It Was Almost a Bridge Too Far to Get Married

For Michelle Kayati and Lacy Hawkins, a low-key wedding was the plan all along. “This is not our first rodeo,” Ms. Kayati said, meaning that she and Mr. Hawkins were each previously married. Forgoing pageantry is one thing; slipping into a wedding dress you inexpertly stitched together yourself and finding your fiancé frantically chopping wood in a creek minutes before the ceremony is kind of another, though, as she discovered on Feb. 16.

Ms. Kayati, 49, and Mr. Hawkins, 47, met in June 2020 on either Tinder or Match, neither remembers which. Bored with pandemic life, they hastily arranged a date at Oversoul Brewing in her hometown Helena, Ala., a 15-minute drive from his home in Hoover, Ala.

“We sat outside with our masks on at first, then we hit it off over a single drink,” Mr. Hawkins said. After a walk over a scenic footbridge and a first kiss, they decided not to waste time. “After that night, we wanted to be together as much as possible,” Ms. Kayati said. Their off hours, his from his job in property maintenance and hers from working as an administration assistant for the State of Alabama, were soon devoted mostly to each other. Mr. Hawkins bought an RV for their camping and hiking trips. Ms. Kayati started building a reputation to match his on local dance floors. “Lacy loves to get down,” she said. “He blows everyone away.”

In the eight months they have known each other, only 13 days have passed in which they haven’t been together, Ms. Kayati said.

On Jan. 27, they were at her house watching the movie “New Year’s Eve.” “It was a chick flick, but he’s man enough to watch those kinds of stories with me,” Ms. Kayati said. Mr. Hawkins had tucked a ring box into the cushions behind him on his side of the sofa. As the credits rolled, he reached for it and proposed. “It was a definite yes,” she said. First they planned to elope Feb. 17 on an RV trip to Chattanooga, Tenn. Then they scrapped that idea in favor of a pre-trip wedding with a few guests at the spot they first met, by a waterfall in Old Town Helena.

With only two weeks of prep time, Ms. Kayati hurried to find a dress and fell in love with one on eBay; $35 and a few days later, it was at her doorstep, but in several pieces. The seller had been customizing it. “I started secretly sewing it together every night,” she said. By her Feb. 16 wedding day, it was ready. Everything else was, too, including a wedding photographer and an officiant.

What no one made preparations for, though, was the snow and ice that pelted Alabama that morning, or the heavy rain the day before that made a creek near the wedding site uncrossable. “I had to come up with a really quick plan to salvage things,” Mr. Hawkins said. With less than an hour before the ceremony, he sped to Home Depot for cinder blocks and plywood. By the time he had assembled a makeshift bridge, they got the news that their officiant had to cancel. “He couldn’t make it out of his driveway because of all the ice, and his car was frozen shut,” Ms. Kayati said.

The couple wasn’t ready to surrender yet, though. With minutes to go, “I got on our town’s Facebook page and said, ‘Wedding emergency! Is there anybody in Old Town Helena who can marry us?’”

The Rev. Paul Todd, a retired preacher who was at home watching TV in his pajamas with the heat turned up, responded immediately.

Ms. Kayati and Mr. Hawkins were married not long after in a 15-minute ceremony during which Ms. Kayaki’s hands turned purple from the cold — it was 19 degrees — and a dozen guests shivered through smiles. “But by then we knew we just had to laugh and roll with it,” she said. “The obstacles were unbelievable. But we still had a good time.”

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