When the pandemic forced Jessica (Jess) Zayas (28 and a consultant) and Neal Raaz (31 and a financial systems manager) to cancel their 120-person wedding, the couple decided to get married on their front doorstep and consider having a big celebration later on. “With all the uncertainty brewing, we wanted to get legally married as soon as possible,” says Jess. However, as the pandemic raged on, it was clear that a large wedding wouldn’t be possible in the immediate future. That’s when the couple’s vendors stepped in and gifted them a styled elopement so they could celebrate, create memories and have wedding pictures to cherish. “We loved being able to spend so much quality time with each other since there were no guests in person,” says Jess.
While canceling a wedding just one month out is an unimaginably hard decision, Jess and Neal were blessed with a group of vendors who gifted them a meaningful elopement instead. One of the vendors who came to help them celebrate was a typewriter poet, who asked the duo a few questions before giving them a custom piece of writing to reflect their relationship. "Though I yearn for the day that we can celebrate with family, our elopement truly felt like we were doing something for ourselves and we could cherish the quality time on our special day together," says Jess. Another special vendor that was part of the elopement was the hip-hop violinist who played the iconic Aladdin song for the first dance.
In her vows, Jess told Neal: “Most know that you proposed to me officially about three years ago; however, most do not know that you re-propose to me every now and again. Some may say it waters down the original time, but I say it strengthens it because each time I say ‘yes,’ we continue to choose each other.”
Not only is Italian cuisine a favorite of Jess and Neal’s, but the couple also hopes to one day honeymoon in Italy. As a nod to the country, they shared an hors d’oeuvres display of Italian bites. The couple met on the app Coffee Meets Bagel, so java for the couple and their vendors was a must. The couple enjoyed basil-lemon specialty cocktails with sorbet from the same shop where they had their first date.
Jess started the day in a ball gown, then donned a slip dress with a denim jacket and ended with a puff-sleeve look. Although her parents couldn’t join them in person, Jess kept them close at heart by wearing “the traditional Indian gold jewelry that my mom gifted me for our original wedding day.”