There were no ivory table cloths. No dusty rose napkins. No gold table numbers.

But Halley Taylor had a veil, a floral beaded headband and a white, floor-length gown with layers of lace and sequins.

Taylor married her fiancé, Jacob Frank, in a tiny ceremony in a private backyard on the Palos Verdes Peninsula early Saturday evening, March 28, under wisps of clouds dotting the springtime sky, the Pacific Ocean lapping in the distance.

Halley Taylor and Jacob Frank got married in a small ceremony in a private backyard on the Palos Verdes Peninsula Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Courtesy Liz Erban Photography)

It wasn’t the day the couple spent the prior two years planning; in the days and weeks leading up to their chosen wedding date, the novel coronavirus expanded its reach to farther corners of the country and world, leading governments to shut down events big and small to stem its spread.

Their wedding, originally slated to include 98 people at the Long Beach Museum of Art, shrank to about 80, then 50, until, finally, it was seven people — along with the couple’s 4-year-old Australian shepherd/boxer mix — in a secluded spot along seaside cliffs.

It was not the day they imagined. But it was, as they will always remember, the day they chose to forever entwine their lives, the day two became one.

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Taylor, 28, and Frank, 27, met when they were both in elementary school in Sebring, Ohio, a village midway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh with a population of a little more than 4,000 people.

They attended different schools, but their district gathered its gifted elementary students — including Taylor and Frank — into the same space for a weekly class.

Taylor, a fourth grader at the time, was a good student who loved her teacher and had grown her hair so long it nearly hit the back of her knees.

Frank, in third grade, wore spiked hair with frosted tips — “it was really cool, back in the ’90s,” Taylor recently recalled — and a puka shell necklace.

“He was very California for an Ohio kid,” Taylor said. “He was just too cool.”

They were both smitten.

“I remember going to my third grade friends, being like, ‘Oh, I have this girlfriend, but she goes to a different school, like, you guys don’t know her,’” Frank said, “and they’re like, ‘Shut up, no you don’t.’”

They had no way of knowing then what those crushes would become — a devotion that would take them across the country, two decades on, to a quiet bluff on a bright, vernal day.

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In another universe, where a virus hadn’t spread across the globe, where medical masks and toilet paper are in heavy supply, where it is not illegal to gather in public spaces, Saturday looked very different for the Midwestern couple.

Two weeks ago, even, in this universe, another plan would have unfolded.

The couple — who now lives in an apartment in Long Beach’s East Village neighborhood with their dog, Kismet — was determined to be wed in their new hometown.

Halley Taylor and Jacob Frank were married in a small ceremony in a private backyard on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Courtesy Liz Erban Photography)

“They all wanted us to get married in Ohio,” Taylor said of the pair’s family and friends back east, “but we were like, ‘No way, we’re going to get married in California, and you guys are going to come to us.’”

They secured the Long Beach Museum of Art, which offers a spacious lawn for outdoor ceremonies and receptions overlooking the East San Pedro Bay, at a discounted rate because their date fell just before peak wedding season would begin.

“We were just really excited to have it outside,” Taylor said, “and to have all of our family come and see us.”

Invitations were sent to 120 people, and seating was arranged for the 98 who said they would come. The open-air venue would be complemented with rustic touches, like chalkboard signs and small blush and green bud vases.

“It was going to be a bohemian, kind of eclectic, sort of style,” Taylor said. “I had so many ideas and was just really excited about getting to see it all together.

“And now,” she said last week, “that’s never going to happen.”

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The first case of the novel coronavirus in the United States was reported Jan. 21 in Washington, according to the state’s Department of Health.

Two days later, the Chinese government ordered a lockdown of Hubei, the province home to Wuhan — the epicenter of what the World Health Organization would later declare a global pandemic.

Frank, who’s in the midst of his hospital residency, was keeping a closer eye on the outbreak than most.

But early on, he didn’t think it would impact their plans.

“We were aware of it, but not taking it too seriously,” he said, “and then the cases just kept developing.”

Cases were confirmed in Illinois. California. New York. New Hampshire.

By March 7, three weeks before Taylor and Frank’s wedding day, more than two dozen states had reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Then, March 9, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced three residents had contracted the virus, the state’s first confirmed cases. DeWine declared a state of emergency in Ohio the same day.

“It started shifting from, ‘Everyone’s going to come,’” Frank said, “to, ‘Those with health conditions or who are older may not be able to.’”

Three days later, Taylor got a call from her sister-in-law to let the couple know she and Taylor’s niece — who was supposed to be the flower girl — couldn’t come.

“Her work basically said they would fire her if she came,” Taylor recalled. “For me, that was like, ‘Oh my gosh, is it even worth doing it anymore?’”

Seeds of doubt about whether the day could continue were planted, but Taylor and Frank decided not to cancel the wedding. Not yet.

A cascade of government orders and recommendations, becoming ever stricter, followed over the next week; their guest list winnowed.

Taylor and Frank waited to hear from the venue on whether a cancellation would be necessary.

Finally, last Thursday, March 19, Long Beach issued an order prohibiting all events of more than 10 people.

A museum representative reached out to let the couple know their wedding would be canceled.

Jacob Frank and Halley Taylor planned their wedding for March 28, 2020 at the Long Beach Museum of Art but had to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic in Long Beach on Monday, March 23, 2020. The couple still plans to wed but the celebration with family and friends will have to wait. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

“We had already come to terms with it,” Taylor said.

“Every day, we were just kind of grasping at straws,” she said. “Like, ‘Can we still make this happen? Can we still accommodate the few people who wanted to come?’”

Each time they solidified a new plan, they would have to start again.

“It just kept falling apart,” Taylor said.

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After circling each other for their whole lives, Taylor and Frank dated briefly in high school before heading to Ohio State University. They reunited in the fall of 2013 and have been together ever since.

The pair landed in Long Beach in 2018, after Frank was matched with a residency program here.

The day the couple found out they would be moving to the West Coast, almost exactly two years ago, is another that is indelibly etched into their memories.

That evening, at a dinner surrounded by family and friends — ostensibly to celebrate Frank’s news — he got down on one knee.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity,” he told Taylor, “to ask you to spend the rest of your life with me.”

Two years and a cross-country move later, it was clear their wedding day would not be the one they planned. But Taylor and Frank were resolved to move ahead with it anyway.

The photographer they hired for the initial bash, Liz Erban, is ordained to officiate weddings; she offered to marry the couple in an elopement-style ceremony on the date they had already booked, if they wanted to move forward with it.

Taylor and Frank agreed.

“We feel like we’re breaking the law, getting married illegally,” Taylor said. “But I’m so determined to make the most of it.”

So they did.

As the sun shone down on them Saturday evening, they pledged themselves to each other, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer — in sickness and in health.

While the coronavirus raged on, continuing to overshadow daily life across the world, Taylor and Frank added their own bit of light.

“I’m glad we did it,” Taylor said. “I think it was a nice moment. It will be a happy memory.”

The couple plans to have a larger celebration, filled with family and friends, likely next summer, back in Ohio.

It wasn’t the day they envisioned, but they are still grateful for it — and for their many other fortunes.

“At the end of the day, I still have a job,” Frank said. “Halley still has a job. Compared to everyone else, and all of the thousands of people who lost their jobs, it’s not that bad.”

If anything, the couple agreed, the turn of events helped them remember what’s really important.

“Everyone worries about every little detail of their wedding,” Frank said. “I remember, less than a couple of weeks ago, we were bickering about whether the shades of gray my groomsmen were wearing would match.”

While friends and family have reached out to share their sympathy, Taylor said some of those feelings are misplaced.

“We have friends and family who are like, ‘I can’t believe it. It’s so sad,’” she said, “and I’m like, ‘You just lost your job! That’s so much worse than having to cancel our wedding.’ So many people are suffering so much worse.”

Halley Taylor and Jacob Frank got married in a small ceremony in a private backyard on the Palos Verdes Peninsula Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Courtesy Liz Erban Photography)

So, the couple, now husband and wife, are finding silver linings.

“It almost just helps you put it in perspective and focus your energy elsewhere, other than on the wedding,” Taylor said. “You’ve got to look on the bright side of what to be grateful for.”

Although the guest list dwindled into nearly nothing, the couple’s list of blessings has only grown. And they have now cemented what they have known for so long — that each other’s placement at the top of that list will now, and forever, endure.



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