Judi Corbishley of Lynn was in a celebratory frame of mind as her 25th wedding anniversary approached on May 25.
Her husband, Chris, had survived a harrowing monthlong hospitalization last year involving sepsis, multiple strokes, and open-heart surgery. Her mother, 87-year-old Alma Barrett, was maintaining good health at the Harriett and Ralph Kaplan Estates in Peabody, an assisted living community operated by Chelsea Jewish Lifecare.
Finally, the social distancing precautions and other restrictions that had become second nature in nearly every segment of society during the COVID-19 pandemic were easing.
Wanting something fun to look forward to, Judi took a turn making her own proposal. What about a vow renewal ceremony? The only catch: It must take place at Kaplan Estates so her mother could attend, or not at all.
“I had to have my mom there,” said Judi, who knew upon getting engaged in 1994 that she wanted to share her parents’ wedding anniversary of May 25 so she could include her mother in their annual celebration. (Judi’s father, Larry, had died five years earlier.)
“This wouldn’t have meant anything without my mom.”
That’s where Marisa Iafrate, Kaplan’s director of marketing, came in. “My goal was to make it happen, regardless of whomever I had to ask or whatever I had to do,” Iafrate said. “We’re just one big happy family here.”
In addition to her natural inclination to assist all families, Iafrate had a special connection to Judi’s. Her mother was the first resident Iafrate helped with moving into Kaplan Estates in October 2019.
In addition, Judi, a certified pharmacy technician at a CVS store in Woburn, had volunteered to administer the COVID-19 vaccine at assisted living residences including Kaplan Estates. On Jan. 12, she entered her mother’s apartment for the first time since the facility locked down in March 2020 to give her the shot.
“Seeing Judi in all that [personal protective] equipment was a shock. I thought she was somebody else,” her mother Alma said. “But everything turned out well.”
While Iafrate worked with senior management to secure approval for the vow renewal ceremony — a first-of-its-kind event at the assisted living facility — the Corbishleys went into planning mode.
They asked their close friend, Craig Branscomb, to perform the ceremony. The bridal party of six bridesmaids and six groomsmen consisted of the couple’s children, 23-year-old Jordan and 21-year-old Noah, and some of the original members of the bridal party who still lived locally.
“We told them, ‘It will be the best Tuesday you’ve ever had!’” Chris enthused.
When the special day arrived, Kaplan Estates’ director of resident life, Ellen Gordon, helped coordinate the final details. Iafrate greeted Alma, who thanked her for “making this time so magical” while getting her hair done.
The bride wore a white sleeveless dress and the groom dressed in gray shorts and a collared shirt. They walked down a makeshift aisle in front of 23 invited guests — plus assisted living residents and staff members — to “I Will (Take You Forever)” by Christopher Cross, their wedding song from 25 years earlier.
Branscomb and the wedding party wore different colored T-shirts adorned with a logo depicting intertwined rings, one labeled “Judi” and the other “Chris” with “25 Years” printed beneath both.
Chris joked that Branscomb had insisted the couple write their own vows this time around in order to “stretch it out.” Judi’s vows filled an entire page, prompting her husband to quip afterward, “I almost pulled up a chair and sat down!”
When his turn came, Chris read his short but sweet vows from an index card saying, in part, “I pledged my heart to you 25 years ago. As I now have a few new pieces in here, I would like to pledge my renewed heart to you again for at least another 25 years.”
“It was beautiful!” exclaimed Alma, who reportedly cried throughout the ceremony. “Even nicer than the first wedding.”
Weeks later, Judi said she was still on a “high” from the experience.
“I can’t thank Kaplan enough for making this happen,” she said. “Just knowing we celebrated Chris still being with us, and everything with COVID finally getting better, meant the world to me.”
Chris, however, acknowledged that feeling may not be universal.
“I’ve got a few friends who are not so happy,” he said, “because their 25th anniversaries are coming up.”
Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.