The happy couple. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Darci Witte and Darren Shultz had a beautiful wedding planned for April 5, with flowers, bridesmaids and a reception for friends and family. Each round of restrictions brought on by the coronavirus outbreak forced adjustments to their plans as they sought to keep loved ones safe. Finally on Sunday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins instituted a shelter-in-place order, and the happy couple made a tough decision. They called Northwest Bible Church Senior Pastor Neil Tomba and asked him to conduct their wedding ceremony in the front yard of his Lake Highlands home.

“This wasn’t Plan B, it was Plan G,” joked Nancy Arrington, mother of the bride.

Social distancing limited the gathering to ten people including the pastor and the photographer, so the Tombas invited neighbors to step out onto their sidewalks for encouragement. Dog walkers and families pushing baby strollers became witnesses to the sacred ceremony.

“We were just riding by,” said Brian Slye, out on bicycles with his son Braden, who wore a tie-dyed Lake Highlands Elementary t-shirt. “This is really cool. Unexpected, for sure, but nice. I’m glad they got to have their moment. It’s good to see something positive with all the negative coronavirus stuff out there.”

Braden, who has served in several weddings, said he wasn’t leaving before one moment in particular: “You may kiss your bride.”

“I’ve never done a wedding in my front yard,” said Tomba. “I’ve done weddings at the Arboretum in the rain. I’ve done weddings in West Texas in 100 degree heat and 20 mile-per-hour winds. I’ve done weddings in little hot chapels where the magnolia leaves caught on fire. We’ve had some adventures.”

Wife, Vela, recalled another memorable nuptial.

“We were on Swiss Avenue outside one of those big houses. They said we didn’t need a microphone, but that afternoon there was a big airshow.” The vows were drowned out by planes blasting overhead, she said.

Despite the many changes, the mother of the bride was philosophical.

“This is my third daughter [to marry],” said Arrington. “You can work so hard to make a wedding perfect, but that isn’t what makes it perfect. You think of the soldiers going off to war – they didn’t want to wait. They were in love. They wanted to be with their sweetheart before they left. These guys aren’t going off to war, but they needed good to happen. It’s a blessing.”

The Hughes family cheered from across the street, bearing fresh cut flowers from their garden and a handwritten note for the couple they’d never met.

“This is a special day in their life,” said mom Beverly, who became teary-eyed as she watched with grown kids Matthew, Anna and Joseph. “It’s important to have people celebrate with them.”

“I have a lot of time on my hands,” joked Anna, a freshman home from Texas A&M for classes now conducted online. “This is a nice break to support them.”

“The hardest part has been not having our siblings here with us,” said Darci, the youngest of three sisters. “When all of this is over, we’ll have a party to celebrate.”

The couple had booked a relaxing trip to Destin, which they plan to take when COVID-19 dies down. Both have homes in Lake Highlands, and they’ll honeymoon here until then. If you’re feeling generous, you’ll find their wedding registry here.

Flower girl Claire. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Northwest Bible Church Pastor Neil Tomba. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Nancy Arrington and flower girl Claire. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Jim and Linda Shultz look on as the flower girl deals with stage fright. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Mr. and Mrs. Darren Shultz. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

You may kiss your bride. Photo by Danny Fulgencio