During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vogue’s goal is to use our coverage to celebrate responsible wedding planning, feature a love story, and shed light on the questions engaged couples are now asking.
For those doing wedding planning, follow all applicable state and local laws, guidelines, and CDC recommendations to ensure safety and reduce the risk of contraction and transmission of COVID-19.
Portland Trailblazers security guard CJ McCollum and dentist Elise Esposito originally planned to get married in Brooklyn on September 5th. “We planned a year and a half in advance with Yifat Oren from Oren Co,” Elise recalls. “We had everything planned: the church, the reception location, bands, food, hair and make-up, florist, photographer – everything. Three festive days were planned. “They expected around 250 guests to attend the wedding, but in May it became very clear that COVID-19 was going nowhere and decided to postpone their grand celebration indefinitely after the pandemic ended.
“The most important thing for us was that our family and friends stay healthy,” says Elise. “I don’t think we could live with ourselves if someone got sick as a result of our wedding. Obviously, given government restrictions, it wasn’t possible to have a wedding or anything near by. “
As the pandemic continued, the couple decided in June that they still wanted to get married in 2020, albeit on a much smaller scale, as there was no way to predict the timing of the virus. “We thought: what if we postpone a year and COVID is still dominating, with no workable solution in sight? Or what if this pandemic lasts two years? We ultimately decided to get married on our original date, September 5th, 2020, but changed locations to Oregon wine country as we both love wine and love to explore the region. “
About two weeks later, CJ was notified that the 2019-2020 basketball season would resume from July through mid-October in the Florida “NBA Bubble”. This meant that he would live in Orlando and not be allowed to leave until his season was over. Their plans were again thwarted, as September 5th was now officially no longer an option.
While CJ was away in August, Elise was trying to find another date that might work with her two busy schedules. “We decided that the best time would be at the end of October as his season will likely start again in December and November will be used for training,” she explains.
When they landed in October, they went from a guest list of 250 to 20. At that point, the planning process was completely restarted: new date, new location, new guest list, with less than two months to get everything done. “We went to see the Black Walnut Inn while my mom was visiting me in August and we both fell in love with it,” says Elise. “The scenery was breathtaking and they had just enough rooms to accommodate our 20 guests.” The couple asked all guests to take a COVID test 48 hours before arriving in Oregon and send in their results. By the time everyone arrived at the inn, every person had a rapid COVID test, and every single employee who worked on site at each venue had a rapid test every morning. “We were really concerned that our families, especially our grandmothers, were traveling during the pandemic and wanted to make sure we were taking all appropriate precautions to avoid unnecessary exposures,” says Elise.
Elise’s wedding dress was designed by Danielle Frankel along with her after-party dress and a few other looks. “I imagined a dress that was chic, elegant and timeless. I wanted it to reflect my style. I was also hoping to wear a long sleeved dress as my mother wore this to her wedding. When I described what I was looking for to my stylist Tara Maietta, she knew exactly where to go and introduced me to Danielle. “Elise’s last choice – the Sloane dress – was a dark ivory crepe dress with natural baroque pearl buttons. “If you look closely, you can see that each of the pearls is different in shape and has an iridescent glow,” she says. “Danielle also made a specially pleated tulle veil with Chantilly lace trim. She had this whole vision in mind and it was perfect. It’s safe to say that Danielle Frankel is the holy grail of a chic bride. “As jewelry, Elise wore vintage Fred Leighton earrings that CJ had given her on her wedding day, and she completed the look with off-white Jimmy Choo pumps.
CJ wore a three-piece hand-made ensemble of Italian cacciopoli fabric; Each garment has been handcrafted by Antar Levar along with the shirt and matching handcrafted silk bow tie. Stylist Maietta was also the mastermind behind the look of the wedding reception – chic dresses in a mix of textures and fall colors. “It was important [to me that] My friends love what they wore, so Tara worked closely with each person to bring our vision to life, ”Elise explains.
In late October, the weather in Oregon wine country can vary widely. “A typical day is cold, wet, foggy and peaks at 40 degrees,” says Elise. “Well, we were lucky; We had a three day celebration that was cold, actually a frost the first night, but there was no rain! “
On the day of the wedding, the foliage in and around the vineyard was just beginning to change, making the perfect, picturesque autumn day possible. “We keep thinking that there must have been divine intervention because this kind of weather doesn’t exist at the end of October,” jokes Elise.
The ceremony began around 3:30 p.m. “We started early because I didn’t want to have a first look, but imagined our ceremony with the traditional approach of seeing us for the first time as I walked down the aisle,” Elise notes. Both the bride and groom walked down the aisle with their parents – something that was very dear to their hearts. “As my parents led me down the aisle, a string trio played their wedding song,” Can’t Help Falling in You, “by Elvis Presley,” says Elise. “I felt like the happiest girl on the planet. It felt surreal, a floating reality. I couldn’t wait to come down the aisle and tell CJ how good he looked. I found it difficult to wait until the end of the ceremony to kiss him. “
The couple’s puppy, Fiona, served as the flower girl, and friends read poems and scriptures that were relevant to the couple throughout the service. The bride and groom wrote their own vows and exchanged handwritten cards before the wedding. “I read CJ’s card right before walking down the hall in the bathroom because I knew I was going to have a tear or two,” says Elise. “He really has a way of using words and is incredibly articulate in expressing his feelings.” At the end of the service, the marching band came out to celebrate as the newlyweds walked down the aisle and jumped over the brooms.
During dinner, guests toasted glasses of McCollum Heritage 91, CJ’s new wine that had just been launched in September. “We had a very lively dance floor for a small group [after dinner]”Says Elise.” My 91-year-old grandmother danced with me like a 20-year-old when her song came up! Dancing with her to ‘St. Louis Blues will always be a special memory for me. ”