TAYLORS—Walter “Curt” Curtis and Yvette Gwinn made plans last year to marry this spring at Prince of Peace Church. It would be a familiar celebration with family and friends witnessing the blessed event, with a reception immediately after the wedding Mass.
A few months after those plans were settled, the COVID-19 pandemic swept in, forcing the closure of all but essential businesses and services. Schools and churches closed, replaced with virtual instruction and worship. Group gatherings larger than 10 were banned, and people in those groups were required to keep at least six feet apart.
The engaged couple adjusted their plans, but not their wedding date nor the place. Father Christopher Smith, pastor at Prince of Peace, presided at the wedding Mass May 1. It was held not in the main sanctuary, but in the much smaller chapel and was witnessed by family members who, due to the six-foot rule, stood immediately outside the chapel entrance.
Though the Mass was reduced to what Yvette said was “the bare essentials,” thoughts of postponing it were never considered.
“We didn’t want to put it off,” she said. “We’re a little older and we love each other very much. Our love for each other grows each day.”
The couple, both in their 70s, initially met last June at a Lay Carmelite Community gathering near Greenville. Curt, who has been a professed Lay Carmelite for 25 years, said he first noticed Yvette when she arrived late for the gathering.
“There was only one seat left,” he said. “It was right next to me.”
Their time together that afternoon “flew by,” Curt said. “Before I knew it, she had to leave, but I did find out her phone number.”
Yvette would spend the next several weeks in Chicago visiting family. The two reunited again at last August’s Carmelite meeting, and on the following Sunday attended Mass together at Prince of Peace. After Mass, Yvette invited Curt to an impromptu lunch at her place.
“I really had not planned anything, but somehow I pulled off a half-way decent lunch,” Yvette said, which helped turn an unplanned meal into something far more enduring.
“We had a beautiful afternoon together, (and) there have been many beautiful times since then,” Yvette said, their joy having spread well beyond that small chapel.
Though Prince of Peace has set up virtual communities for Mass, parish life, adult education, the grade school and elsewhere via Facebook, YouTube and Zoom, Yvette and Curt turned the roadblock created by the virus into a much bigger celebration.
For the first time, and at the couple’s request, the parish live-streamed the wedding Mass via Facebook Live, opening the chapel doors not only to the entire parish community, but to anyone who wanted to join in celebration.
“While we can’t have hundreds of people, family and friends here in the church together, we know they’re joining us from our country and countries around the world,” Curt said. “We want to share our joy, our love for each other with all of them.”
Prior to the Mass, Father Smith asked parishioners watching the livestream to share their blessings and support with the newlyweds by taking photos of themselves wearing their wedding outfits while watching the Mass, and then posting their photos on the parish’s Facebook page. He borrowed the idea from Curt and Yvette, who had earlier asked their wedding guests to do the same thing.
In his homily, Father Smith praised the couple for their commitment to each other and to God during challenging times.
“When we first started talking about your amazing plans, and now this, you continued at every moment to trust in God, who brought you to this moment and will bring you to so many other moments together, as you support each other,” Father Smith said. “This is the day the Lord has made. This is a day that is absolutely beautiful in every conceivable way.”
By placing their lives in God’s hands, Yvette said she and Curt are eager “to do His work together.”