you love," she shares. "Invite as few people as possible, and spend the most time with them. When we drove home two days after the wedding, we weren't stressed or exhausted. We were so grateful and filled with love for each other, and our friends and families who had attended, in person or not."
Though the pair are no longer planning a large celebration down the road, they are still doing a reception weekend in Cartagena, Colombia next summer. "It's important to note that our wedding was scheduled to take place there March 28, 2020, and Alan's sister was to get married there May 23, 2020," says Stephanie. "We're now doing a joined reception weekend."
Photography, Cavin Elizabeth Wedding Photography
Venue, Catering, and Cake, Jekyll Island Club Resort
Videography, Matthew Snyder Films
Flowers, Patty Rogers of A Courtyard Florist
Invitations, Allison Celenza of Handpainted Weddings
Officiant, Rabbi Mark Wieder
Bride's Gown and Veil, The White Magnolia Bridal Collection
Headpiece, Dareth Colburn
Shoes, Badgley Mischka
Hair and Makeup, Primp and Polish
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Vera Wang Collection for David's Bridal
Menswear, Vera Wang for Mens WearHouse
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Diamonds Direct
Guest book, CatchThisMoment
Music, Allison Marshall of String Theory Music
Favors, Stephanie Katz
- In the New "Spencer" Trailer, We Get Our First Glimpse of Kristen Stewart in Princess Diana's Wedding Dress
- This Couple Released Butterflies During Their Secret Garden-Themed Ceremony
- Experts Share Their Favorite Cocktail Hour Games and Activities for Your Wedding Day
- Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Coming to New York City This Weekend