Steve Burke saw Lillie McDonough walk into the bar where he was playing bass with a Rolling Stones cover band in 2014, and he was hoping she was the woman he had been told to look for. Ms. McDonough’s uncle, who had been impressed by his playing days earlier, sent her to meet him.
“She was this beautiful girl in big glasses and all this knitwear, and I wasn’t sure, but I had a sense that she might be the niece,” he said. (The uncle was trying to help her find a bass player for a project to help her get accepted to a program at New York University.)
But before he learned whether she was the niece, his music slid off his stand onto the club floor and she rushed over to pick it up. The attraction was undeniable.
“It was instant,” he said.
Ms. McDonough, 31, and Mr. Burke, 30, of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, have been building a life and their music credentials together since that moment.
Ms. McDonough — whose uncle, Kevin Wells, had indeed heard Mr. Burke’s playing at the bar and told her to go listen — was accepted to the film composing program at N.Y.U. in 2015 and now is an adjunct professor in screen scoring at N.Y.U. Steinhardt. Mr. Burke leads a jazz band and works in the wedding industry as a bassist and sound engineer.
They were engaged on July 18, 2019, on a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, after three years of living together in Brooklyn. Ms. McDonough was roused at 4 a.m. so Mr. Burke’s proposal would coincide with sunrise.
“I was actually sobbing into my pancakes,” she said. “I was so surprised, even though we had been talking about getting married. My emotions caught up with me.” They planned a May 9 wedding for 200 at Cedar Lakes Estate, a former summer camp site in Port Jervis, N.Y.
By the end of March, though, they started sensing an alternate plan was in order. “Our original thought was to postpone, but that felt a little strange because no one knew what was going to happen,” she said. “October wasn’t guaranteed, either. And knowing that, it started to hurt.”
After a few long talks, “we came to the conclusion that we just wanted to be married,” she said. They settled on their original wedding date, May 9, and her father’s house in Gloucester, Mass., where they have been camping out during the pandemic, as a venue. Their friend Kristi Nelson, ordained through the Universal Life Church, agreed to officiate. Ms. McDonough chose a dress she had left in a closet at her father’s house years earlier and enlisted a friend who designs lingerie to tailor it. Mr. Burke wore the clothes he picked out for the original wedding, a dark blue suit with a purple linen bow tie.
In late April, Afrik Armando, the Philadelphia-based photographer whom Ms. McDonough had hired for the Port Jervis wedding, and Joanna Nollet, a New Jersey-based florist, had called Mr. Burke. “They wanted to surprise Lillie,” he said.
On the night before the wedding, Mr. Armando and Ms. Nollet drove together to Massachusetts. “Wearing gloves, masks and a ton of spray sanitizer, we set everything up while they slept,” Mr. Armando said. “We had just decided that we both adore this couple, because they’re some of the kindest humans we’ve ever met.”
When Ms. McDonough walked downstairs that morning, she had cause to cry into her pancakes a second time. The house was filled with magnolias, lilacs, peonies and professional camera equipment. “It was beyond sweet,” she said. “Just unbelievably kind.” TAMMY La GORCE