Close up of bride cupping groom's face while dancing.
photographer: Joy Masi Photographer | entertainment: EastCoast Entertainment
The Best of | New York City | Weddings

COVID-19 Couldn’t Stop This Nurse and Restaurant Owner from Celebrating Their 1-Year Anniversary in Style

Close up of bride cupping groom's face while dancing.

Samantha Palmieri knew that she wanted her one-year wedding anniversary to be special. Like many newlyweds, she and her husband Frank had plans to go out for a nice dinner. After that, they intended to stay the night at Hotel Monaco, the same hotel where they had spent their wedding night. There was the usual excitement and anticipation — with happy thoughts of finally indulging in the top tier of wedding cake and reminiscing about all of the meaningful moments from their wedding reception, like dancing in each other’s arms as EastCoast Entertainment’s band Blue Label lured guests onto the dance floor.

A six-piece band performs on a wooden stage in a raw industrial setting with a backdrop of greenery and white roses.
photographer: Joy Masi Photographer

And then, everything changed. 

On March 21, 2020, as more COVID-19 cases spread across the country, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered all residents to shelter in place. As Samantha and Frank’s anniversary date of April 13th began to approach, they were forced to join millions of other Americans in adapting to a new way of life.

Because Samantha is a nurse at Cooper University Hospital, she was increasingly at risk for infection — especially once her floor was converted to COVID-19 ICU. With that in mind, Samantha and Frank decided that it would soon be safer to shelter in place separately. “Aside from the fact that now I’m working hands-on with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 every day,” Samantha shares, “Frank is immunocompromised, and I just couldn’t take the risk.” 

Moreover, as Frank was preparing to open his seasonal restaurant Ike’s Famous Crabcakes for takeout and delivery, he needed to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of his staff and customers. Samantha tells us, “I knew once that opened then that would be even more of a reason to distance for the safety of him, and others.”  

With a temporary separation pending, Samantha and Frank were more determined than ever to have a meaningful anniversary celebration. “Obviously, plans had to change,” Samantha says. “I still wanted to do something special, but had no idea what to do.” And then a light bulb went off. 

Samantha texted Laura Nikolich, a friend and entertainment consultant for EastCoast Entertainment, to see if she could get the set list from her wedding night. Laura then reached out to Jefe Ebbert, the band leader of Blue Label. “He emailed me within a day,” Samantha tells us. “He was actually on a walk with his family but sent me over an abbreviated list just to get it to me, then later that day resent the full set. It meant a lot that they felt it was a priority and responded so quickly.” Once she heard from Jefe, Samantha began to make a Spotify playlist to surprise Frank. 

On the day of their one-year wedding anniversary, Samantha and Frank woke up and enjoyed breakfast with mimosas in their wedding-day Champagne flutes. They watched their wedding video by KarmaPants and looked through their wedding photography by Joy Masi. Later, they took a drive by Front & Palmer, their wedding site and reception venue.

A bride and groom kiss while surrounded by their groomsmen and bridesmaids. The bridesmaids wear rose-colored dresses and hold green and white bouquets. They are all posing in front a light brick wall with a giant black and white sign that reads "Front & Palmer."
photographer: Joy Masi Photographer

“We came home and got ready for dinner,” Samantha says. As she put on her wedding dress, she says she felt like she was getting ready for her first date. “I had butterflies!” she tells us. “We opened a special bottle of wine and ate a delicious dinner from a local Italian spot in Haddonfield: Tre Famiglia.” And then, after slicing into that top tier of wedding cake, Samantha surprised Frank with the Spotify list. From that moment onward, they danced the night away.

Samantha tells us, “Honestly, I wouldn’t change one thing from the day. Sure, I was looking forward to going out and celebrating, but there will be plenty of anniversaries in the future for that. Our first anniversary was unique, and we will alway remember how we made it special. I am so grateful that we were able to spend it together.” 

Bride and groom dance, surrounded by loved ones,  in raw industrial space with a backdrop of white roses and greenery.
photographer: Joy Masi Photographer

A lot has changed since Samantha and Frank’s wedding anniversary on April 13. Laura, of EastCoast Entertainment, says that for them, it’s a time of long hours and organization. “We are putting a great deal of time and effort into rescheduling events that would be happening right now and are working hard to balance the time put into these reschedules with helping new potential clients as well.” Additionally, agencies like EastCoast Entertainment are helping new clients virtually pick their bands with live videos, reviews, and references. Laura adds, “For all clients, I try to be available as much as possible and offer to talk at any time of day. I have clients on the front lines working 24-hour shifts, clients that are homeschooling their children, and clients that may be caring for a loved one. Some only have the option of talking at either 6am or 10pm. If I can make it work, I’ll take the call.”

Two guitarists and drummer perform in a raw industrial space.
photographer: Joy Masi Photographer

For now, Samantha and Frank are staying in separate bedrooms and using different bathrooms. Once Frank’s restaurant opens up full-time, he will be staying somewhere else altogether. “We had to make decisions that we felt were best for us,” Samantha says, “and that might not be the same for other people — and that’s okay.” 

Samantha goes on to say, “Life will continue to change, just as it is changing for everyone — and it will get hard (as if it hasn’t been already), but I try to remember that there are brighter days ahead.” Samantha is grateful for all the times she and Frank have had together and will have again in the future. As she reminds us, smiling, “In sickness and in health… and I’d prefer the latter.”

A closeup of a bride and groom kissing with their friends and band performing in the backdrop.
photographer: Joy Masi Photographer