After trying on about 20 dresses, Marblehead native Lauren Cohen, 26, found two that were perfect for her Memorial Day weekend wedding: one for the ceremony and one for the beachfront reception. On the big day, after taking pictures at the Chandler Hovey Park lighthouse in Marblehead with her new husband, Sam Andler, 30, from Swampscott, a drone followed them overhead, taking videos as they drove down the causeway in a convertible decorated with a veil, cans trailing behind them.
However, the only guests at their May 24 nuptials were both their parents in person and Cohen’s grandmother on Zoom. The pandemic had prevented their meticulously planned wedding from happening.
They got married on Andler’s parents’ veranda in Swampscott by their wedding planner, who received a one-day officiating license so she could legally conduct the ceremony. They recited personal vows filled with inside jokes that they wouldn’t have said in front of their planned 250 guests.
Their first dance, to “Tuesdays” by Jake Scott, happened right there on the porch. For their first meal as a wedded couple, they ordered vegan takeout from Mission on the Bay in Swampscott. The couple lit sparklers on Preston Beach, posed for wedding photos, and was surprised by a dozen family members and friends greeting them – some from as far as North Carolina – standing far apart in masks.
Although this wasn’t the elaborate wedding they had originally planned, they cherished it, nonetheless. “A big wedding is for your guests. This was totally, entirely, for us,” said Cohen.
Cohen and Andler like to tell people they met at a mutual friend’s wedding they both attended in 2015, when their mothers attempted to set them up that night. In reality, they never met at that wedding, but Andler took note of her and sent her a message on Facebook the following day to ask her out.
“Our lives have kind of overlapped for a while and it just took the right timing and the right sequence of events for us to finally get together,” said Cohen, who used to work as a lifeguard at the local JCC. So did Andler, but somehow they never met at the time. They have been together ever since that first date. Back in 2018, to mark the 1,000 day of their relationship, Andler proposed to Cohen.
Andler, who works at his family-owned packaging sales company in Everett, was supportive of Cohen through her academic career at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Last month, she served as the valedictorian of her graduating class.
Cohen and Andler began planning their dream wedding soon after their engagement. The timing would be perfect: they could keep Shabbat by having the celebration on a Sunday night, it was a week after Cohen’s dental school graduation, and it would give them a month off for their honeymoon to Italy and Greece before Cohen’s residency program began, also at Tufts.
“I’m sure every bride and groom feel as though they put a lot of planning into their wedding,” Andler said of their black-tie affair. “But we felt like we had planned every single detail.”
Those details included a rehearsal dinner at Finz in Salem, followed by their wedding at the Peabody Essex Museum with Rabbi Yossi Lipsker from the Chabad in Swampscott officiating and string musicians in the courtyard. Cohen even got a custom denim jacket adorned with “Mrs. Andler” and the wedding date, 5/24/20, on the back collar.
The first sign of trouble happened in late February when Andler realized they’d have to change their honeymoon plans because at the time, Italy was at the epicenter of the pandemic. “Before I canceled it, I booked refundable flights for a backup honeymoon,” he said, a trip planned for the Virgin Islands. “You don’t tell your bride that you’re canceling her honeymoon without some sort of plan in place.”
The couple was still feeling confident until mid-March, when older family members started pulling out of Cohen’s bridal shower, planned for March 22 at Davio’s downtown. A few days before the state’s restaurant closure was announced, they decided to cancel the shower.
“I just felt like I was losing everything,” she said. “In the grand scheme of things, we have our health, we have each other. And that’s what everyone would say, ‘Oh, you still have each other,’ and I’d be like, ‘Well, I would also still have Sam if I got a shower.’”
The cancellation of the shower also meant Cohen’s bachelorette party would have to be canceled. This is when they started seriously questioning whether their wedding could go on as scheduled two months later.
Andler was the first to conclude postponement of a grand affair was inevitable. “I had made up my mind that it wasn’t going to happen. “It’s scary to have to have those conversations with someone who’s been so emotionally attached for … 18 months to an event, and a date, and a venue and a list,” he said of Cohen.
They pushed the date for the dream wedding they’d planned, first to New Year’s Eve, then to Sept. 5, 2021, out of an abundance of caution. Fortunately, every vendor was available for their future date. “We’re hoping to be excited about it, but we’ve learned to take it day by day,” Cohen said.
However, they still wanted to get married, and Cohen wanted to start her career this summer as Dr. Andler, so they decided to honor their original date with a small ceremony. The day after their wedding, Andler said “we’re married in the state of Massachusetts but we are not yet married in the eyes of God. And that will allow the next ceremony to still feel special.” Cohen added, “I didn’t want this just to be a party that people came to,” speaking about their September 2021 date.
“We’re lucky enough that we get two weddings: we had an intimate, perfect wedding that people don’t normally get to have. And we’re going to have our big perfect wedding that we’ve been dreaming about,” said Cohen. “Now we get more time to iron out the little details. And we’re so excited.”