COVID-19 is canceling weddings across the world. This couple refused to be stopped.

Megan Nicholson and Rob Croes had it all planned out: A gorgeous fireside ceremony and reception at WatersEdge Event + Conference Center on March 20. More than 100 family members and friends traveling from around the country to celebrate. A luxurious honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean.

Then, the week before their big day, Ohio’s first cases of the novel coronavirus, the global pandemic that causes COVID-19, were reported in Cuyahoga County.

“It all happened pretty fast,” Nicholson says. “I would say about January, we started to get concerned about whether or not we could go [on our honeymoon]. … That got canceled first.”

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Initially, she and Croes hoped the changes would end there and their ceremony would continue as planned. But within days of Ohio’s first reports of the coronavirus, BTTS Holdings—the company that owns WatersEdge and two other local event venues—decided to postpone all of its events until at least April 13.

“We had people coming in from all different states; some needed to fly in, there were some that were on restrictions out in California and Pennsylvania,” Nicholson says. “We didn’t want to have people choose between their health and seeing us get married. … We had decided to postpone it before the venue made the ultimate decision to postpone weddings for the next several weeks.”

Their new date? Not until January 2021.

Faced with the prospect of waiting nearly a year to make official their commitment as life partners, Nicholson and Croes made a difficult choice.

“We were still certain that we wanted to get married, and we didn’t want to … wait such a long time for it,” Nicholson says. “We already had our marriage license. We kind of joked that Rob’s suit is already stitched with our wedding date in it.” Their solution: an elopement in Hocking Hills. After all, it was there that, while celebrating their third anniversary of dating last January, Croes asked Nicholson to marry him in the first place.

So, last Friday, the pair ventured to Ash Cave. Two friends, John O’Donnell and Augist Ulrey, served as a miniature wedding party and helped Nicholson navigate the trails of Hocking Hills State Park, which had been muddied by torrential rains the night before, in her wedding gown.

“We gave up on the dress about 10 minutes in,” Croes says. “The trail getting there was completely flooded over. It was a lot of mud.”

Despite the challenges, he and Nicholson were wed beside the vernal Ash Cave Falls. Windi Noble of Run to an Elopement officiated—from a respectable distance of 6 feet, of course.

“They did ask me to say in their [original] ceremony that not even the coronavirus could stop them from getting married,” Noble says. “With that brief mention, it did get kind of a giggle out of everyone”—the elopement was witnessed not only by O’Donnell and Ulrey, but also by a smattering of strangers who were visiting the park that day—“and any time we can use a little bit of humor [during rough times], it’s a good thing.”

Instead of an elaborate dinner and fanciful cake, the newlyweds dined on curbside pickup from Texas Roadhouse and cheesecake from Kroger; rather than a honeymoon cruise, Nicholson spent the weekend after her wedding gently scrubbing mud stains from the hem of her gown—which she plans to re-wear at the January celebration—in her bathtub.

“I think knowing that we have that option to have that redo of our ceremony for everybody to witness and have the big celebration [next year] … gives us a little more peace of mind,” she says.

The Details:

Wedding date: March 20, 2020

Location: Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park

Photography and videography: Renee Freeman Photography

Officiant: Run to an Elopement

Bride: David’s Bridal gown, rain boots, DIY manicure, hair and makeup by Always Elegant LLC

Groom: Men’s Wearhouse custom suit

Flowers: Kroger

Rings: Hilliard-Rome Jewelry Repair and Diamonds Forever