Keri McLendon and Charles Hyde didn’t have the rustic barn wedding they’d envisioned. Charles’ dad and stepmom live in Ecuador and couldn’t even make it into the country for the couple’s big day, and his mom and sister live in Mississippi and had to shelter in place.

But all of that didn’t mean their April ceremony during the COVID-19 quarantine wasn’t full of joy. Keri’s parents joined she and Charles as they exchanged vows by a lake in their neighborhood, Kirkman Preserve off Caldwell Mill Road, and her uncle officiated while other guests tuned in on Facebook Live. After the ceremony they cut a small cake and toasted with champagne before heading to Oak Mountain State Park for more pictures. ”Our wedding ended up being pretty wonderful considering the circumstances,” Keri says.

Little did Keri and Charles know that their neighborhood was up to some wedding planning festivities of their own—within the social distancing guidelines. “Our neighbors threw us a surprise parade!” Keri says. “We had no idea. I cried as we rode through the neighborhood in the classic car my dad got for us. Everyone came out on their driveways and porches. There were chalk decorations with our names congratulating us! A few people even ran up to give us gifts! It was amazing. We were both completely blown away.”

Not only did the Hydes wedding take a turn in a unique direction, but the couple also found a surprising connection to each other from early childhood. Keri had been on what she calls a horrible date set up from “one of those dating apps” when Charles and two other friends from high school sat down at the table next to her. After her date ended, she chatted with the group. Charles and Keri went on their first date two nights later. In fact, after they got engaged, they looked back and saw they were in the seame second-grade class.

A few months down the road from their wedding, the newlyweds are starting their lives together and making the best of the current pandemic situation. Keri continues to work as a nurse practitioner at UAB’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Charles is in school full time to be a CPA. “Life is good!” Keri says. “We are both still working, so we get out of the house a little for that. We are very much looking forward to being able to go out and celebrate with others.”

With restrictions lifting and a new normal emerging, Keri and Charles say they are ready to celebrate. “We both want to go out somewhere and have a drink with a few friends/family,” Keri says. “It would just be a few people initially, but it would just feel nice to get to celebrate with some of those closest friends who weren’t able to come.”

And the honeymoon? Unfortunately, that too was sidelined by COVID-19. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some small getaway close to home as things open back up,” Keri says. “We had planned to go to Sandals Grenada. We rescheduled for a later date, but closures have extended. Since Charles is in school this summer, and the fall is rainy/hurricane season, we’ve now pushed it back to December.”