As the number of Covid-19 cases grow globally, so do the number of cancelled birthdays, trips, weddings and other big gatherings planned for the year. One couple however, decided to opt for a modern solution.
On Saturday, March 21, Canadian Ian Karleff and Mexican Lucia Sol said their ‘I dos’ to each other in the garden of their home in San Juan Cosala, Mexico in front of a judge, two witnesses and a computer — which broadcast the wedding to 300 of their friends and family, watching from the comfort of their living rooms, dressed in pyjamas.
“It was super cool,” said Karleff, a former Financial Post managing editor. He and Sol have been dating since December 2016, he explained, and as of August 2019, had decided to tie the knot while on a European tour.
Setting a wedding date, however, had been a nightmare.
“We have family all over the world,” said Karleff. “We can never get a time where we can actually get everyone together and get married.”
Finally, the couple settled on a more intimate plan, with just their children present — except their children would have no idea.
“We went to Bacalar, south of Cancun … and rented an awesome AirBnb,” said Karleff. The plan was to vacation in Bacalar with Karleff’s daughters, who had flown in from Toronto, and Sol’s sons, the older of whom was flying from the U.K. in March.
After, the group would head back to Sol’s home in San Juan, where the couple had secretly booked a judge to officiate a surprise wedding on Saturday, with their children as witnesses. “They’re the ones that are going to give us a hard time if they’re not present at the wedding,” said Karleff.
Paperwork filled out, judge booked, dates confirmed — It seemed like the perfect plan was set to go.
However, on Wednesday March 18 — three days before the wedding — the Canadian government announced plans to close the border to U.S. and Mexico, forcing Karleff to promptly send his daughters back to Canada. In the meanwhile, Sol’s son, who had arrived in Cancun from London, had to go into mandatory quarantine for 14 days.
“We got the first flight we could and flew back here to this location,” said Karleff. “And now we’re sitting here on Friday night.”
As public health officials warned that the pandemic could contnue for more than six to 12 months, the idea of having to wait that long to be married did not sit well with either of them. And so, on the eve of their wedding, they decided to get creative.
The couple sent e-invites to their friends and family via Zoom, a communication app, and set up Facebook Live for their technology-challenged beloved. “We had a live video feed,” said Karleff, as well as a chat room, where everyone could enter and talk with each other, as the ceremony went on.
At a point, the chatting got too loud, forcing the couple to temporarily mute their guests for the ceremony. “It was kind of funny, because we were starting the ceremony but people didn’t quite have a hold of Zoom and the virtual ceremony and so they were talking,” said Sol. “They could speak with each other and interact with us.”
The ceremony itself was traditional, short and sweet. “My mother, who is a shaman, did a Mexican traditional ceremony, with a little speech in English and Spanish,” said Sol. The groom and bride both wore white — Sol in a white shirt and a long white skirt with Mexican embroidery and Karloff dressed in a white shirt and pants.
They hosted the ceremony in their garden, standing next to a table decorated with flowers, candles, and copal, traditional Mexican incense. On the other side of the table, were three local officials with the necessary paperwork to sign. “They just kind of sat there with funny smiles on their faces,” said Karleff, with a chuckle.
The ceremony, he said, lasted no longer than 40 minutes, out of concern for the spotty Internet, which meant they had to cut down some of the ceremony rituals. Sol said she still threw the bouquet; however, because the only eligible person present was her sister, she threw it straight at her.
Sol’s younger son, the only one of the children to physically attend the wedding, recorded it on his phone and monitored the computers on another table, which streamed the wedding to hundreds of friends and family.
“Any other time, there’s no way in heck we could have gotten all these people on board,” said Karleff. “But now they’re doing nothing.”
Most guests, he said, attended the wedding dressed in sweatpants, baseball caps and sat on their couches with a drink in hand. “Some friends of ours in Mexico, he and his wife and kids dressed up” for the occasion, said Karleff with a chuckle.
Some of their friends were inspired by the occasion, taking it as a reminder to stay positive in hard times. “They told us ‘you really gave us an inspiration to not stop doing the things we love because of the situation’,” said Guggenbuehl.
Once the pandemic has settled down, the couple plan to throw a party so they can physically celebrate with family and friends. But there will be no second ceremony. “Most people stress over a wedding for a year or two years, but we only had to do that for 24 hours,” said Sol, joking that, in those 24 hours, her husband still managed to turn into a “groomzilla.”
The honeymoon, they said, will be spent self-isolating on Sol’s property in San Juan.
“It’s a beautiful property with lots of trees and flowers and great weather,” she said. “Since we cannot go anywhere, we’re just going to enjoy each other’s company and pamper each other.”
The couple also plan to grow a vegetable garden and build a pizza oven to prepare for the coming months. “We’re going to make it a place where we can live off the land,” said Karleff.