Love not cancelled for Jewish #coronabride

By Stephanie Goodling
HAKOL Editor
Beth Zaleon and Cory Hiken met as teenagers at a small Jewish day school outside Baltimore. After surviving years of long distance, they’re still together, and planned to wed on May 24. Then, the coronavirus hit.

“We had planned to do May 24, then we postponed to Aug. 9. When we realized that probably wasn’t going to happen, we switched back to a small legal ceremony on May 24,” said Zaleon, who is the development coordinator for the Jewish Community Center of the Lehigh Valley.

They had to be extremely flexible, switching plans twice, with the date of a second, larger celebration still unknown. Hopefully, they’ll be able to gather with at least a few dozen guests this fall. And while they will be able to join with a small number of family members for a champagne toast and some cake afterward, it will be just the bride and groom and their rabbi standing outside the synagogue to exchange vows at their first wedding.

“Our rabbi was our teacher in high school and is a close friend and a mentor, so it means a lot to us that he’s willing to meet the two of us with a facemask outside,” said Zaleon.

The couple still had to work out exactly which elements would go into their first ceremony, because they want to save the more meaningful parts for their future “Jewish” wedding that will take place later, when their carefully chosen witnesses can be present to sign the ketubah.

“For us, we’re really excited about the [Jewish] ceremony. We already got a chuppah and kippot, and my mom already sewed the pouch for breaking the glass,” explained Zaleon. “It’s a hard decision to separate the two [ceremonies]. It was because the Jewish ceremony meant so much to us that we decided to do it. And we wanted to keep the integrity of our original date we’ve been planning for two years.”

After years of preparing for their dream wedding, it hasn’t been easy to give that up. But, ultimately, the couple is trying to find the silver linings to this situation.

“It really put things into perspective. Before the pandemic, my biggest thing was, ‘Is it gonna rain?!’ But now it’s, ‘is everyone going to be healthy enough to be together?’ I know there’s a lot of other people who have family members who are sick or who have passed and can’t be there at all. We’re happy a few people can,” said Zaleon.

She credits her soon-to-be-husband for helping her to try to stay positive during this ordeal.

“Who gets two weddings?” emphasized Zaleon, who is going to wear a simple dress for her first wedding and save her originally purchased gown to still have “first looks” with both her husband and father on her second wedding day.

Zaleon knows she’s not the only #coronabride out there. Many milestones including weddings, graduations and bar/bat mitzvahs have had to be altered due to the coronavirus. She advises others like her who have to forego the typical celebrations planned to “keep your head up and make the most of things.”

“My mantra has always been that things happen for a reason, and I think it’s really difficult to find that in these times. I’m very much a planner, and this whole experience has really taught me that plans are meant to be broken. I’m really looking forward to making some new traditions. It’s not what we originally imagined, but it will be just as beautiful,” said Zaleon.