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“Zach and I first met in 2005 in middle school. I was in the 7th grade, Zach was in the 6th. Zach was a football player, and I was in marching band. Talk about opposites! I moved away in the 8th grade, and we lost touch. Fast forward 13 years to fall of 2018! We had been Facebook friends for a while and took turns liking each other’s posts, but neither of us made the first move – until one evening, I took the leap and asked him to go ‘like’ the alumni page for the college he attended, because managing their social media was part of my job! Small talk continued and soon Zach gave me his phone number and the rest was history!
After a few weeks of endless text conversations, we were so anxious to spend time together…so anxious we had a ‘pre-date’ as Zach calls it a few days before our first ‘real date.’ At the time, we both had very busy schedules with him working full time while going to nursing school and me working full time while going to graduate school, but it didn’t stop us from trying to spend as much time as possible together. Hiking, Jeep rides, baseball games, and spending time with our friends filled most of the free time we found for each other and then a few months later, he moved in with me and my kitten, Luna. Some would say we moved too fast, but we moved at a pace that was perfect for us. In May 2019, Zach graduated from nursing school and we bought our first house together. At this point, we both knew we wanted to spend our lives together, but never did I imagine the perfect proposal that was 2 months away.
On July 26, 2019, we headed up to Morgantown for what I believed to be a weekend of giving Zach tours around my beloved college town followed by a day of hiking at Cooper’s Rock. On that Friday evening, our first stop was at Woodburn Circle. I was hyper and excited to share memories of this spot and Zach decided this would be the perfect moment at the perfect location. He grabbed my hand and pulled me into a hug. As I looked up to him, he smiled and said, ‘Let’s get married.’ I laughed and said, ‘You gotta have a ring first, babe.’ ‘Well, about that…’ was Zach’s response as he pulled a little wooden box out of his pocket and got on one knee right in front of Martin Hall, where most of my classes were in college, with Woodburn Hall glowing behind him. He simply said, ‘Mara, will you marry me?’ and opened the box.
Instant tears came flowing from my eyes and I just kept asking, ‘Are you serious?’ and ‘Am I being Punk’d?” And then I finally cried a little harder and said, ‘Of course.’ A few minutes after the proposal, when phone calls were done being made, a stranger approached us. Now, it was almost 10 p.m. in Morgantown and I usually avoid strangers around that time, but we greeted him, and he said we made a beautiful couple. I of course shared that we just got engaged and he asked if he could pray with us, and we agreed. The man said the most beautiful prayer over us, praying that God blessed our upcoming marriage and our lives together. This is something we will never forget.
The next few months were filled with me finishing my master’s program, wedding planning, dress shopping, venue hunting, and laying out final details…or so we thought! When COVID hit West Virginia hard in March, we knew changes were inevitable. Like many 2020 brides, COVID cancelled the plans that were being made for a June 2020 wedding. No bridal shower. No bachelorette/bachelor parties. No honeymoon. Just a bunch of disappointment and uncertainty…but us COVID brides also got to feel guilty over feeling disappointed over ‘having to cancel a party,’ as millions of people were dying from a new virus. Double whammy.
However, one thing COVID-19 did not cancel was the love between my husband and I. We decided to go ahead with our original June 2020 wedding date, but our top priority was keeping our loved ones safe…so adjustments were made. Our location was changed to the little chapel in Hewett, West Virginia that my husband grew up in, and we limited the guest list to our parents, his grandparents, our siblings and their significant others, our nieces and nephews and my Matron of Honor. The 18 people who were in attendance were spread out throughout the chapel and were required to wear a mask during the ceremony. My husband’s mother served a small meal afterwards, and this was the only time other than for quick pictures that masks were allowed to be removed. We recorded the ceremony to send to our aunts and uncles who could not come. I didn’t wear my gown, and he didn’t wear his fancy clothes and bow tie. My dress came from Amazon, as did his tie and shirt. When we reference this ceremony, we call it our Amazon wedding, or Wedding Part 1.
This story originally appeared on Love What Matters.
Another change to our original wedding date was not having the traditional champagne toast…and that was because I found out I was about 7 weeks pregnant with our first baby. No one other than my matron of honor, my big sister, and our photographer knew this exciting, unexpected news! Luckily, I was far from showing just yet, so the secret was easy to keep, and we used ‘let’s save the champagne for the big celebration’ as our excuse to skip that little detail. We waited until I was out of the ‘danger zone’ to announce we were having a baby, and it was even more exciting when we found out we were having a girl…the first Lambert girl to be born in over 30 years!
The next 364 days involved both of us working full-time through the pandemic, planning our big ‘Wedding Part 2’ with all the uncertainties surrounding if that was even going to be possible by summer 2021, and preparing ourselves, our home, and our bank account for parenthood. My pregnancy journey was nothing like I expected it. Because of quarantining and social distancing, very few of my friends even saw me pregnant, up until our very small 20-person baby shower in December. COVID may have postponed our wedding, but a baby arriving couldn’t be postponed, so we made the decision to have a very small baby shower and asked out of state friends and family members to just mail their gifts for our little girl.
Being pregnant during COVID-19 was probably the scariest experience I’ve faced to date. At the time, there was so little knowledge about the coronavirus, and very little knowledge of any effects it could possibly have on pregnancies. With Zach being an ER nurse, we knew he would eventually catch it, and it took 6 months into the pandemic for it to enter our home. When he tested positive, his only symptom was loss of smell. 3 days later, I tested positive, thankfully with minimal symptoms. After 10 days of breathing issues, exhaustion, and body aches, we both fully recovered – except Zach still can’t smell (which comes in handy now with diaper changes). We were blessed with meals delivered to us while we couldn’t leave the house; between family and my co-workers, we had one less thing to worry about while we were fighting the virus.
After 30 hours of back labor, a few scares of low blood pressure and heart rates, and 21 minutes of pushing, we welcomed our little girl – a healthy 6lbs, 2oz baby in January 2021. Welcoming our baby was not what we ever expected; unlike most people, at this time during the pandemic, guests were not welcome at the hospital. No parents, no grandparents, no siblings, no friends…no one could come meet the greatest blessing to enter our lives. We spent 3 days in the mother-baby unit alone as a new family of three. Instead of letting it make us sad that we had to Facetime our families for them to ‘meet’ our new baby, we soaked in every second we had with our little girl. We didn’t have to worry about hosting guests in the hospital room or worry about people seeing me in complete disarray like most mothers are after childbirth. My husband’s favorite part was ‘not having to share our baby’ for the first few days. It was an intimate experience we will both always cherish. This experience was another example of our love conquering COVID.
After a few months of little sleep, lots of crying, learning how to function as a family of three and us both returning to work, it was officially crunch time for our much-anticipated Wedding Part 2. Thankfully, my gown still fit even post-baby, which was a huge relief, and all our wedding party members were still up for the task of helping make our dream wedding come true. On the eve of our first wedding anniversary, we were blessed to be able to have the wedding I dreamt up as a little girl…and the best part is our little baby girl got to be a part of it! The guest list was still much smaller than originally planned (cut back almost 100 people) and precautions were still taken at our exclusively outdoor event. Seats were assigned to keep people around others they were already around, the buffet line was kept spread out, and we made sure the dance floor was large enough so people could have fun without being crowded.
Our bridesmaids and groomsmen were such great help and the strongest support system through the crazy year of blind planning a ‘maybe’ event, and our families went above and beyond to make sure our special day was what we wanted and what we deserved. Had it not been for our family and bridal party, our day would not have been possible. We renewed our vows overlooking Summersville Lake – a place Zach spent his childhood vacationing at – and during the ceremony multiple boats pulled up and watched the ceremony. My husband looked at our officiant, his awesome Aunt Cathy, and said, ‘I feel like Kanye.’ I whispered, ‘They’re divorcing…’ and he said, ‘Oh yeah, well I feel really freaking famous right now.’ Everyone was laughing and enjoying these off-book banters. Our vow renewal ‘Wedding Part 2’ was relaxed, beautiful, and everyone was so excited to finally be at an event, seeing other people outside of their homes and immediate families.
I truly feel like we were prime examples of ‘love is patient…’ because instead of risking the health of our loved ones to have a big selfish gathering in the wake of a pandemic, we were patient, and the celebration one year later was just as special as the day we said ‘I do’ in the little Spencer United Methodist Chapel.
Our love story is unique and special. Our love story is also far from traditional or ‘by the book.’ We had to learn to be flexible, we had to learn to accept change, and we had to learn to be stuck with each other in our house with no other humans for a few months – talk about an exciting first year of marriage. Our love conquered COVID repeatedly.
I am proud to be a ‘COVID Bride’ and I am proud of my fellow COVID Brides who made adjustments to still marry the love of their lives, and just waited a year or so to properly celebrate with friends and family…heck, marrying my husband was so nice, I decided to do it twice!”
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