Local couple ties the knot, COVID-19 or not

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The new coronavirus outbreak left a local bride and groom with no choice but to cancel just about everything they’d planned including their honeymoon trip on a cruise ship, the bachelor party and the big wedding at a beautiful outdoor venue.

Josh and Monica Riegel decided to put their plans for a large wedding celebration on hold, but arranged to recite their vows in a much smaller ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Alison Heffington photography)

But it couldn't keep the pair from tying the knot in a ceremony they say turned out “perfect.”

"I think it was an amazing, intimate ceremony that emphasized the importance of sticking together and being grateful in a time of so much chaos and uncertainty," the bride, Monica Riegel, said.

Monica, a teacher at Castleman Creek Elementary School who’s originally from Jacksonville, Fla., and her fiancée Josh, an employee of the Temple H-E-B, who’s originally from Tyler, had planned for an entire year to tie the knot on April 4 at Vintage Oaks Ranch in Axtell in front of nearly 200 guests.

Instead the Baylor graduates exchanged vows Friday in an historic home in Waco in front of just two friends with only a few hours’ notice.

"Our wedding had to be postponed, but our marriage didn't, that's my mantra," Monica said.

Everything was proceeding on schedule when the president declared a national emergency on March 13, the same day Monica was posing for bridal portraits and a day after the couple had decided every last detail of the celebration with their wedding planner.

State and local officials then announced wide-ranging restrictions, and the two decided to send out a mass text announcing the cancellation of the April 4 ceremony.

"We said because of everything happening we want to follow the warnings and don't want to put anyone at risk. We told them ‘we'll keep you updated with a new date.’ It was very hard and a really emotional decision," Monica said.

Then on March 16 they came up with a much simpler plan.

With the blessing of their family and friends, the two decided to get married in an historic home in Waco, without any guests.

Their photographer suggested renting the 134-year-old Morrow House, the first home built in Waco’s Sanger Heights neighborhood.

They reached out to the owner and booked it for just four days later.

"I found them on Instagram and thought it be perfect. So I messaged Kim (the owner) and we went and looked at it and once we walked in, it felt perfect. A small, cozy welcoming place to hold a ceremony for us," she said.

Monica wore her dress. Josh his tux.

The groom ordered a bouquet from Baylor Flowers for her, which they were surprised could be prepared in time.

There were no real decorations. No music. No crowd. Just one bridesmaid and one groomsmen who already lived in Waco.

"I was nervous my family and friends would not feel included but everyone said just 'go ahead and do it!" Monica said.

Dr. Randy Wood, who had agreed to marry the couple on April 4, officiated.

Following the ceremony, the couple rented The Morrow House for an extra night of "staycation" as they called it.

While their big day wasn't what they envisioned it was a special day they'll never forget.

"It ended up just being a blessing just to focus on getting married to each other and not focus on who was going or what it was and just the party of it all," the bride said.

The Riegels are hoping to plan another wedding celebration sometime in December for friends and family to enjoy at the venue in Axtell.