By the time the singer and songwriter Alexi Paraschos married Chelsea Holmes in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square on July 26, he was feeling pretty good about the odds of avoiding the wedding-in-a-pandemic blues.
Credit belongs to a musical project he assigned himself weeks before the couple decided to make good on a marriage certificate due to expire in late July. For a video to accompany “Mine,” a love song he wrote for Ms. Holmes days after they met, he combed the internet to find clips of joyful weddings taking place during the pandemic. Eventually, he stitched together 35 happy wedding scenes, one from as far as Australia.
The result inspired them both. “At the time he started making the video, we weren’t sure what we were going to do about our own wedding,” said Ms. Holmes, the assistant director for academic support at Drexel University’s athletic department. The couple had initially planned a July 11 wedding for 85 in Philadelphia, then canceled. “Seeing all those people have magical moments despite the pandemic made me feel like, This is cool! We can do this.”
Ms. Holmes, 35, and Mr. Paraschos, 33, met on OkCupid in June 2017, the same month Ms. Holmes moved to Philadelphia from State College, Pa., for a job at Drexel. On their first date, at Mixto Restaurante, she liked that he didn’t mention her appearance, which had changed since she posted her profile pictures.
“I had this truly awful haircut, this lady had chopped off chunks of my hair, which I apologized for,” she said. But Mr. Paraschos didn’t notice. “I thought she looked great,” he said.
Neither remembers what they talked about that night. “I just remember thinking, I want to hold this person’s hand,” she said.
Less than a week later, Mr. Paraschos had secretly written “Mine” for her. “I couldn’t tell her about it because I didn’t want to send her running into the hills, thinking I was crazy for writing a song after three days.”
Within a month, vaikka, they were seeing each other exclusively; within three months, he played her the song. It made her feel like she was in a movie, she said. By the end of 2018, he and his cat had moved in with her and her dog.
Mr. Paraschos and Ms. Holmes had already talked about getting married when Mr. Paraschos proposed on March 31, 2019, the night of their return from a weekend in Newton, Mass., to visit his parents. “We had also stopped to see one of my friends in New York who had just had a baby on the drive home, so there were a lot of family things going on,” he said. “The time felt right. I said to myself, ‘OK, it’s going to happen tonight.’”
When they pulled up to their apartment, he made an excuse to go inside while Ms. Holmes unloaded the car. He opened a pint of coffee Haagen Dazs, her favorite ice cream, and stuck a spoon in it, then slipped the ring and a “Will you marry me?” note over the spoon’s stem.
At first, after lugging in their bags and finding the ice cream on the counter, she was annoyed. “I thought he ate my ice cream and left it sitting out,” she said. Her irritation melted when she realized he was proposing.
A few weeks after their self-uniting outdoor wedding, attended by five people but celebrated by at least 45 — “All these people who were walking around, stopped and applauded,” Mr. Paraschos said — he premiered the song for the couples in the video via Zoom.
“It was pretty magical,” Ms. Holmes said. “It was also cool to be able to say, ‘Hey, I’m one of you guys now,’” he said.