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.
Permele Crawford Doyle, president and founder of digital marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy, and William “Garner” Robinson, CEO of his family’s fifth-generation Robinson Lumber Company, postponed their July 4th wedding in Salento, Puglia because of the spread of COVID-19. The two, who also own Faulkner House Bookstore in William Faulkner’s former home, rescheduled to next summer, but decided to go ahead with a micro-wedding at her parents’ home in Millbrook, New York.
The couple had chosen Salento because Permele’s family has vacationed there for years. But as Italy went into lockdown, they realized their wedding in Italy just was not feasible. They decided to reschedule to July 3rd, 2021, sending guests an email that read, “Same time next year!”
Postponing the big day was disappointing at first. “But soon after, we realized…why wait?” Permele says. “Let’s move forward with our marriage and our life together and start the next chapter with a reimagined, more intimate ceremony.”
The couple realized the perfect micro-wedding destination was actually the very place Permele had spent quarantine—her parents’ home in Millbrook, New York. The couple began planning but quickly realized they underestimated the amount of work a micro-wedding would require. Even though they didn’t have to contend with obstacles like Italian-speaking vendors anymore, there were unique hurdles a micro-wedding in the time of Corona posed.
“It was really hard to know what would happen with the pandemic, and if we would be able to gather even a small number of people safely,” Permele mentions. But with the help of their family and friends, they were able to navigate wedding planning. “One of the most special parts of the wedding was that we recruited some of our closest friends to help with catering, decor, flowers, logistics, and even the cake to make it a beautiful and thoughtful event.”
Permele and Garner knew they wanted to marry at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and have lunch at her family’s home after the ceremony. She considers her parents to be the real wedding planners of the day. “Things came together when my mother had the brilliant idea to ask our dear family friend and stylist, Mieke ten Have, to help,” Permele says. Mieke met Permele and her mother at the end of June and suggested a new configuration for the event, where guests would go from the house to the backyard for lunch.
As for her wedding wardrobe, last summer, Permele found herself in the Elie Saab flagship location on Madison Avenue, trying on an ivory lace dress. She nearly left the store without it, but her mother and friends encouraged her to buy it…Perhaps it might be convenient to have for a wedding-related event, they suggested. “I feel so lucky I did because it ended up being the perfect dress for the event!” Permele laughs. For the rest of her bridal ensemble, she scoured Millbrook. She found a Jennifer Behr crown on Instagram and bought it in July. “I made it special by adding pieces of family jewelry my mother kindly pulled out for the occasion,” Permele says. For her “something borrowed,” she wore her great-grandmother’s diamond pin and diamond and pearl bracelet. For her “something blue,” she slid on her grandmother’s diamond and sapphire ring. The entire look was brought together with her “something old”—her favorite pair of gold Capri sandals. Maria Riskakis, a makeup artist Permele knew while working at Tom Ford, did her makeup.
The groom wore beige trousers with a blue blazer that Permele actually helped design. His blue suede shoes were from Tincati, a Milanese menswear store that used to be next to Permele’s apartment on East 67th St. He completed the look with a light blue Hermès tie that Permele gave him for Christmas and KREWE sunglasses, as an homage to his hometown. “I thought he looked so handsome,” Permele gushes.
The wedding party consisted of a maid of honor, a best man, and three flower girls. Given the COVID restrictions at the time, Permele just felt so lucky to even have them there. Their florist, Felicity Bontecou, suggested that Permele’s wedding party wear whites, creams, or soft blue hues to match the flowers. Maria’s blue cotton skirt and white blouse perfectly complemented the flowers. The flower girls wore their own white dresses and shoes, donning white and green flower crowns to match the baskets of rose petals.
Permele says that her biggest contribution to planning the wedding was her idea to hold the ceremony outside of the church. The couple was worried that an indoor ceremony might not be safe for guests. Plus, Garner and Permele had joked that marrying outside the church was the right spot for them because it’s where they would always find themselves when they arrived late to Christmas Eve services.
On August 14, 2020, Permele and Garner were married on the steps of St. Peter’s. Reverend Dr. Bob Flanagan officiated the ceremony while guests sat on the opposite lawn, spread out from one another in white chairs. The ceremony featured readings from Mark Twain, Corinthians, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Throughout, the couple could not stop basking in the joy of the day. “It was one of the rare occasions I actually succeeded in taking every moment in,” Permele reminisces.
Garner was in charge of selecting the music. “He was determined to avoid the standard wedding fare!” Permele says about his music responsibilities. He arranged for the Bluebell string quartet to play underneath a nearby tree, serenading the arriving guests to Mozart, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky. Permele walked down the aisle to a passage from Beethoven’s 15th Quartet. When the couple was pronounced husband and wife, the quartet burst into the most apropos song possible, “Mrs. Robinson.”
Guests tossed rose petals as the couple drove off in Permele’s parents’ white BMW convertible with Maria’s hand-decorated “Just Married” sign on the back, and the couple was the first to arrive to their own party. When everyone else arrived, they were served drinks and hors d’oeuvres, while the Brooklyn-based Spanish guitar duo Salvo Music played the Gipsy Kings.
Lunch commenced at six spaced out tables in a circle underneath a maple tree in front of the house. The catered meal by friends Michael and Patricia Jean of Stissing House began with gazpacho followed by cold poached salmon and cucumber salad, while rosé flowed freely. Afterward, the couple cut the cake, an Elizabeth Mayhew masterpiece. The traditional yellow cake was decorated with marzipan and real vanilla icing and finished with fresh flowers and a vintage bride and groom topper the couple’s friend Angèle Parlange sent from New Orleans.
The day transitioned seamlessly into the late afternoon as guests enjoyed another glass of wine and another slice of cake. At dinner later that night, they celebrated Permele’s father’s brithday, which was one of the reasons the couple chose their August date in the first place. Permele’s mother made her signature pesto pasta, and Permele’s father blew out candles placed on the top layer of the couple’s wedding cake. “We decided better to enjoy it fresh than have it one year later!” Permele says.
Reflecting on their wedding, Permele and Garner are still in awe of how the day unfolded. “We knew it was going to be nice,” they say. “But we don’t think anyone expected it to be as intimate, authentic, and magical as it was.” Even in the midst of these circumstances, the couple had the most special wedding imaginable. “For all the wondering brides out there this year,” Permele adds. “I cannot recommend more highly a smaller wedding with a party to follow. I spent time with each guest, and every single person made a toast—and I care deeply about each and every person there that day.”