Friday, December 9, 2022

Drive-thru ‘I do’: Army chaplain and social worker plan a unique wedding during pandemic

Maxwell Groene and Cara Evans were planning a picturesque New England wedding when the coronavirus changed their plans. Now they're having a 'unique' ceremony in Williamsburg. (WYDaily/Courtesy Maxwell Groene)
Maxwell Groene and Cara Evans were planning a picturesque New England wedding when the coronavirus changed their plans. Now they’re having a “unique” ceremony in Williamsburg. (WYDaily/Courtesy Maxwell Groene)

When Maxwell Groene and Cara Evans realized their wedding wasn’t going to happen as planned, they decided to get creative and make a ceremony no one would forget: a “Drive-thru ‘I do.’”

The couple met in Boston when Evans was studying for a master’s degree in social work and Groene was in seminary as a commissioned Army chaplain. When the pair bumped into each other at a coffee shop across from a local church, they bonded over their shared faith and love of traveling.

The couple got engaged last July during Evans’ birthday celebration and since then, they have been planning the perfect wedding just outside of Boston, complete with a venue straight out of the Little Women (2019) set.

Then the coronavirus pandemic changed everything.

The couple realized they couldn’t have their picturesque New England wedding but they didn’t want to push back the date of their nuptials.

“While it’s become more normal for a couple to live together before getting married, based on our faith we didn’t want to do that,” Groene said. “So when COVID hit, we knew we didn’t want to push back the date, we wanted to move in together and get started on our lives.”

So Groene, a Williamsburg native, suggested moving the ceremony to his hometown. 

But hosting a wedding ceremony was still going to be a struggle during a time of social distancing and that’s when Maxwell’s mother, Rita Groene, stepped up with a creative solution.

A drive-thru wedding reception.

“I just wanted so badly for it to be a special day for them,” she said. “And I was driving home and it just popped into my head and I thought I could make this work and people will still come and see them and not be totally missed by the ones we love.”

Guests will drive in cars around the Kingsmill Resort where there’s a roundabout for people to take photos and share congratulations with the couple, Evans said. Guests will be dressed in their wedding attire, decorate their cars and hold ribbon wands as they drive by.

Maxwell Groene proposed to Cara Evans at a rooftop bar in Boston last July. After planning a wedding for nearly a year though, the couple will have a different kind of ceremony with less than 10 loved ones present. (WYDaily/Courtesy Maxwell Groene)
Maxwell Groene proposed to Cara Evans at a rooftop bar in Boston last July. After planning a wedding for nearly a year, the couple will have a different kind of ceremony with less than 10 loved ones present. (WYDaily/Courtesy Maxwell Groene)

The new wedding reception also shifted its focus to locally-owned businesses to provide decor and food. Rita said she’d made a lot of local contacts when planning her daughter’s wedding three years ago, so she used that experience and the hope of helping local businesses impacted by the pandemic. 

Rita said she had poured over Evans’ Pinterest boards to try and plan something with the decorations and aesthetic she had originally wanted. 

“You can focus on what you’re losing or focus on what you’re gaining,” Rita said. “Originally we were sad about the original venue, but when you choose to focus on that you can’t move forward. So in this case, they’ll get to have a unique wedding venue.”

While the actual ceremony will happen with a small group of less than 10 people close to the couple in a backyard wedding overlooking the James River, they’re expecting at least 50 cars with two guests each to come to the drive-thru reception. 

Maxwell and Evans said this is going to be a unique type of celebration and one they can share with their children and grandchildren for generations to come. Evans said when she talks about the pandemic in the future, she’ll be able to remember how she and her husband found a way to celebrate their love in the midst of a world health crisis.

“As a bride you dream and hope for a certain kind of wedding,” Evans said. “But for me, it was about the man I was marrying, and I knew through this process the way he has cared for me and how we’ve grown together has been incredible.”

The wedding reception will be from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 30 at Kingsmill Resort.

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Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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