Couple gets creative with wedding plans to include family from across the border

St. Stephen – In the age of COVID-19, most of us are looking for new ways to do the things we have always done. In particular, due to Public Health regulations, we can’t have large gatherings, which includes weddings. But, with some creativity, they can find a way to have the wedding of their dreams, and have a day that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

That is exactly what one couple did last weekend. After several weeks of planning, a wedding was held in St. Stephen, and guests from the other side of the border in Calais were also able to watch and give their best wishes to the happy couple. Lindsay and Alex Clowes were married at the wharf on the St. Stephen Waterfront with friends and family in attendance, just with a little twist. Their US relatives were on the opposite side of the St. Croix River, or in boats near the wharf, in order to be compliant with COVID-19 restrictions. The ceremony was also live-streamed so everyone was able to watch the pair take their vows and first kiss as a married couple.

“We were supposed to get married in August,” said bride Lindsay Clowes. “When everything shut down in March, we pretty much decided to re-book. We re-booked everything exactly the same, but for 2021. Six weeks ago, we just kind of brainstormed different ideas, and came up with this idea of family standing on both sides of the border.”

Clowes said she then called her mother and stepfather in Calais, and asked them what they thought of the idea. Clowes, who lives in Nova Scotia, grew up in this area. She lived in Calais, but from Grades 4 through 12 she crossed the border daily to attend school in St. Stephen. Her mother, Leslie Bernardini, spent many years working at RBC in St. Stephen. Clowes and her new husband had originally planned on being married in Nova Scotia, but rather than wait another year or longer, the couple decided to get married here so they could be with family and friends.

“We live about 10 minutes outside of Windsor, Nova Scotia. The wedding was originally going to be in Windsor. But, we decided to drive home for it. My husband’s parents live in Windsor, and his grandparents live in Barrington, Nova Scotia, so they drove to the wedding. Some friends from Halifax drove down, and everybody else that came lived in town (St. Stephen) or on the Calais side.

Her mother and stepfather helped to put the wedding plans in motion, with her mother calling an old friend from St. Stephen, Mayor Allan MacEachern. They were able to arrange to have their wedding on the wharf, and then go directly across the street to the 5 Kings restaurant for a wedding dinner.

“He really helped us,” said Clowes. “We hit the ground running, and pulled it together in six weeks. Because we were renting the wharf from the Town of St. Stephen, we had to do a COVID operational management plan, how we planned to keep everyone safe. So we wrote that up and submitted. We had dinner at 5 Kings after, so we worked with them on how we could have a socially distanced dinner right afterwards, which was convenient because we could just walk from the wharf.”

MacEachern said this is the first time he has been asked permission for a wedding to be held on the wharf, and he was thrilled to be able to be a part of the planning. He made sure nothing had been previously planned at the wharf for the day of the wedding, and then closed it off to the public for the ceremony.

“I went to my events team, and asked Michelle Vest, ‘how can we make this happen’,” said MacEachern. “Everything went as planned, and very well. Michelle was there, monitoring it. I actually crashed the wedding too. I sat on a park bench and made sure everything went smoothly. It was kind of neat. It actually made the national news.”

MacEachern said he is happy to see “something nice happen during these crazy times”, and praised the couple for coming up with such a creative idea for their wedding. He said he was sworn to secrecy about the plans, to ensure a huge crowd didn’t show up to watch. He also said he would like to see similar events taking place at the waterfront and wharf.

“They figured out a way, with all of the restrictions, to have their US family and friends watch from afar, across the river, and live-streamed,” said MacEachern. “Some family were in boats. It was very neat. It was really nice to have our trail and our wharf completed for all this. I’m glad it’s getting used for things like that, and maybe more stuff like that will happen. I commend them for being unique and having a one-of-a-kind wedding that they will never forget.”

Clowes only took a day-and-a-half off from her job at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market for her wedding, and was back to work the day after Thanksgiving. She left work early on Thursday, and the couple headed to New Brunswick early Friday morning with their fingers crossed in the hope they would be able to get a marriage license the day before their scheduled wedding.

“I took half of Thursday so I could get my nails done and pick up my flowers,” said Clowes. “On Friday, we got up at 6 and left by 7. In order to be married in New Brunswick, you have to get a New Brunswick marriage license. You have to get the marriage license at Service New Brunswick, and you have to do it in person. So, we got up really early Friday morning so that we could drive in hopes that we could get in.

“We went to the first one that we came to, which was in Sackville. Our plan was, if the lineup was too long in Sackville, we’d drive to the next one and see how the lineup was there. But, there were only six people ahead of us, so we were there for about an hour, got our marriage license, and then we drove the rest of the way to St. Stephen.”

On their way to St. Stephen, the couple picked up Clowes’ sister, who attends school at Rothesay Netherwood School. She had no idea their mother and stepfather had come to Canada to quarantine for two weeks, and that she would get to see them at her sister’s wedding.

Clowes is blown away by how far the news traveled about the wedding. She has been contacted by several news agencies across the country, including CBC’s The National. She never expected it to go this far, and not only does she have a wedding to remember, the rest of Canada will remember it as well.

Instead of taking a traditional honeymoon, the couple again decided to do something different. With travel being so restricted, they decided they would buy themselves a small camper and take short staycations around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They are enjoying doing this so much that they are not planning a honeymoon trip for a future date, but they are looking forward to being able to cross the border and visit with their US family members.

“A couple of months ago we bought a new, tiny camper trailer, like itty bitty,” said Clowes. “We’ve just been traveling around with that. We know we probably can’t travel for a while, so we thought, let’s buy a camper trailer so we can travel close to home. We’ve, over the last couple of months, done quite a few trips with that, and will probably just do our honeymoon that way. Once we can travel, the first place we will likely go is to Calais.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca