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A Traditional Catholic Micro-Wedding in Santa Monica

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Steve Steinhardt

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.

Maureen Kelly Flaherty postponed her July 18th wedding at the Saint Monica Catholic Church because of the spread of COVID-19. Here, she’s sharing how she and her husband, Charles “Chip” Edward Searles, made the final call and decided to have a micro-wedding on their original date.

The Chicago elementary school teacher, who usually oversees a classroom of 20 third grade boys, and her fiancé had planned to get married at her family’s church, where she was baptized and had her first communion, with a reception at The Beverly Hills Hotel. As COVID-19 spread, the two officially postponed in early May; however, the two still felt strongly about getting married on their original date.

“Chip and I felt that the reception and party were less important to us than being married and being able to live together,” Maureen says. The larger celebration was originally postponed to November 13th, 2020, but now, the reception will be held on July 23rd, 2021. “We will hold a marriage blessing in the same church with the same priest in July of next year, in front of all of our extended family and friends this time!”

Four days before flying out from Chicago to California, Governor Newsom closed all churches, so Maureen’s mother, Mary, pivoted plans to hold the wedding in the outdoor annex of the church. “It was important that our wedding was on church grounds, as my family is Catholic, and Chip converted to Catholicism before asking my father for his blessing for my hand in marriage,” the bride says. “She, with the help of the florist, Drew Domenghini, transformed the side walkway of the church into a beautiful, Italian-inspired setting adorned with white cabbage roses, peonies, and eucalyptus.”

To say, “I do,” Maureen wore the first dress she tried on—the Lennox by Enzoani—with Chanel flats and her mother’s Baroque pearl earrings. And on the morning-of, she got ready with Beauty Wyld Makeup and Craig Wcislo of LuxeLab, who created a natural makeup and hair look. Bridesmaids complemented her in Needle & Thread’s Ruby Bloom smocked gowns, and Chip looked handsome in a bright navy linen suit from Byron.

The couple first saw each other as she made her way down the aisle, accompanied by her father, and then the traditional Catholic service began. After exchanging their vows, the two were able to sneak into the church to adorn Mary’s altar with a floral bouquet, as “Ava Maria” was sung. Once announced as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Searles for the first time, they recessed to their original first dance song, “10,000 Hours” by Justin Bieber.

All 18 guests and the newlyweds rejoined at the bride’s family’s home in Brentwood for the reception, and Maureen changed into the Rory Dress by Azeeza. Dinner was served outdoors under string lights, as people exchanged laughs, toasts, and casual conversation. To end the day, the new Mr. and Mrs. made their way to Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, before heading to the Rosewood Miramar Beach for two nights to spend a delightful mini-moon.

Looking back on everything, Maureen and Chip “would not have changed one thing” about their wedding. “It was intimate, casual, and very real,” she says. “While we had wished that our large extended families and friend groups could have shared in the joy and excitement of our wedding day, we know that a time will come for us to all be together safely.”