Coronavirus: No ‘travails,’ only adventures for couple married during pandemic
NEW MILFORD — Kit Nielsen and Jeff Yates never planned on having a big wedding, but when the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt even to that, they went ahead with “the smallest way to have a big wedding.”
That’s how Yates described the ceremony attended in person only by himself, the bride, her two daughters and a justice of the peace. Virtually, however, “we ended up with 200-plus on Facebook,” he said.
They had originally planned a small wedding in the Adirondacks for April 17, to coincide with the spring break the girls — 11-year-old Kaitlyn and Katherine Kechejian, 10 — were supposed to have. With no spring break and no traveling, the couple decided there was no point in waiting.
“It was important to us and to the girls that we formally become a family,” Yates said, explaining why they did not put off the nuptials. “We’ve been together for six years and engaged for five. This was our time and it was important to have something fun and joyous to look forward to in all of this,” he said. “We figured this way we can include everyone we love and everybody who is part of our lives.”
The family lives in New Milford and decided to tie the knot April 4 on the beach at Candlewood Lake. After the four had gathered, “the justice of the peace pulled up in his car, rolled down his window, and made it official,” Yates said. They set up two cameras — one a wide shot and one manned by Katherine who also provided commentary during the ceremony for the Facebook feed.
She also read the vows to Yates and Kaitlyn read the vows to her mother.
“We did not write our own vows,” Yates said, but when they looked over the vows provided by the justice of the peace, the couple made one change.
“In the vows it said we would promise to stay together through tranquility and travails. We looked at each other and we all decided ‘travails’ was the wrong word,” Yates said.
“Every challenge is an adventure — so only adventures,” he said. “It’s how we look at things as a family. It’s very easy at bad times like this to look at everything happening to you in a negative way, so we chose to look at it as an adventure.”
Yates, 39, who grew up in Wilton, met Nielsen, 45, seven years ago at an LL Bean store. Yates, who is national director of volunteers for Trout Unlimited, was giving a presentation and selling a book he wrote on fly fishing. Nielsen, who is STEM instructional leader for grades K-8 in the Bethel Public Schools, was running a table on how to use trout in the classroom, a program of Trout Unlimited.
“We met and started fishing together,” said Yates, an avid fly fisherman. “We became good friends and it blossomed into a relationship.”
The reception was simple — Housatonic River Brewery gave them a free growler and then he and Nielsen took a nap in the yard. “It was an absolutely perfect reception,” Yates said. There was no word on any festivities taking place among the Facebook revelers.
As for a honeymoon, “We’re having it,” Yates said.
“We’ve got a month together. Honestly, our life to this point and going forward is a honeymoon — hiking and kayaking and fishing and doing things together.
“We don’t do many things alone as a couple,” he continued. “We do things with our girls — spending time in the yard, gardening, hikes with three dogs — and so that is our honeymoon.”
Yates said his family has been weathering the pandemic restrictions well.
“We’re really fortunate. We live in a community that allows us to go outdoors without traveling,” he said, adding they live next to land trust open space and within a mile of the Housatonic River.
“That’s been a blessing. There are millions without that opportunity, I can’t imagine how challenging that is. I don’t think we’d be able to make it if we couldn’t get outside.”
Yates said he and his wife recognize how fortunate they are to still have their jobs and be able to work from home.
“We have friends who have been furloughed or are uncertain of their jobs,” he said. “That’s the really hard part. Fortunately no one in our family is sick. There are people who have friends and loved ones who are lost. It’s a hard time to get your head around.
“This wedding seems to be the most sane thing to do at a time like this.”
Yates and Nielsen still haven’t given up on that Adirondack celebration, though. They plan to renew their vows there next year.