It wasn’t the wedding they were anticipating, but it was certainly one they will remember.
For more than a year, Newark residents Zach Collings and Lindsey Killmeyer were planning to wed in front of family and friends at a brewery in Morgantown, W. Va., where they both went to college.
After the coronavirus pandemic hit and forced the cancelation of large gatherings, they thought about delaying the wedding. However, after 10 years together, the college sweethearts were ready to get married and wanted to keep their original wedding date of April 17, so they formed a new plan that abided by social distancing guidelines.
“There’s no point in making a fuss about it. You just have to pull the positives out of it,” Collings said. “We figured we’d stick it to the coronavirus and still go through with the marriage.”
On Friday morning, Collings and Killmeyer – each wearing a homemade facemask – took their vows during a brief ceremony that was held outside in Olan Thomas Park and was officiated by Mayor Jerry Clifton.
Five of Collings’ family members who live nearby attended the ceremony, and Killmeyer’s family watched via Facetime. After the ceremony, several of their friends and colleagues paraded by in their vehicles – led by a Newark Police officer – honking their horns and cheering. Other family members surprised the couple by emailing them a video compilation of congratulatory messages.
“It worked out perfectly, just the way it should have,” Collings said.
A long engagement
The couple met in April 2010 while they were both freshmen at the University of West Virginia. Pittsburgh native Killmeyer was majoring in fashion merchandising. Collings, a native of South Jersey, was studying communication and business.
“I saw her at a party. I thought she was attractive, and I started talking to her,” Collings said. “We had little dates here and there, and it just kind of evolved into what it is now.”
In 2013, they moved to Newark because they both got jobs in the area. Killmeyer is an assistant manager at the University of Delaware bookstore, and Collings is an account manager for the office supply company W.B. Mason.
In December 2016, he popped the question during a low-key proposal over dinner in their apartment.
“I always told him, he better not do it out in front of anybody. I don’t want a big scene,” Killmeyer said. “I came home from work one night and he had the apartment decorated, and that was it.”
The diamond in the engagement ring came from a ring that belonged to Collings’ grandmother. Collings’ grandfather mailed the ring to his future bride while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
Collings and Killmeyer settled in for a long engagement because between the two of them, they had three siblings also planning weddings.
“We knew it would be a while because we’re the babies of the family so we had to let everyone else have their turn,” Killmeyer said.
A last-minute scramble for a marriage license
They started planning their wedding about a year ago and were looking forward to returning to their college town and celebrating with approximately 60 people. They planned a non-traditional ceremony that would have started with a cocktail hour, Killmeyer said.
However, as the coronavirus outbreak began, and with guests preparing to fly in from around the country, they knew they had to start thinking about contingency plans.
The wedding venue was slow to cancel because West Virginia was the last state to report a coronavirus case, but eventually, the venue told them to pare back the guest list to fewer than 50, then postponed the event altogether.
“We were upset about it obviously, but we totally understood,” Killmeyer said.
They started looking for someone who could officiate a wedding here in Newark, and learned through online research that in Delaware, mayors are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.
On a whim, they emailed Clifton, who they were familiar with but had never met or spoken to. Clifton responded enthusiastically but told them they needed to hurry to the clerk of the peace’s office in Wilmington to get their marriage license because the office was about to shut down due to the coronavirus.
They got their license on St. Patrick’s Day, and were one of the last couples to get one before the office closed.
Clifton suggested they do the ceremony outside in a park, and the couple settled on Olan Thomas Park off Cleveland Avenue because they remembered liking it when they attended the city’s Parks on Draft pop-up beer garden there in August.
“It’s so cute. It has the big pine trees and the brick walkway,” Killmeyer said. “We drove by and there’s a really pretty pink tree right now, so we said, ‘Let’s just do it right here.’”
‘It’s been an emotional month’
The marriage license was valid for 30 days and was set to expire at 10:30 a.m. April 17. Wanting to keep with their original date, Collings and Killmeyer scheduled a 9 a.m. ceremony and hoped for good weather.
The morning was a cool 43 degrees, but the rising sun warmed the park and illuminated the pink flowering tree that had caught Killmeyer’s attention.
Leah and Richard Silvesti, Collings’ sister and brother-in-law, brought a bouquet and boutonniere for the bride and groom. The Silvesti’s infant daughter, Lola, and Collings’ parents, Pam and Chuck Newsom, rounded out the small audience.
Collings and Killmeyer dressed casual, opting to save their formal wedding attire for when they hold another ceremony in front of the rest of their family and friends. They’re hoping to be able to go through with the originally planned wedding at the Morgantown brewery, which they rescheduled for Oct. 30.
In a way, getting to have two ceremonies is a blessing in disguise, Killmeyer said.
“I’m going to be so much more stress-free now at the wedding and the reception, because the marriage part will be done with,” she said.
Killmeyer added that the last four weeks have been a whirlwind for the couple.
“It’s been an emotional month. We found out everything was canceled, but then we found out Jerry could do something for us to kind of make up for it,” she said. “But then it’s also hard because we knew some of our loved ones wouldn’t be there, but we’ll get through it.”
Clifton said that, to his knowledge, this was the first time a Newark mayor has exercised his or her authority to officiate a wedding.
“Talk about a way to end my first year as mayor,” said Clifton, who was sworn in a year ago Saturday. “It’s a real honor to do this for such a great couple. It’s an exhilarating moment to know you helped someone get started on their new life.”