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'I wasn’t going to wait to have the wedding!' Jacksonville couple exchange vows despite COVID-19 crisis limitations

After two delays, De-Shazo Wilkinson said he'd had enough of waiting to marry his sweetheart, surprised her with wedding Monday in St. Augustine.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Imagine a wedding that’s such a surprise, even the bride doesn’t know about it until the day of. That’s exactly how it was for Jacarra Wilson, who finished her day Jacarra Wilkinson after her fiancé, De-Shazo Wilkinson pulled a fast one.

“So you didn’t know until about an hour ago, right?,” I asked the bride-to-be as she quickly applied makeup in a back room at the Treasury in downtown St. Augustine.

“Yeah!” she said. 

Yes, it was a fast one, but it had been a long time in the making. The newlywed Wilkinsons, who live in Jacksonville, have been together for ten years and had been planning to get married. But first their initial venue, in Orlando, was sold, leaving to start over again. Then, when they set a date at the Treasury – a former bank turned wedding and event venue – the coronavirus crisis put their plans on hold again.

Instead of holding their wedding on Monday, May 25, the date became a bit of a consolation ‘plan B’ for the couple.

“I thought we were just going to come and hang out in St. Augustine and celebrate what today would have been,” Jacarra Wilkinson told First Coast News just minutes after their nuptials.

Her now-husband had made up his mind when the opportunity presented itself.

“We waited to make it happen, and I wasn’t going to wait to have the wedding,” he said.

But he would have to surprise his bride, who had been at her job earlier in the day.

“He told me so I could leave work,” she said.

“She went half a day, actually. She left at 11,” he said, wearing the smile of one satisfied by the successful result of a daring plan.

As is typical in planning a wedding, the groom needed to enlist help.

“Everyone around us knew what was going on, so they were kind of helping me.”

But there was one person he didn’t tell, his fiancée.

“It was a lot of cover-up,” De-Shazo Wilkinson said with a wry grin. “Any time she asked me where I was going or what I was doing, I kind of just told her I was either going to work or going to the gym or something.”

As he said, again and again, De-Shazo simply didn’t want to wait another day to make Jacarra his wife, and in his prayer during the ceremony, he invoked a higher power.

“All I ask is that You shine through me so that I can shower love on her,” he said.

And the day’s rain showers seemed to be a response from the heavens. But there was one shadow on the proceedings: the ongoing COVID pandemic forced the couple to limit guests to immediate family. Dozens of chairs were adorned with photographs of other loved ones who couldn’t be there.

“This isn’t the wedding that we’d planned today,” De-Shazo Wilkinson also said during the ceremony. But the couple would later reflect on their decision to proceed.

“It just solidifies that we’re in the right place and we’re doing the right thing, and we’re meant to be here,” Jacarra Wilkinson said.

“The wedding is about us, so regardless of what’s going on, all we really need is us to get married,” her husband concurred.

They also are planning a gathering – eventually – when all their absent guests can celebrate with them in-person.

“This weekend, next year on Memorial Day, actually, we will have our reception with our family and friends,” Jacarra Wilkinson explained.

“Kind of treat next year like it was this year,” De-Shazo posited, “but we just have to kind of wait to see what the pandemic does.”

They’ve also put a honeymoon trip to Italy on hold indefinitely, but after a decade together, neither bride nor groom seemed fazed by waiting, for some things at least.

“I just didn’t think that this was going to happen, and the fact that it’s here and it’s finally happening, I’m so excited,” Jacarra Wilkinson beamed.

Asked what lessons of patience they would offer other couples, she urged, “I would say just keep pushing. Like, things are going to happen, but you just have to know that if you want to be with this person, that you’re going to have to keep going.”

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