While droves of engaged couples have had to cancel or postpone their weddings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, newlyweds Grace Guo and Daniel Smalheiser exchanged marital vows in a small, socially distanced ceremony in Oak Park, May 18.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Smalheiser. “It’s a very unorthodox, very unique situation and we’re going to make the best of it.”
He and Guo wed outside of his parents’ home on Carpenter Avenue. Oak Parker and Cook County Circuit Court Judge Pamela Meyerson officiated. Guo wore a wedding gown and Smalheiser a sport coat.
“She found a wedding dress, like, yesterday,” said Smalheiser.
The newlyweds accessorized with protective masks. The 10 or so guests who attended the small affair also wore masks.
Guo, a Chinese citizen, came to the United States on a student visa a few years ago. She received her master’s degree in business from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Both avid bicyclists, Smalheiser and Guo met two years ago through the Oak Park Cycle Club.
“We chatted a lot, found out we had a lot of things in common and gradually fell in love,” said Guo.
Smalheiser proposed on Christmas Day 2019, before COVID-19 had reached its status as a global pandemic.
Guo went back to China in January to see family and friends, whom she hadn’t been able to visit for over two years. Shortly after her arrival, China was placed under lockdown due to the virus.
“When I went there, the second or third day, the whole of China was locked down,” Guo said. “All the flights from China to America were canceled.”
Guo ended up stuck in China for a month longer than she had planned. Finally, she was able to get a flight to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
“I stayed in Dubai for almost 17 days to quarantine myself,” Guo said.
She returned to the United States from Dubai on March 13, the same day that President Trump’s widened travel ban went into effect.
The couple plans to have a traditional ceremony in China eventually, as well as one in the United States.
“We hope to have one down the road, but that could be quite a while from now, even years,” said Smalheiser.
Once the pandemic subsides, Guo and Smalheiser also hope to move into a house and spend more time outdoors, which they both love.
Guo and Smalheiser have been sheltering in place together in their one-bedroom apartment without any problem.
“We’re still very comfortable with each other,” Guo said.
And they are still very much in love.
“It’s a big adventure,” It’s a new chapter in our life.