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A Free Wedding in the Nick of Time

Maggie Moore and Brandon Baez may be young, but waiting to get married until the world got a handle on the coronavirus was not in their plans.

“With Brandon being in the military, there’s no telling where he’s going to be a year from now,” said Ms. Moore, 18, of Big Island, Va. “We thought it was important to go ahead and do it now.”

Mr. Baez, 21, is a Navy seaman stationed in Dahlgren, Va.; Ms. Moore is a certified nursing assistant at the Oakwood Health and Rehabilitation Center in Bedford, Va. Before social distancing restrictions set in, they were planning a small wedding near Ms. Moore’s home. But not so small that their families and a handful of their friends from Liberty High School in Bedford, where they met in 2017, couldn’t attend.

“We were just getting ready to make a down payment on a place when the corona stuff came out and the governor said weddings have to be less than 10 people,” Ms. Moore said. The venue they had chosen wasn’t offering discounts for couples who planned to forge ahead with pared-down weddings. So they regrouped. “We weren’t sure what we were going to do,” she said. “Then I found out this amazing thing that was happening for brides.”

Earlier this month, Glencliff Manor, an events space in Rustburg, Va., announced that it would put on free, socially distant weddings for couples whose wedding plans were upended by the virus. Ms. Moore applied right away.

“I had been to weddings there before, and it’s beautiful, and our immediate families could still be there, so we considered that a blessing,” she said.

Though Ms. Moore is just a few months past legal marriage age in Virginia, the couple’s youth has not been a concern among those who know them. “Some people are like, ‘Wow, you’re really young,’” she said. “But it’s not unheard-of to get married young in a rural area like this. And Brandon being in the military is something I think is very respectable.”

Mr. Baez had been talking about joining the Navy since they met, when he was a senior at Liberty High and she was a sophomore. After his 2017 graduation, he worked at Safelite Auto Glass, then left for boot camp in 2019. That year, they navigated a long-distance relationship while Mr. Baez trained at a Navy base in Chicago and Ms. Baez finished high school. He proposed in December 2019, a month after he was sent to Dahlgren, where he is training in fire control. Ms. Moore had just completed her nursing program prerequisites at Central Virginia Community College.

On April 17, they were married at Glencliff Manor by Ricky St. Clair, a pastor at a Peaks View Christian Church in Bedford. Ms. Moore’s father, Brad Moore, wiped tears as he walked his daughter, in a white floor-length gown down an outdoor aisle. Ms. Moore’s mother, Krista Moore, and Mr. Baez’s father, Hector Baez, watched from socially distant posts alongside the couple’s friends Riley Wilson, Lisa Wilson and Austin Elmore.

“Even though we were in and out in an hour and it was just a few people, we had cake and a toast and it was wonderful,” Ms. Moore said. After a weekend spent celebrating in Lynchburg, Va., at the Craddock Terry Hotel, which was remained open, Mr. Baez was back at his Navy base on Monday.

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