Francesca Barker, event manager for Vogue, GQ and several other Condé Nast brands, and Lee McCormick, CFO / COO of Ivy Citizens, wanted to get married in Italy. The spread of COVID-19 meant they had to switch twice. Hoping to gather a few more guests but to ease the travel burden, the couple first found a new venue in Laguna Beach, California. But when states closed and orders were placed at home, those plans had to be abandoned. While they’re still hoping to have a celebration in California later in or early 2021, they had a private ceremony on the beach on April 14th – her anniversary date – outside Lee’s parents’ home in Perdido Key, Florida, where they’ve been living since March when they left New York City.
Francesca and Lee’s sweet meeting is reminiscent of a carefree time and sounds like a scene from The Hangover. “While on a bachelorette trip with my brother, a mutual friend sent Lee and me a message claiming Lee was my future husband,” recalls Francesca. “I thought they were guys on a bachelorette party in Las Vegas and shrugged.” Lee then followed her on social media, occasionally making a bold comment here or there. In April 2018, Lee toured New York for a week before embarking on a two-month trip to Europe. On his first day in town, he wrote to Francesca that he and his friends were with the Red Lion and that she should join them. “I was with one of my best friends and I remember telling her we should go because I had to meet this unrestrained, brave guy who says what he wants,” explains Francesca. “This moment [when we met] was unlike any other I’d experienced before. We then arranged to meet every night that week before he left for Europe and have not gone a day since then without talking to each other or seeing each other. “
A year and a half later, Lee suggested taking Francesca on a scavenger hunt across New York City that included all of her appointment items from that first week together. “Then he told me we would go home to drop off our things and then go to a dinner that he had planned,” recalls Francesca. When she walked into the apartment and noticed that the back door to the courtyard was open, she checked what was going on and was surprised by friends and family, some of whom had flown in from Kazakhstan.
Francesca never imagined a beach wedding – damp and wind aren’t her thing – but given the circumstances, she and Lee decided to embrace the environment they were in on their anniversary. They didn’t add any frills to the beach setting, along the lines of simple but meaningful. “We knew the April 14th date was important to our relationship and we wanted the day to work no matter what,” says Francesca. “Instead of worrying about planning the perfect wedding day, we just picked each other and started our life together.”
Francesca found an official and a local photographer online, and her mother surprised her with a bouquet of flowers, a boutonniere (both from KellyCo Flowers), and a wedding cake (from the Cake Gallery) to enjoy on the day of. “That surprise really left me speechless,” recalls Francesca, adding that it was touching “to see how small businesses, in our circumstances, creatively achieve such excellence.”
About a week or two before the beach ceremony, Francesca went to the Moda Operandi and found the Acler dress she was wearing. “I wanted a white dress that had something special that set it apart from a typical white summer dress,” says Francesca. “Acler has such great, bold details – when I saw the shoulders and the intricate cut of the chest, I knew it was going to be perfect.” She had taken Chanel blue denim apartments to Florida and thought they would work perfectly as her “something blue”.
The day started with a walk. “We talked about our next day, our future and the structure of our life together,” recalls Francesca. “It was beautiful and we were able to inspire each other with hope and excitement about what was to come, even in these difficult times.”
The following ceremony was minimal. “There was no fluff. It was very naked, but with all the feeling and love that were important to us, ”says Francesca. “Lee’s best friend Danny and his girlfriend were there when we were quarantined together. Danny filmed the whole thing, and Kelly was on standby for the latest inquiries, including Lee and me who forgot to bring the marriage certificate to the beach for our officer to sign! “
After the ceremony, the newlyweds had a formal toast with their families about Zoom after the wedding. Then Francesca and Lee cut the cake and indulged in the moment.
Francesca is the first to admit that she never really dreamed of what her wedding would be like. “But I know I’m not a crowd for intimate moments,” she says. “At events, I’ve gotten very used to big moments that happen in front of others – so much so that I think I’ve become very protective of those moments in my life. So our wedding was just about making the choice to both love and be together for the rest of our lives. It just felt like it couldn’t get any better. In this moment and now in retrospect, it is what my heart has always wanted. “
She adds, “Life is unpredictable. There will always be variables that cannot be controlled. In these times, it is important to adapt and still be true to what is most important – and for us this meant making a commitment to one another. “