SWAMPSCOTT – Last Sunday, with the sound of the shofar being blown at the start of their small outdoor home wedding ceremony, Barrie Atkin and Helen Tieger exchanged vows and were married as more than 100 guests on Zoom looked on.
The wedding included a reading on Zoom from a long-time married gay couple from Florida who quoted a passage from the majority opinion of retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on marriage equality.
The seven blessings, which were tailored for the couple, were read by family and friends via Zoom.
“The traditions of your extended family are a part of your marriage ceremony,” said officiant and long-time friend Susan Black of Newton.
“You. Barrie, and you, Helen, will do that through love, patience, dedication, perseverance, listening, talking and forgiveness,” Black said.
The importance of witnesses “cannot be overstated,” she added. “Each of you,” she said, “and all the people on Zoom, you are all here because of your connection to Helen and to Barrie.”
Last fall, Atkin and Tieger of Swampscott planned to cement their five-year relationship by getting married in 2020. They wanted to celebrate their growing love and commitment, and they wanted to get married because they legally were able to do so. However, as the women, who are both over 60, began planning their nuptials, they did not have Covid-19 to deal with.
They planned to get married at the House of Seven Gables in Salem and were looking at activities for out-of-town guests. But, in March, their plans for an in-person wedding and reception were dashed by the pandemic. Still, they were determined to tie the knot.
So, they decided on a wedding on their front lawn of the home they have shared in Swampscott for the last two years with a small gathering of close family and friends.
And, because they wanted to share their wedding with those from around the country and around the world, they decided to invite guests to take part on the Zoom video conference app.
Why not wait until they could hold a wedding in person?
“I think that when you make the decision to get married,” Tieger said in an interview, “you don’t necessarily want to wait, and we have lived together for over two years and just love living together and living here, and there was no reason to wait so that we could have a party, basically.”
The couple were introduced by a mutual friend in the fall of 2014, Atkin said.
“We hit it off, obviously,” said Atkin, who works as a marketing, strategy and fundraising consultant to businesses and nonprofits.
At the time, Atkin had been living in Waltham and Tieger, a nurse, was living in Lynn. After a few years of commuting up and down Route 128, they decided to move in together.
Since Tieger worked on the North Shore, and Atkin worked from home most of the time, they moved to Swampscott to be near Tieger’s work. The couple are members at two of the North Shore’s main synagogues.
When they sent out the save-the-date invitations last winter, Atkin said they stated: “Covid-19 permitting.” Guests asked if this would be a problem in September?
“So, in March, we stopped sending out the save-the-dates,” Atkin said.
Atkin, who grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, has a lot of relatives in Chicago and Milwaukee. They also knew they would have to limit the number of guests if they held it locally.
So, they decided on the small, social distanced ceremony on their lawn, and two weeks ago, they added Zoom to the mix.
“And the nice thing is with Zoom,” Atkin said, “we can invite people we might not have been able to invite.”
Among the close family who made the wedding was Tieger’s mother, Ursula Tieger, whose is from New York. Helen Tieger grew up in the Borscht Belt in the Catskills, in Monticello, N.Y., and her mother still lives there, she said. Tieger has been living on the North Shore for 35 years.
Tieger said she has a cousin in Israel who had been planning on coming, but who instead could participate via Zoom.
When asked about why Covid can’t stop people from getting married, Black said: “I think that when two people decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together, then all the rest doesn’t matter.”
“It’s a celebration of love, caring, commitment and connection in a time of Covid,” Black said.