Couples go on with marriage plans despite restrictions 

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Church pews were mostly empty as bride and groom met at the altar, but that’s where God’s presence filled any lack as they established their lifelong relationship, say couples in the Diocese of Baton Rouge who have married during the coronavirus pandemic.  

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Sidney and Michael Batson with Fr. Jamin David 

 

According to Father Jamin David, pastor of St. Margaret Queen of Scotland in Albany, and Father Michael Alello, pastor of St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge, as events surrounding the coronavirus unfolded, couples scheduled to get married had to make the difficult decision of whether to postpone the wedding until at least the summer or fall or marry on their scheduled wedding date and abide by the requirements of the Diocese of Baton Rouge that the gathering be limited to no more than 10 people in attendance.  

But the smaller, more intimate weddings allowed the couples to concentrate on the sacrament of marriage and the Rite of Marriage.  

“When you only have a few people you can really focus on what’s going on,” said Father Alello.  

And in Louisiana, people still find ways to celebrate milestones.

Father David noted that after one wedding, as the couple emerged from the church, people cheered and honked horns. 

“It was a little rambunctious, but all in keeping with the governor’s call for social distancing,” said Father David. 

One of the couples he married was Sidney Guillory and Michael Batson, who “tied the knot” on April 25 at St. Margaret. The couple originally met at a New Year’s Eve party and had a “Cajun courtship” for five years. 

As events surrounding the coronavirus evolved, the couple discussed their wedding date.  

“Each day was different,” said Sidney.  

But they came back to the point where they wanted to marry on the day they had planned.  

“We decided we would get married and be together and get through this together,” Michael said.  

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Megan and Michael Willis 

 

Sidney said she struggled with the thought of no wedding rehearsal, reception, a couchon de lait with family and friends and other social gatherings that usually surround that happy day. But she expresses a deeper joy that she and Michael are husband and wife.  

“We can postpone the party aspect, but we were ready to start our marriage,” Sidney said. 

Batson said, “I’m excited to start our new life together.”  

The couple plans a celebration with extended family and friends in August.  

Michael Willis said he and Megan Voda met through friends at LSU and “the stars aligned.” He proposed to Voda at a waterfront park in her hometown of Miami and the two married on April 17 at St. John the Baptist Church in Brusly.  

Father Allelo, Willis’ long-time friend, married them. The couple drove through the neighborhood on a golf cart to celebrate the special day.  

Willis believed going forward as planned with the wedding was a “precious gift.”  

“What I thought would be a disaster was a blessing,” he said. “It was the best day of my life.”  

“It was beautiful because she and I were in front of the Lord,” he added, pointing out there were no distractions or worries about “who was there or who wasn’t.”  

Because of their schedules, the Willis’ had already planned a honeymoon trip in the fall to Colorado. They will also have a larger celebration with family and friends before leaving.  

Newlyweds Irene and Christopher Lilly were married in March, also at St. Margaret by Father David. 

Irene said the stay-at-home order was issued shortly before their wedding. 

The Lilly’s went through plans “A, B and C” when the reception was cancelled at the St. Margaret parish hall. They ended up having a wedding “open house” at Irene’s mother’s house with social distancing in mind, and people stopped by to congratulate the newlyweds. 

Irene said with a smile that without anyone asking her, her sister Helen, 12, cleaned outside and weeded the garden so the yard would look nice. 

Likewise, her sister Emily had taken a cake decorating class as a young child and was happy to finally use those skills to bake a cake. 

“We also had so many messages and calls from family and friends to say congratulations,” said Irene, who said people prayed for her and Chris and they prayed for each other. 

“We were blessed to see how God brought things together on our behalf and it was a beautiful. We were satisfied,” she said. 

Although the honeymoon plans were canceled, the romance wasn’t, said Irene.  

The Lilly’s both like the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” so when they arrived at their home, they felt a connection with main characters George and Mary Bailey, who had their own “staycation honeymoon.” 

“Chris told me to put on a pretty dress, and he cooked a (candlelight) Italian dinner,” said Irene, noting that their honeymoon plans included dinner at an Italian restaurant. 

“I said, ‘I don’t think George and Mary had it this good,’ ” Irene said. 

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Irene and Christopher Lilly