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After pandemic delays, couple celebrates ‘best day’

The coronavirus pandemic caused two wedding venue changes for South Side High School graduate

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Ashley Kate Molloy had a picture perfect wedding planned: A small chapel in southern Ireland, surrounded by family and friends near, a place that has been a part of the groom’s family for generations. But, like most weddings planned for the spring and summer of 2020, the former Rockville Centre resident and her now husband, Brendan Keating, had to shift gears and come up with a new plan due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Everything had to be scrapped,” Keating said. “And it was so sad, because it was supposed to be the first time Ashley would meet that side of my family.”

With traveling abroad out of the question, the couple, who live in Hoboken, New Jersey, and are both employed by New York City-based companies, thought perhaps a wedding on Long Island, closer to Molloy’s family, could be a viable alternative. They chose a church in Merrick, settling on a date in September. However, two weeks before the set date, they learned of a Covid-19 outbreak linked to a neighboring parish and they reconsidered. They did not want to risk getting anyone sick, especially Molloy’s elderly grandmother.

At that point, Molloy, 36, said, they began to focus less on others and more on themselves. “We asked each other, ‘what are the things that we love, what do we enjoy, what’s important to us? And it ended up being the best thing,” she said.

Each of them had grown up envisioning a traditional wedding. Due to the circumstances and having to switch course, they realized each of them would have had to make sacrifices in either of those scenarios, even without a pandemic, as many friends and family would not be able to travel internationally easily. Still, having a wedding in a church, surrounded by loved ones, and holding a celebration was important to them both.

“It was something that was weighing on us,” Keating, 36, said of holding a wedding. “We were ready to go, and it felt like it was taken from us.”

With the end of 2020 approaching, and a house booked in Key West, Florida, for the month of December, they considered the option getting married in Florida. Molloy made a phone call to a church, and the priest, she said, was completely accommodating.

“It felt like everything that had been in our way was finally pushed aside, when the priest said we can make this work,” Keating said. “Circumstances kept getting in our way, but with perseverance, dedication and people around us who understood what we wanted, we were still able to do this, on our terms.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, Molloy and Keating were married at The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, five months after the original July 22 date, surrounded by immediate family. A private reception was held at the Casa Marina in Key West. With the ability to work remotely, they stayed for a second month.

“It was the happiest day of both of our lives,” Keating said. “The pandemic allowed us to forget about what everyone else expects and to focus on ourselves and each other.”

Instead of the 75 or so guests they had planned for the Irish wedding, the Florida wedding had just six people in attendance. However, 317 people viewed the livestreamed event on YouTube. “We felt so much love,” Molloy said. “We were getting texts from people in different countries, and our friends said they didn’t feel like they missed out on anything.”

Keating’s parents, Moya and Brendan Keating of Chatham, New Jersey, were hesitant to fly due to the increase of positive Covid-19 cases, and booked a fully refundable trip. At the last minute, they decided to be there to celebrate.

“Finding a ‘pearl in the pandemic’ is a challenge, but Ashley and Brendan’s wedding will forever be that beautiful warm moment for me,” Moya Keating wrote in an email. “Flying to Florida from New Jersey during the pandemic wasn’t an easy decision, but we decided that if we were very careful, we wouldn’t have to miss one of life’s great milestones. We masked up and made the trip.”

She said that all meals were served outside and they took all precautions to stay safe. Also, she said, heading to warmer weather was a nice treat. “But the greatest joy of all was being with Brendan and Ashley as they spoke their wedding vows,” she said. “It was a dream come true, for all of us.”

Molloy, daughter of Evelyn and Sean Molloy, attended St. Agnes Cathedral School and graduated from South Side High School in 2003. She received a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., and is employed in client services at an alternative investment firm in New York City.

Keating received his bachelor of arts degree from University of Colorado at Boulder and his master’s degree from Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He is employed as a human resources and labor relations professional. The couple met in the summer of 2017 through an online dating app, and soon began taking adventures involving beaches and “chasing sunsets.”

The two have a history of taking road trips where they find themselves at “the end of the earth.” Keating said it stemmed from him saying he would follow Ashley “to the end of the earth” and the fact that they both love salt water. Beaches are nice, he said, but being at a place like Montauk point is different. “When the road stops and you get out, and there’s water all around you, it makes you feel spiritual, like there’s something bigger than you.”

Therefore, it was appropriate that their wedding vows were exchanged in Key West.

“I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Keating said.