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ACTS OF KINDNESS (AND LOVE)

When their wedding plans were canceled, a Chicopee couple improvised a very small but very special day

Victoria and Jarrod Pass eloped in the Berkshires after having to cancel their 60-guest wedding in Las Vegas.
Victoria and Jarrod Pass eloped in the Berkshires after having to cancel their 60-guest wedding in Las Vegas.Dani Klein-Williams

Their wedding was supposed to be a celebration in Las Vegas for 60 of their closest family and friends. But with the spread of coronavirus bringing the wedding industry to standstill, the kindness of strangers helped Jerrod and Victoria Pass have an intimate ceremony in the Berkshires, with friends and family watching via live stream.

The couple, both 25, had been planning their Vegas wedding since Christmas 2018. But when Victoria woke up March 14, she discovered that guests and wedding party members, many of whom serve in the military with Jerrod, were restricted from domestic air travel.

“That meant we couldn’t fly to Las Vegas, and our wedding was canceled,” said Victoria, a Chicopee-based therapist.

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They considered postponing but ultimately decided not to wait.

“I was like, if you still want to get married, I definitely want to get married," said Victoria. “We gotta figure this out.”

The couple decided they’d wed at Chicopee City Hall. But with none of their family and friends in the area, Victoria wanted to have a photographer capture the moment. They started making phone calls, and stumbled upon Dani Klein-Williams, a Northampton-based photographer.

“They said they were just planning a very quick, no-frills elopement at Chicopee City Hall,” said Klein-Williams. “I was like, ‘Okay, can you give me two hours? I’m gonna put something even more spectacular together for you’.”

Klein-Williams called Blantyre, the Tudor-style Relais & Châteaux property in Lenox, Mass.

“I said, ‘if I promised to be there for an hour and I don’t need anything else, can I use your venue to do an elopement?’” she recalled. “You just have to have someone there to unlock the door and lock up afterward.”

Within two hours, she got approval from Blantyre, which was already shut down for their annual winter closure. General Manager Steve Benson jumped at the chance.

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“This is an opportunity that we embraced without thinking about it,” said Benson. “It was an extension of our hearts to do something wonderful for a young couple that had fallen victim to the challenges of the current times.”

Next, Klein-Williams called her favorite wedding planner, Tara Consolati, who also happens to be ordained. Though she had never performed a ceremony before, she was on board to officiate. Carolyn Valenti, a Berkshires-based florist, offered up a blend of snapdragons, hyacinth, and other blooms. “She said, ‘I have all these gorgeous flowers and they’re just going to rot and die,’” said Klein-Williams.

By the end of the conversation, she discovered that Valenti had a house guest who could bake. Without her baking equipment on hand, however, they dumped the contents of an oversize can of tomatoes, sterilized the can, and used that as a frame for a small wedding cake, topped with berries and flowers.

"By the time I called the bride back, we had a cake, flowers, a venue, an officiant, and a photographer,” said Klein-Williams. “I said 'the only thing left is I would love to find a way for your family and friends to witness this’.” So she reached out to Mike Murray of Summer Wind Wedding Films, who volunteered to live stream the event, so Victoria and Jerrod’s family and friends could follow along.

On Friday evening, March 20, Victoria and Jerrod were wed in Blantyre’s Moire Room, an intimate, sun-drenched space with a roaring fire in the background. After the ceremony, they stepped through the French doors for a portrait session -- and had the property to themselves. In a nod to the reason their original wedding plans came to halt, they snapped a few photos wearing a pair of protective masks that the crew brought.

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“They were feeling like, in 30 years from now, that’s a really interesting part of their story,” said Klein-Williams.

Victoria and Jerrod said that in the midst of this period of upheaval, they just wanted to be together.

“Even before the outbreak, the essential part is he and I get married. The other stuff is wonderful and nice to have, but bare essentials are really all that matters — that we love each other,” said Victoria. “Everything else is a privilege."

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated the name of photographer Dani Klein-Williams.