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Coronavirus upended their Florida weddings, but life and love go on

On the surprising silver linings of engagement under a pandemic.
Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby, both 35, get married at their kitchen table inside their Largo home. Their officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Crandall's and their only witness, Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, were the only guests present. The couple had to cancel their wedding, planned for March 27 at Largo Central Park because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Largo.
Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby, both 35, get married at their kitchen table inside their Largo home. Their officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Crandall's and their only witness, Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, were the only guests present. The couple had to cancel their wedding, planned for March 27 at Largo Central Park because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Largo. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Mar. 19, 2020
Updated Mar. 20, 2020

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• • •

LARGO — In the old world, there was to be a wedding at Largo Central Park next Friday.

Robert Crandall would have worn his suit, and Elise Crosby would have worn her dress. The tables would have been decked with blue glass and candles and the centerpieces Crosby made by hand in the couple’s living room. Sixty of their friends and family would have watched as they vowed to be honest, to be affectionate, to meet the other more than halfway. Then they would have danced to the playlist Crandall labored over, to the rapturous love songs of Sade and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Wedding rings belonging to Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby, both 35, who got got married at their kitchen table inside their Largo home. Their officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Crandall's and their only witness, Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, were the only guests present. The couple had to cancel their wedding, planned for March 27 at Largo Central Park because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Largo.
Wedding rings belonging to Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby, both 35, who got got married at their kitchen table inside their Largo home. Their officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Crandall's and their only witness, Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, were the only guests present. The couple had to cancel their wedding, planned for March 27 at Largo Central Park because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Largo. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

It won’t happen. Not on March 27, anyway. Crandall and Crosby knew that as soon as they heard health officials declare the coronavirus a pandemic last week. They didn’t want to be the reason someone got sick.

But they’d already bought the marriage license, and of course, they still wanted to marry each other. So on Tuesday, Crosby put some ground beef out to thaw for dinner, and Crandall called a friend who’s a notary public, and they sat in their house and got ready to get married.

Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby, both 35, get married at their kitchen table inside their Largo home. Their officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Crandall's and their only witness, Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, were the only guests present. The couple had to cancel their wedding, planned for March 27 at Largo Central Park because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Largo.
Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby, both 35, get married at their kitchen table inside their Largo home. Their officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Crandall's and their only witness, Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, were the only guests present. The couple had to cancel their wedding, planned for March 27 at Largo Central Park because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Largo. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

• • •

As recommended limits on crowds shrank, from a few hundred to 50 to 10, it became clear that the events we mark our lives by would change drastically or stop happening altogether. No more big birthday parties, no more crowded funerals.

And no more weddings, at least not the kind we’re accustomed to; the very idea of brides and grooms hand-feeding each other wedding cake was enough to make you want to wash your hands.

In Tallahassee, Daniella Frank and her fiance, Jeffrey Burns, who’s from Palm Harbor, had nearly everything picked out for their May wedding. She was going to walk down the aisle to Free Bird — an inside joke turned symbol of affection — and her family members from Honduras would meet his from Europe and Canada.

As coronavirus cases multiplied across Florida, they held onto hope that things would get better in time to save the date. The ban on travel for members of the military deflated that dream — one of Burns’ brothers, also a best man, is in the U.S. Navy.

“If there’s a miracle,” she said, “we’re ready to still do it.”

Saloni Desai spent last weekend getting word to her 400 wedding guests that the downtown Tampa ceremony she’d planned for early April actually won’t happen until early 2021.

She and her husband got legally married in September, in a small ceremony at home, officiated by her brother. But the planned ceremony carries a particular weight for the couple and their families, who are Hindu.

“It’s kind of like doing it in front of God,” Desai said. “And until you do it in front of God, it’s not really official.”

Ashley Westfall of St. Petersburg would’ve been happy eloping with her fiance, Leo Moscardini, she said. But Moscardini liked the idea, he said, of the wedding as a joining of families, traditions, points of view.

“It’s kind of a gift for them, too,” Westfall said. “I’ve personally just loved watching Leo get so excited.”

They were due to be married April 19. Now, they don’t know when the wedding will be.

But these couples have found a surprisingly rich vein of silver linings.

Desai realized she’s already done most of the work to get ready for her wedding — she plans on using the same vendors, who now know what she wants. With stressful planning out of the way, she thinks she’ll be able to relax and enjoy the buildup to her wedding next January. And the extra time means extra room in the budget.

Westfall and Moscardini invoked the language of traditional marriage vows, rather apt in the time of coronavirus: in sickness and in health, for better or worse.

All of these couples shared a sense of relief: the relief of knowing they won’t be why their grandparents get sick; the relief of making a decision, of exercising some power in a moment of powerlessness.

“We felt so good today,” Desai said.

• • •

Robert Crandall’s friend Mark Stutzman, the notary, showed up a little after 5 p.m. Tuesday and changed into a tuxedo T-shirt.

Crandall wore a maroon polo shirt, and Crosby wore a paisley dress. They sat across from each other at the dining room table. They vowed to be honest, to be affectionate, to meet the other more than halfway. Crosby’s daughter came in from the living room, where she’d been playing Minecraft. The wedding was soundtracked by the video game’s pause-screen music: the noise you hear before you begin building a new world.

Elise Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, and the officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Robert Crandall's, were the only ones present other than the bride and groom.
Elise Crosby's daughter, Eisis Snider, 11, and the officiant, Mark Stutzman, a co-worker of Robert Crandall's, were the only ones present other than the bride and groom. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

“By the power vested in me by the state of Florida, you are now man and wife,” Mark said.

Afterward, they ate nachos and listened to the wedding playlist. This is no ordinary love. They don’t love you like I love you. Run away with me.

They figure they’ll still do a ceremony eventually. It may mark their first anniversary. Whenever it happens, they know it’ll mean something a little different than they had planned.

It will be a celebration of their love, yes. But they hope it will also be a celebration of our return to the world we left behind sometime in the second week of March.

Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby say they will probably have a ceremony down the road, once life returns to something akin to normal.
Robert Crandall and Elise Crosby say they will probably have a ceremony down the road, once life returns to something akin to normal. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

• • •

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