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Shutdown didn’t shut down wedding

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Mindy Covington and Matthew Van Allen were all set to be married this weekend at Shenandoah National park, however, the government shutdown and subsequent national park closures have forced them to change their plans at the last minute. (GRIFFIN MOORES / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

While most brides spend the final days before their weddings stressing over perfecting the minute details, a local woman is spending hers scrambling to rearrange her wedding around a new venue.

Mindy Covington, a Fredericksburg native, was forced to find a new place to get married this Saturday after the original venue, Shenandoah National Park’s Skyland Resort, was closed because of the government shutdown.

“Basically, we had to start completely over,” Covington said. “It’s been stressful.”

Covington, 25, who worked in social services until recently, and her fiancé, Matthew Van Allen, 29, also a Fredericksburg native, got engaged in January after meeting through mutual friends six years ago. Although they kept in touch, Covington and Van Allen didn’t start dating until last year and dated only a couple of months before deciding to tie the knot.

The couple started planning the wedding in April and, since Van Allen is in the Navy and was deployed for more than four months this year, most of the planning was up to Covington.

They chose to hold the wedding at Skyland Resort because it held special significance for them. When they first started dating, they decided to take up hiking. Their first feat was the 9-mile hike up Mary’s Rock mountain in Shenandoah National Park, followed by a stay at the Skyland Resort.

“We both looked at Skyland as the time we knew we were going to be together,” Covington said. “We fell in love on the mountain.”

Because they were locked into the contract at Skyland until the government officially shut down, the couple couldn’t get another venue until Tuesday, just four days before the wedding.

With a stroke of good luck among the bad, the Pavilion at Shenandoah Woods, located in a privately owned valley, had a cancellation and the couple was able to snag reservation without having to change the date of their wedding.

Not so luckily, however, the couple is essentially paying for two weddings at once, at least until the national park is able to process their refund, which could take some time.

In the meantime, Covington, with the help of an event planner, has had to recruit a caterer, build a new menu, rent linens and other decorations and find alternate accommodations for the 60 guests—all of which the resort was going to provide—in two days.

“We’ve learned our lesson: Don’t get married on government property near the end of the fiscal year,” Covington said with a laugh. Laughing at the situation is one way Covington says she’s able to deal with the stress.

The new venue has, however, allowed the couple more freedom with their ceremony.

Because Skyland Resort is on government property, there were a lot of regulations with which they had to comply, including not being able to use sparklers or any sort of special lighting, Covington said. Every aspect of the wedding had to be approved by the park.

“It had to be simple,” Covington said. “We have a lot more wiggle room with the new venue.”

The question now is whether they have time to pull anything more together by Saturday.

Despite sounding somewhat harried, Covington expressed confidence that she will, in fact, have a beautiful wedding.

“The government did affect our wedding, but it didn’t shut us down,” Covington said.

The couple will move to Virginia Beach, near where Van Allen is stationed at Norfolk, when they return from their honeymoon.

Bridget Balch: 540/374-5417


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