Here’s the story of a lovely lady named Shelby Chapper who was bringing up two boys and a girl. It’s also the story of a man named Todd Pierce who was busy with two sons and a daughter of his own.
Despite the worldwide pandemic crisis, it’s the story of how this group somehow formed a family, and the way they became the Pierce Bunch.
In what was a second marriage for each, Chapper-Pierce, the engagement and program coordinator for Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, wed Pierce, a Swampscott police officer, a little over a year ago on July 18, 2020.
Like many other weddings that have taken place during COVID-19, theirs was held in Chapper-Pierce’s backyard in Beverly with 50 guests in person and 150 on Facebook Live.
“We nicknamed ourselves the Brady Bunch, because he has three kids and I have three kids, and it’s exactly three girls and three boys, except we call ourselves the Pierce Bunch,” said Chapper-Pierce, who said the name has caught on with friends.
And, the newly formed Pierce Bunch played a big part in the wedding, with Chapper-Pierce’s daughter, Gabrielle Wickeri, 14, as maid of honor; Kylie Pierce, 21, and Maddie Pierce, 16, acting as best women; Zack Pierce, 18, serving as groomsman; and Matt Stosez, 28, and Jeremy Stosez, 25, walking the bride down the aisle.
“We both have been through this before,” Chapper-Pierce said. “This time was I think what made it special was the kids.”
The Pierce Bunch’s matchmaker was Heather Greenberg. Greenberg’s son and Todd Pierce’s son played hockey together, while Greenberg and Chapper-Pierce work together at Temple Emanu-El, Greenberg in the religious school. (She also is the director of KinderCamp at the Jewish Community Center in Marblehead.)
The couple first met in December 2017.
“You know, we’ve both been married before, we took it very slow,” Chapper-Pierce said. They would date “here and there.”
“And then I went to Israel with the rabbi,” she said of the small group trip Temple Emanu-El Rabbi David Meyer hosted in February 2018 that included Chapper-Pierce’s daughter, “and when I was gone for that two weeks in Israel, communication was very limited, he said that’s when he knew, when I was gone,” Chapper-Pierce said.
Her trip made Pierce realize he wanted to take things to the next level.
“‘I don’t want to do this casual thing anymore,’” Chapper-Pierce said Pierce told her. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Both country music fans, they got engaged on a trip to Nashville with Pierce proposing in December 2019. Gabrielle had her bat mitzvah in October, and Pierce delayed his proposal to avoid taking away from her special day.
Chapper-Pierce had been adopted at birth, and three weeks after her daughter’s bat mitzvah, a biological sister of hers contacted her out of the blue. “All of a sudden I had this whole background of siblings and a story and everything else,” she said.
The trip to Nashville had already been planned, but Pierce decided to loop in her sister, who had arranged to travel six hours from Ohio to meet Chapper-Pierce for the first time. The day after the meeting, Pierce popped the question, having brought Chapper-Pierce’s sister into the planning of the proposal. Pierce got down on one knee during a country music comedy bus tour through Nashville, after singing some karaoke.
“It was like a whirlwind of a trip,” Chapper-Pierce said.
Knowing they didn’t want a long engagement, they planned to get married in the summer of 2020 aboard the Schooner Thomas E. Lannon out of Gloucester during a sunset cruise with friends and family.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic shipwrecked their plans. Instead of delaying their nuptials, they decided to roll with it.
“We just went with the backyard wedding and said, ‘It’s not our first time at the rodeo.’ It’s really about the ceremony, it’s not really about all the fanfare, and you know, everything else, and we said, ‘We are just going to go through with it.’”
Jon Nelson, the temple’s music director, officiated and Rabbi Meyer came as a guest.
“It was the first time Jon was doing a wedding and having the rabbi watch,” Chapper-Pierce said.
Since she coordinates events for the temple, which had been closed down for much of last year, and knowing related businesses were hurting, she tried to keep the same vendors she had booked for the canceled sunset cruise, including Boston DJ and MC Mike Connors of Pure Energy Entertainment of Peabody; Christopher’s Café and Catering in Lynn; and Lumiere Lauren Floral Studio and Boutique in Marblehead, which provided flowers and decorations for the chuppah.
Because COVID restrictions had been loosened, they were able to have 50 guests in person and 150 people watching on Facebook Live, with some relatives watching from as far away as California. For some people in the backyard, it was the first time they had been around others in quite a while.
It also turns out, the majority of people on Facebook Live were temple congregants.
“The temple community really wanted to be a part of it,” Chapper-Pierce said.
In a sign that this was truly becoming a blended family, they performed a sand ceremony with their six children. Each chose a vial of colored sand, and poured it into a glass frame, one by one. On the glass frame, it read: “Together we make a family,” with the date of the wedding.
“Everybody loved that sand ceremony bringing the kids into it,” Chapper-Pierce said.
They have yet to take their honeymoon, she said, but they plan to set sail on a cruise in December.