KENILWORTH, NJ - The coronavirus pandemic did not stop Francesco Rizzo and James Duffy, two healthcare workers from Kenilworth getting married. The couple recently tied the knot in their backyard with help from family and friends, adjusting to new the new COVID-19 restrictions.
Rizzo and Duffy got engaged at Disney World on January 2, 2019, and had been meticulously planning their wedding for over 500 days before they had to postpone. The venue, photographer, videographer, DJ, and all the necessary vendors were booked. The two were supposed to have their wedding at Oyster Point in Red Bank, New Jersey. Rizzo stated, “we loved its location right on the water and the modern elegance the venue had to offer.” They already picked out their tuxes and had them fitted, along with their moms and wedding party choosing their outfits. Rizzo explained in further detail “We bought and crafted so many personal touches that we were so excited about to display on our wedding day. Everything was ready for us to get wed from the napkins to the smoke machine for our first dance. We had imagined, researched, ordered, and planned every last detail and procured so many items for the wedding that we now refer to the room in our house where everything is kept as our "wedding room." We even created our wedding hash tag #FramesDropstheAnchor. Our couple's name is Frames = Francesco and James.”
Frames had sent out the save the dates, invites, and received over 100 plus RSVP’s. Rizzo said, “The RSVP's from our family and friends all came back during the pandemic. Every single response was a yes Anchors Away! Knowing that each and every one of our loved ones said they were willing to come and celebrate our love during this public health crisis made us feel so happy to have them in our lives. It also showed us how special our love was and that people were going to come despite the world situation.”
Rizzo and Duffy both articulated that “Making the decision to postpone was one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make. Putting the safety of our loved ones first became our number one priority. Once stay at home orders were lifted and outdoor gatherings were permitted, we decided to get married in our backyard. At first, we thought it would be so easy and stress-free to plan our intimate backyard ceremony. When in fact, it took a lot of preparation and planning to make the day special for us.”
The couple started getting things ready for the backyard wedding set for June 13, 2020. Duffy went on to explain in more detail, “We ordered last-minute necessities and things to make the day perfect for us. We had our grass cut and lawn prepared by T Grasso and Sons. We lined the yard with markers for people to stand so that they were socially distant. Upon arrival, we took temperatures of the guests, and had Purell and alcohol wipes to make people feel comfortable and safe.”
The backyard was lined with lanterns and had a boat alter to incorporate their nautical aesthetic. There were personalized votive candles, a welcome sign, a wedding banner with the couple’s pictures on it, and even a wacky-inflatable tube man waving its 60-foot arms on the front lawn. “Our decorations were such an eye-catcher that cars driving along the Boulevard had to pull over to see what the hubbub was all about” Duffy beamed. “We had balloons from Dream Balloon Factory and flowers from Cindy Southern from Especially Yours Florists. Cindy is not only an amazing florist but such a great friend to us that we asked her to officiate our wedding.” Southern praised what the couple was able to accomplish in the middle of a pandemic. In spite of the difficult times, we are in, they were able to do a beautiful ceremony. It was really special and I look forward to next year’s celebration of their marriage where everyone can attend.”
The morning of the ceremony was filled with nerves and excitement and many tasks to finish. Rizzo and Duffy decorated the yard, set up the health screening table, ordered sandwiches from Mike's Place for the guests and as Rizzo smiles, “got ready to become husbands.” He continued on, “We walked down our custom created, lantern-lined aisle, said our "I Do's" in a minimalist ceremony where we expressed our love and exchanged our rings. We actually made our own paper rings (origami) for the ceremony. Our family and friends cheered our nuptials from a safe distance, and we started our lives together as husband and husband. We finished our day with a special dinner for just the two of us from Le Rendez Vous.”
Rizzo works as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He has gone into work every day during the pandemic. As a therapist, he was providing therapy to clients who relied on him to help them get through their struggles and problems. With the pandemic, meeting with his clients became even more of a necessity because times became more stressful and his clients were more concerned and more in need of Francesco’s help. He was born and raised in Roselle Park, and went to Roselle Park High School, Kean University for his undergraduate degree, and Seton Hall University for his Master’s degree. James was born and raised in Bayonne, and went to Rutgers University for pharmacy school. As Rizzo says “We both swiped right and matched on Tinder in 2016. We went on our first date to the Jersey Shore where we fell in love with the beach, ocean, summer, and each other. We had many dates walking dogs in Roselle Park, date nights in Westfield, and weekend walks at Nomahegan.”
Duffy is a pharmacist and works at a retail pharmacy in a hospital. During the pandemic, his store did not close a single day and did not change any hours. He said “At the pharmacy, I would get calls hourly from patients asking for thermometers and Purell and other COVID essentials and it was sad to have to tell patients that the things they were looking for were on backorder with no idea when things would become available. At the hospital, I saw firsthand how dark and scary the virus could become by working and providing medication to the affected patients. At one point, I was working three weeks straight with not one single day off and life became frightening and a little overwhelming. Being in the thick of things, seeing ventilators, witnessing the panic buying and shortages, I would sometimes be afraid to go into work.
Concluding the entire wedding Rizzo stated “Being in our home had some unexpected joys that made our day even more special. We were able to spend the day together. Close to the fridge for when we were thirsty and our bathrooms when we needed a touch-up or to wipe our tears. We have a vase in our home that says Home is Where the Anchor Drops, so it was heartwarming to sign our marriage license in our home and truly drop our anchor together and start our married life in the home we bought together and have so many great memories here.”