CHICAGO — The bride wore white. The cat wore a bowtie. The guests wore pretty much whatever they wanted to wear.
Chicago couple Rachel Jacobs and Aron Croft were scheduled to join in holy matrimony on Saturday in an elegant ceremony at the University Club, followed by a Sunday morning celebration at Revolution Brewing in the Logan Square neighborhood.
But the coronavirus put the kibosh on those plans, so they nailed down a new set of dates, reconfigured their various contracts (flowers, music, photographer) and emailed their guests to tell them the wedding was postponed until August. (Surely the world would feel normal by August?)
A few days after establishing the new plan, Jacobs and Croft took a walk through Lincoln Park. The world around them was feeling increasingly chaotic. Schools and restaurants and businesses and parks were closing. The future grew harder by the hour to predict.
Two things they knew for sure: They wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. And they wanted as many of their relatives as possible — especially Croft’s 92-year-old grandfather — to witness their vows.
So they emailed all of their guests (plus a few more friends who didn’t make the original guest list) with an unconventional ask: Join us, won’t you, for a wedding via Zoom webinar?
“People are so cooped up and feeling like lots of things have been canceled, so there was probably even more excitement about doing it this way,” Jacobs said. “People would get to see other family members on the Zoom and actually have something to look forward to.”
They moved the ceremony back to the original wedding date (March 28). They made sure their officiant (Croft’s uncle Dan, internet-ordained for the occasion) was still available. They spent six days trouble-shooting technology.
And then the big day arrived.
Guests joined the Zoom webinar, which was also live-streamed to YouTube, from Utah, New York, Washington, D.C., Nevada and Florida. Croft’s 92-year-old grandfather watched from Northbrook. A childhood friend of Jacobs tuned in from London.
“It was really cute because, you know, British people wear hats to weddings,” Jacobs said. “And it must have been midnight there.”
Croft earned his master’s degree from the University of Sydney, and some of his friends from Australia were even able to witness the ceremony.
“Our parents and some others got dressed up,” Croft said. “The other half wore sort of casual, hanging-out-at-home gear.”
Jacobs wore her wedding gown and Croft wore a formal suit. They pulled every lamp they own into one room to get the lighting just so. The couple’s cats, Winston and Jazzy (Winston in a bowtie), stood watch.
And when it was time to exchange vows (which the couple wrote themselves), Uncle Dan officiated from his house in Riverwoods, Illinois.
Toward the end, when guests were asked to speak now or forever hold their peace about the union they were witnessing, an online poll popped up on each person’s screen.
“We didn’t give them a ‘no’ to choose,” Jacobs said. “The choices were like, ‘yes,’ ‘double yes’ or ‘all of the above.’ There were some jokes in the comments about demanding a recount and voting twice in Illinois.”
The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes.
“We switched over to family-only for toasts at the end,” Jacobs said. “Everyone did a great job with the technology. One of my friends said, ‘I can’t even get my parents to use a cordless phone.’”
Jacobs and Croft, both 38, met on the dating app Hinge in July 2016. Their first date was at the Oak Street Beach bar, where they ordered drinks and chatted until a thunderstorm rolled in, forcing them to take shelter and continue the date at a second location.
Sounds like you guys are good at improvising under duress, I told them.
“We roll with whatever the universe throws at us,” Jacobs said.
They were supposed to be in Puerto Rico this week on their honeymoon. That can wait. They’ll host a reception with family and friends eventually, when the world gets back to semi-normal, though they don’t have a date for that either.
In the meantime, they’re officially husband and wife now, which is a beautiful certainty in a world where things don’t make a lot of sense these days.
Congratulations, Croft-Jacobs family. May your love and improv skills sustain you for a long, joyous, healthy life together.
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