Sharing Our Stories: Stories from our Alumnae Community

samantha bruno facebook_1600974563812_6714974016898984700Samantha Bruno ’11 is the Communications Manager for Red Lobster, the world’s largest seafood restaurant company, headquartered in Orlando, Florida. Prior to that, Samantha worked for nearly 10 years at Janine Gordon Associates and Peppercomm, two New York based Public Relations firms representing a variety of clients in the luxury and consumer goods space. She has participated in the AADC Mabel’s Alumnae Mentoring Program as both a mentee and mentor for several years. Here is her story, shared on October 21, 2020.

In the words of Rihanna, we found love in a hopeless place. That’s right, we were one of those crazy couples that dared to have been ready to get married during quarantine.

As background, I grew up in New Jersey and had long gotten used to the daily commute into New York City for a job I loved. With no plans to change jobs, let alone move to another state, I was shocked when I received a call encouraging me to apply for a job with Red Lobster’s Restaurant Support Center, their corporate headquarters. Not only because it was in Florida, but because I have a shellfish allergy! Little did I know, somewhere in his home state of Missouri, my future husband was packing up his life to also move to Orlando to join Red Lobster’s International Team.

During a fateful meeting one morning in the elevator of the hotel where we were both staying, I may or may not have closed the elevator door in his face. Fortunately, fate would bring us face-to-face once again in another elevator, not 20 minutes later, this time at the office. An instant friendship was formed and within six months, he asked me to “go steady” – while in an elevator. In case you are wondering, yes, Brandon proposed in an elevator, too – only this time we were also in the middle of a global pandemic!

Euphoria immediately gave way to questions about how to get married while everyone was in lockdown. Here we were in Florida with one family from New Jersey, another from Missouri, differing levels of lockdown in each state, travel restrictions changing by the day; this had gotten complicated quickly. With the non-negotiable of having at least our immediate families present, we went to work coming up with plan after plan after plan. Rent an Airbnb for our immediate families so we can get married in a backyard? Have a small ceremony now and a big party later? Take a gamble and plan the wedding of our dreams hoping we could have it when the time came?

After tears (on my part) and with quite a bit of doubt and a whole lot of prayer, we sent out invitations knowing so many of our friends and family would be unable to attend due to travel restrictions, a two-week quarantine New Jersey put on people traveling from Florida, and personal situations in light of COVID-19.

Then, I tackled wedding dress shopping. Fortunately, Florida had started the first phase of opening and with great precaution, my mother and I were able to make an appointment. While staring at my masked face in the mirror without my bridesmaids was not the picture I had in my head, it certainly made it memorable. With my mom by my side and my best friend and my sister-in-law on FaceTime, we said yes to the dress!

We did everything we could to be smart and safe during the process while trying to take into consideration each of our family’s needs as we planned a socially distanced wedding that would take place 90% outside to give us the best chance of being safe. I cannot say enough about the amazing team of vendors who helped carry us through the planning process, adapting as needed to the health and safety concerns of us and our guests, offering flexibility on timing and deposits and allowing us to vent along the way.

I am happy to say that Brandon and I got married on our original wedding date, Sunday, September 6, in Orlando, surrounded by 50 of our immediate family and friends in an outdoor wedding ceremony and a reception under a tent. While that in itself was a miracle, we were overwhelmed to be joined by hundreds of folks who celebrated the day with us remotely on a live stream! It was more special and more memorable than any day we could have ever imagined – pandemic or no pandemic. We have been completely and totally overwhelmed by people’s graciousness and generosity as they have been invested in our happiness.

The process of getting married in a quarantine has been one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding. As a complete traditionalist who is a Type A creature of habit, this pushed me out of my comfort zone repeatedly. Through the process, I was reminded that in the face of uncertainty, I am resilient. In the face of a challenge, I am adaptable and creative. That being a COVID bride made me a flexible and easygoing bride (and everyone around me said “Amen”). Oh, and that I have the absolute best family and friends anyone could ever ask for. Those revelations were priceless as I head into this new chapter of my life, knowing personally, I am ready to conquer whatever lies ahead.

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