Jessica and Ross Falcone

Nearly-weds planning to get married during the last year or so have been flummoxed by the pandemic, putting off their plans indefinitely for a big family gathering, or going virtual to tie the knot.

Wood River Valley locals Jessica and Ross Falcone made big plans for a traditional wedding and full-scale reception near Ross’ parents’ home in College Station, Texas. The date was set last spring for April 11, 2020, at a time when the coronavirus was little more than a rumor and few people were aware of what changes lay ahead for the world.

Jessica and Ross grew up in the valley and attended Wood River High School. Jessica, now 33, took an interest in the stage and participated in several community theater productions. Ross, 32, was a professional skier and also worked as a ski instructor. The met on the dating app Bumble.

“I posted that I was looking for a great guy out there who doesn’t like going to the bars, because I am the kind of person who likes to stay home,” Jessica said. “It was a great way for us to meet. People on Bumble who like one another get put into the same ‘hive.’”

Women on Bumble make the first move, so Jessica expressed an interest in Ross, who said he was not a bar-hopper. They soon went on some real-world dates and on New Year’s Eve they had their first kiss.

“We fell in love and started reworking our lives so we could be together,” she said. “We got engaged on Thanksgiving. It really has been wonderful.”

About that time, Jessica began graduate studies in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Some of her instructors from China began talking that winter about the situation in Wuhan, referencing a virus that was becoming a potential international health threat.

With the wedding still months away, Jessica began reaching out to family and friends with concerns. As March rolled around, she decided to alert all the invited guests that they should seek refunds for their airline tickets and accommodations.

“They all thought I was crazy, because at that point no one knew what was coming,” Jessica said. “But then a few days later the Centers for Disease Control sent out an alert restricting gatherings to no more than 10 people.”

From there, the pandemic tightened its grip, and the Falcone’s Happily Ever After moment faded into the distance.

“It was pretty hard to figure out a Plan B,” Jessica said. “All of our relatives had visions of how the wedding should be, including my mother, father-in-law, my fiancé. Everyone had ideas.”

As COVID-19 continued to cast a pall over large group gatherings, the young couple remained eager to make it official. A date was set and a small gathering in Texas would have to suffice.

“I decided to do it on Zoom so at least people could see it,” Jessica said.

The virtual wedding eliminated many of the complexities of a large celebration. There was no band and the reception was certainly BYOB. And yet the streamlined event had a way of focusing on the essence of the ceremony.

“The wedding industry has become so blown out of proportion,” Jessica said. “There can be a lot of pressure on brides. There are so many obscure traditions to follow and a lot of expectations. On Zoom it was very special and so simple. It also brought everyone together and people were able to make toasts and deliver speeches. Our family members were still able to meet one another.”

Ross Falcone said the virtual ceremony at his parents’ house took some preparation and a steady hand on the screen controls by his younger brother Chris, who played the role of “virtual DJ.”

“There were quite a few rehearsals and they didn’t always go as planned,” Ross said. “But we were able to change screens from the altar to where Jessica walked up from a side hallway. We switched screens from various people’s homes who also attended the ceremony. And the beauty of it all is that it was recorded.”

Ross said the ceremony drew about 80 guests. The no-frills reception brought out the best in people.

“I think people were more likely during a virtual ceremony to share more stories. There probably would have been more stage fright in person,” he said. “Also, some people who may not have attended, like some of the older relatives, did make it after all.”

Waiting for a traditional wedding ceremony would have taken much longer than anyone would have expected a year ago. Even a follow-up gathering for a wedding celebration planned for April, 2021 was recently canceled due to the extended coronavirus threat.

“We even had to let go of that plan because it is still such a weird time to plan anything,” Jessica said. “It’s sad, but it is what it is.”

And yet the Falcones have started life together as a happily married couple.

“I am glad that we did it this way,” Jessica said. “I totally respect what others want to do, but I feel like I was able to lose a lot of the fluff and get what I most desired, which was to marry Ross and bring our families together. In the end we found that we really didn’t need a lot of the other things.”

Jessica and Ross Falcone 2

This year’s cover couple Ross and Jessica Falcone gave their vows virtually rather than wait indefinitely for a traditional wedding ceremony and reception.

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