It was supposed to be impeccable: over a hundred wedding guests, half of whom were coming out of town, descending on the rustic gardens of Villa Woodbine in Coconut Grove, dance under the sparkly lights on the evening of April 4, the chosen wedding day of Jamie Webner and Ben Katz. They had a special playlist, flowers — all of it.
But as the coronavirus pandemic quickly worsened, the Miami couple realized about three weeks ago that they would have to cancel the wedding they had been planning for months.
“We spent that weekend sort of mourning that loss and grieving over it,” said Webner, 36. “But within the past week we kind of just decided we wanted to take back our wedding day.”
So they planned a Zoom webinar wedding on the balcony of their Brickell apartment, with 150 virtual attendees.
Webner’s sister got ordained online so she could officiate the ceremony. They used two cameras — one on Webner’s sister, and one on the couple — to stream the ceremony. They introduced themselves to their next door neighbors for the first time and asked them to be the witnesses from their own balcony about 15 feet away. Webner arranged to have a bouquet. Some of their guests dressed up for the occasion.
It was a “Wedinar,” if you will, as Katz called it.
“We sent what would have been our playlist for our reception, and so people sent video of their kids dressed up and dancing the songs,” said Katz, 35. “We had our reception; it was just in a hundred different homes.”
The wedding was caught on camera from the balconies of neighbors and those videos have since been shared and viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Miami Instagram accounts. Some neighbors popped bottles of champagne and clapped for the newlyweds.
In one of the videos captured, a shirtless man can be seen exercising in the balcony directly below the wedding, seemingly unaware of what was taking place above him.
“It’s just going to be another thing when everybody looks back on 2020, 10, 20 years from now and remembers Zoom meetings and graduation ceremonies,” Katz said. “It’s definitely not what we planned or how we wanted it to be but it was nice to have something happy to do on a Saturday.”
Some of their guests attended the virtual wedding from Greece, California, Chicago, and right here in South Florida.
“Our hearts are overflowing with the amount of love and support from our families and our guests and also from our neighbors across the way that watched it from their balconies,” Webner said.
The story of the balcony wedding couple, both of whom are attorneys, is as surreal as their ceremony. They met in 2002 in their freshman year at Tulane University in New Orleans. They reconnected in 2018 after 16 years of keeping a platonic friendship and held a long distance relationship from San Diego to Miami.
Last June, Katz moved to Miami and they got engaged in August.
While they’re hoping to have an in-person ceremony at some point in the future, having the ceremony on the day they had planned it felt like a slice or normalcy during so much uncertainty, Webner said.
In fact, though it wasn’t their first choice, the couple ended up in the same venue they used for their engagement photos, a place that Webner said is special to the two of them: inside their home.
by Bianca Padrò Ocasio miamiherald.com