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The Bride and Her Father Rode in a Red 1970 Thunderbird to Her Micro-Wedding in New Jersey

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Michael Dempsey

Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.

New York-based couple Kristen Dinsmore and Stephen Rooney had already sent out the invitations for their June 20th New Jersey wedding when COVID-19 forced the country into lockdown. By late April, they made the difficult decision to cancel and informed their 300-person guest list. “As hard as it was to postpone, we knew we were doing the right thing,” Kristen admits. “First and foremost the safety of our best friends and family. Given the pandemic was worse than any of us expected, we knew that it would be irresponsible to host an event with so many people.”

Kristen and Stephen contemplated several alternatives like postponing and having a big wedding in 2021. While a large celebration was tempting, they both understood that there was no way to know when that would be possible. “The most important thing was that we loved each other and wanted to be married,” Kristen says. And so, the couple pivoted. “We decided to get married at the end of September in whatever shape or form we could that was safe for our guests.”

Despite having one month to plan, Kristen and Stephen were not too concerned about the tight turnaround. “We had already spent a year planning our original wedding, so we used that as a template to re-plan on a smaller scale,” Kristen explains. “What I learned was that small weddings are no less work, just fewer people! My mom was such a rock throughout the process, and she did everything imaginable to ensure that our wedding was just as amazing, albeit in a different way than we always wanted.”

The Canoe Brook Country Club’s event coordinator Annette Ruiz served as the pseudo-wedding planner for the couple and coordinated with the rest of the vendors. Meanwhile, Bloomers Design executed the floral design for the evening.

The bride always knew she wanted her dress to be both classic and simple. Visits to ateliers in New York and New Jersey left her empty-handed. It wasn’t until she browsed Pinterest that she found anything that resonated with her. Dresses from Suzanne Neville stood out to her, and after a quick search, Kristen discovered that the designer’s gowns are exclusively available at Wedding Atelier in New York City and promptly made an appointment.

“I told our stylist Riley when we got there that I liked Suzanne Neville, and she brought me a few styles to try on. When I tried on the Mira, I knew it was the one,” Kristen insists. The removable train would give her bridal look for the ceremony church a dramatic flair, while the more fitted silhouette reception would be sleeker. Kristen adds, “I found this amazing belt at Wedding Atelier that really took the evening look to the next level and gave me a whole second look without having to change!” She paired the versatile gown with her Edie Parker clutch and Stuart Weitzman shoes. She knew that the lower block heel would be easy to stand on all night long.

“My dad’s three sisters and their daughters called me a month before the wedding and said that while they weren’t able to be with me on my special day in-person, they wanted to ‘be with me in spirit’ and give me my wedding earrings as a present,” Kristen says. As a self-proclaimed “accessories girl” with a penchant for statement earrings, this was the most thoughtful gift they could have given Kristen. She ultimately chose new Ippolita mother-of-pearl earrings, which she will treasure and wear for years to come. Beauty on Location applied her makeup, topping off the bride’s wedding day look.

The groom wore a handsome navy blue suit from the Knot Standard. Kristen notes, “Knot Standard created all the clothes for my older brother’s wedding a few years ago, and we knew we wanted to use them again.”

Inspired by the mix-and-match bridesmaids dresses she’s seen on Over The Moon from weddings like Amanda Jones’s, Kristen wanted her bridesmaids to choose their own unique gowns. She gave her bridal party the loose guidelines of wearing a long dress in pale blue or green and even encouraged different prints. Kristen adds, “One of my bridesmaids, Hilary, who has an extra special eye for this, did a great job making sure all the dresses fit the guidelines and blended well together.”

On September 26, 2020, Kristen’s father surprised her with the ultimate getaway car, a vibrant red 1970 Thunderbird. They rode to the church together where they met Father James Keenan and Stephen at the end of the aisle for the Catholic ceremony. Kristen’s family has known Father Keenan for more than fifty years. First, he knew her grandparents, and then, he was actually the headmaster of her father’s high school, Xavier High School, in New York City.

The large church was able to hold 100 people safely in accordance with COVID guidelines. The bridal parties and immediate family comprised a solid 48 guests, so a few masked friends and family members were able to attend the ceremony in the spaced-out pews. “Since we could only have a small number of people at the reception,” Kristen mentions, “it was so special to walk in and see some of our close family and friends be there in person to support us even though they could not come to the reception.”

The church had recently invested in new tech equipment, so the wedding was live-streamed for the rest of the couple’s friends and family. “We received so many messages and screenshots afterward of people that had tuned in to the ceremony virtually and said they basically felt like they were there,” Kristen recalls.

After saying “I do,” the newlyweds ventured off in the Thunderbird to meet their 48 guests for an outdoor dinner at Canoe Brook Country Club.

At the club, every table was spaced out, along with the other precautions Canoe Brook took to ensure every detail was compliant with CDC recommendations. Each seat contained an embroidered “K <3 S” mask. While guests milled about, taking pictures and enjoying cocktails, a guitar player serenaded. Later in the evening, Kristen’s brother Owen’s curated playlist took over the music duties. “We decided to save the band for a party down the road,” Kristen mentions. For the couple’s dance, they swayed to a mix of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand” and “I Only Wanna Be with You.” The newly minted Mr. and Mrs. Rooney later cut into their Sally Tracy cake.

Both Kristen and Stephen’s brothers MC-ed the evening. After their hysterical performances, “they should both consider careers in comedy down the road!” Kristen laughs. The rest of the night was a blur of thoughtful, funny, and even a few tear-inducing speeches. Kristen’s father finished off the speeches with a surprise rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Kristen says, “He of course received a standing ovation!” The party continued late into the evening, with guests adjourning to a hotel in town for more revelry.

As Kristen thinks back on her wedding day, she can’t help but gush over how “overjoyed” she and Stephen were to finally marry. “It felt surreal after the year we had, all the agonizing of postponing/canceling, I sort of felt like we’d never get here. But walking down the aisle and seeing Stephen, I knew it was meant to be, and couldn’t wait to kiss the groom and start our lives together,” she says.

“Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. We feel so incredibly lucky and fortunate to have been able to have the wedding that we did. I have had many people ask me if I feel like I missed out on anything with my wedding. I can truly say that I do not.” Kristen confesses that “I have actually had a number of friends say to me that if they could do it all over again, they would do something small and intimate like we did.” After being engaged for more than a year, the newlyweds are just grateful to finally begin this new chapter as husband and wife.