Commitment Across Cultures: This Couple Downsized Their Pandemic Wedding in Atlanta
Spoiler alert: it wound up being their dream celebration.By Kaitlin Menza |
Photography by Kiyah C|
One thing that Camille Walton, a speech-language pathologist, and Gio Garbaldi, an IT healthcare consultant, bonded over when they first started dating was their shared low-key, homebody nature. “Just hanging out at home was always cool with him and it was always cool with me too,” says Camille. And it was at home, after months of wondering aloud when the day would come, that the couple got engaged and put into motion plans for an Atlanta wedding of their own.
It was a typical Friday night after work in November 2019, and they were discussing what to have for dinner, Gio recalls.
“I had gotten into this pattern of throwing these little hints at him, like, ‘Yes we should, it would be really cool if we were engaged… that must be really nice… I wonder what that’s like,’” says Camille. “I was saying something like that—‘You know I would be such a great wife’—and he got down on one knee.”
Unbeknownst to Camille, Gio had been planning to ask for a while, and had already spoken with both of their parents about it. “I had the ring in my pocket. I got off the couch, and was like, ‘Yeah, you know what? I should! I should just marry you.’ and I asked her. She was completely, like, shocked, doing this laughing/crying thing.”
The Atlanta couple had met on the dating app Bumble in September 2017. “He’s half Panamanian and he had a Panamanian flag on his profile,” Camille recalls. On their first date at a Thai restaurant, they talked for hours, until employees started cleaning up and flipping chairs around them. “He was just very sweet and very sure,” she says. “Like some guys are dating around or they lead you on, and you’re not really sure where you stand. But that was never the case with him. It was just, ‘Yes, I’m into you. I’m all in.’
Camille’s diamond engagement ring is just the classic design that she wanted: a round cut solitaire on a slim gold band. It didn’t take a lot of guesswork, as she had sent her then-boyfriend photos so he knew just what she had in mind.
“She wanted very traditional, nothing too flashy. I did it all online, and she loved it,” says Gio, who, thanks to the buying process, has become well-versed in random jewelry terminology. “It has a yellow gold band, but then the four prongs are white gold, so [they] kind of blend into the diamond it’s a one and a half carat.”
THE ORIGINAL PLAN
Within two months, by January 2020, Camille had their dream wedding mostly planned. “She had everything set: the venue, vendors, photographer, all of that,” Gio says. “She found a location, about an hour or so outside of Atlanta—a really cool, old cotton mill building with exposed brick and these wooden beams.” The couple planned to invite about 125 guests and plotted out a solid eight-hour day on October 25, 2020.
Of course, that vision was dashed by COVID-19. Still, the couple decided to press on with their original date. “Originally, I toyed with the idea of pushing it back, but Gio never wanted to do that,” Camille says. “I didn’t feel sure that we would be able to have the wedding we wanted six months later, anyway. And you know—we’re both in our thirties, and we want to have a family, [so] we were like, ‘We’ll just get on with it.’
THE PANDEMIC PLAN
For their revised celebration, Camille and Gio chose an interesting, much smaller venue for their Atlanta wedding: Constellations, a coworking space right in downtown Atlanta. “It’s a 1920s building, has exposed brick and hardwood floors,” Gio says. Plus, it had an amazing history. “It was a temporary office for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee back during the civil rights movement. [And] it’s on the same street as the Martin Luther King house.”
Plus, it was perfect for their slimmed-down guest list of about two dozen people. Gio donned a navy tux and Camille wore an off-the-shoulder Matthew Christopher ball gown and pearl earrings Gio had bought her for her birthday the first year they were together. “I wanted something that was just my whole style: simple, classic.”
Despite his Panamanian heritage, “We didn’t have any religious traditions; the vows and the [ceremony] script, we wrote all that from scratch,” Gio says. That originality made the moment even more special.
“I just remember listening to his vows and saying mine—it almost felt like we were there, just the two of us. Everyone else faded into the background,” Camille says. “It was just a really intimate and special moment for us.
One tradition they did continue was jumping the broom, a distinctly African-American custom dating back to slavery. “I don’t know why it appeals to me, but it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do just as a cultural tradition,” Camille says.
The ceremony was followed by a simple reception including a champagne toast, cupcakes, then speeches from parents and friends. But looking back, both Camille and Gio treasure the very beginning of the day most of all. “The first look was awesome. I think that was probably the number one highlight for me,” says the groom.
And his wife agrees. “It was just a really sweet, special moment for us.”
A hilariously unforgettable moment followed in the evening, after the couple had changed out of their wedding garb and set off for a long weekend in the north Georgia mountains. “We were starving after all of that,” Camille says. “We stopped at an Italian restaurant and gorged our faces with spaghetti and meatballs in the car.”
“No restaurants were opening for dine-in,” Gio says, so their wedding night meal happened in a parking lot. It was a perfectly appropriate ending for the low-key couple.
Though many pandemic-afflicted newlyweds are planning a bigger bash in the future, the couple are totally satisfied with their tiny celebration. “I really wanted to have a smaller wedding to begin with,” Gio says. “But I think at the end of the day, she really liked having a smaller wedding. I mean, our whole wedding lasted like two hours, vs. like an eight-hour day. She was like, after two hours of our wedding, I was done!”
On the other hand, a proper honeymoon is one thing they’re not willing to forgo. “I do hope that we can take our Bali honeymoon,” Camille says.
“Honestly, I think for both of us, that was the thing about the wedding that we were most looking forward to—the trip,” Gio says. “We had business-class roundtrip flights scheduled, a private villa…”
Certain plans are definitely worth sticking to, even if they have to wait for 2022.