Michael Adame and Cinthya Zuniga during their elopement in February 2021. “Even though we only had 13 days to plan, we wouldn’t have had this wedding any other way,” Zuniga says. “It felt so perfect.”

In a coronavirus-free universe, Cinthya Zuniga and Michael Adame envisioned a classic big, white wedding: In a charming, old-timey church, Zuniga would clutch a red and cream-colored bouquet as she said her vows, and the couple would be surrounded by their closest friends and family. After the ceremony, they’d run off to a festive reception, and perhaps they’d spend their wedding night in Galveston.

However, when the pandemic hit last year, the couple tucked their vows away and postponed their dream wedding. 

Talk about a damper on love. 

The couple took their engagement photos at Sam Houston Park with St. John’s Church—where they'd eventually marry—as the backdrop. 

When the pandemic swept through the U.S. in earnest last year, the wedding industry was flummoxed. According to a Wedding Wire report, 53 percent of couples who married last year had almost their entire wedding planned when Covid-19—the ultimate “rain on your wedding day” scenario—forced them to pivot. Some moved their venues outdoors, cut guest lists, or opted for smaller “micro weddings,” but as states enacted bans on gatherings, many had to postpone their receptions entirely—about 41 percent, according to the report. Another 7 percent canceled their weddings altogether. 

As the pandemic rolled on, many couples changed their expectations of their dream ceremonies, but some worked to salvage these celebrations with a little creativity and a lot of love.

Take the folks at The Heritage Society. Tired of postponing love, the society gave local lovebirds a new option to tie the knot: During Valentine’s Day weekend this year, couples could book a one-hour “express” wedding ceremony in the 130-year-old St. John’s Church.

“We just wanted to do something,” Heritage Society Development Director Laura Woods told Houstonia back in January. “We wanted to have a party.”

To sweeten the deal, the Heritage Society dressed the quaint chapel in flowers and offered champagne, photography, a personalized bouquet, and free parking. Considering the historic church normally charges $2,500 for a four-hour weekend event, the $150 price tag for this romantic extravaganza was the icing on the cake for 32 Houston couples, including Zuniga and Adame. 

The couple did keep a few wedding traditions, in spite of the expediency and unconventional nature of the planning. For example, they didn’t see each other the day of the wedding, even when Zuniga was walking down the aisle. Zuniga asked Adame to turn around until she was at the altar.

Cinthya Zuniga and Michael Adame first met in 2011 while they were working a shift at the old Ruby’s Tequila Mexican Kitchen in Midtown. The restaurant shuttered not long after, but the pair kept in contact. By 2018, Adame had proposed to Zuniga, and they took their engagement photos at Sam Houston Park with St. John’s Church—the classic little white church of their dreams—serving as a backdrop. 

Fast forward to late January 2021, when Adame's sister, Diane Castillo, told them about The Heritage Society’s Valentine’s Day event one night. After reading up about the event, Zuniga knew it was meant to be.

“We originally planned for a lot of people to come to our wedding. But now, with the pandemic, we had a much smaller number, so this worked perfectly,” she says. “I emailed [The Heritage Society] and got a response right back, which surprised me since it was super late. But that’s what got our attention: how fast their service was and that this was something we could afford at the time.” 

After talking with Woods, Zuniga and Adame booked their wedding for February 12. From there, the countdown to their dream ceremony quickly took off. 

“It’s really a full circle moment, because we originally took our engagement photos there to be close to a historical church,” Adame tells Houstonia. “That’s something we always wanted.” 

With only 13 days to prepare, Zuniga scored an elegantly trimmed white gown from David’s Bridal and got it altered within two days, and Adame purchased his suit. 

The Heritage Society took care of everything else, decorating and lighting up the chapel, and, according to Adame, the organization perfectly captured vital elements of their originally planned wedding. 

“[The ceremony] was really beautiful and a lot more than we expected. From the lady playing the cello, the flower arrangements, the champagne toast—we were just in awe,” Adame says. “Everyone was in such a good mood and it was really like a fairytale.”