By DAVE PAXTON
Editor and Publisher
When Noah Downey asked Allie Stanley to marry him on a wind-swept beach in Mexico with a photographer and her family nearby to catch the moment in June of 2019, an April 4, 2020 wedding date seemed about perfect.
Well, getting engaged, as it turns out, was the easiest thing this young couple has done in their nearly year-long quest to become man and wife.
“Everything was going along perfectly until February,” said the 23-year-old Stanley. “We had a beautiful venue at Valley View Events Center (a popular wedding spot near Moulton), we had the cake ordered, my bridesmaid dresses were all set and for the first time in eight years, Noah’s entire family would be together.”
Then the coronavirus hit. The reason Noah’s family of four siblings, dad, Chris and mom, Valerie, hadn’t been together since his brother James’s wedding to Joy in 2012 was the fact that they are a military family. Noah served four years in the Army and is now a member of the Iowa National Guard. Oldest brother Richard, an Army Ranger, is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with his wife Alexi, oldest sister, Lydia, who had a first career as an Army officer nurse, is now a nurse and medical student in Iowa City, and a member of the Army Reserve medical corps. James is a medic stationed in Texas with his wife, Joy and their four children. Chris (a retired full bird colonel) and Valerie, live on a small farm west of Albia.
The first thing President Donald Trump did when the outbreak was acknowledged was to stop all military travel, protecting America’s most military vital assets. When the shut down of American life started, it began with reducing gatherings down to 50 people. That reduced the number of people invited to the Downey-Stanley wedding from 350 to 50, but it was still a nice size, even though Noah’s brothers (sister Lydia’s Reserve status lets her travel 250 miles) wouldn’t be there.
When Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered no gatherings larger than 10, Noah and Allie had to adjust their “perfect” wedding plans.
Noah, 26, knew Allie from Trinity United Methodist Church youth group days, although they were little more than youth group friends. “We had no interest in each other,” said Allie. “That’s not entirely true. By the time I was in college I had a crush on him but never let anyone know.
Noah entered the U.S. Army in 2012 and Allie finished three years of high school at Albia Community High School. During his four-year stint as an active duty soldier with the armored cavalry in California, Texas and South Korea, the two started messaging each other. “I wanted to get on his radar a bit,” admitted Allie.
Noah mustered out of the regular Army, returned home, joined the Iowa National Guard and began finishing training in x-ray technology. Allie, now a sophomore at William University seeking a degree in elementary education, made sure they ran into each other at church and asked him out on their first date, a visit on Oct. 7, 2017 to the high school haunted house. On that first date the two agreed that they just weren’t looking for a dating relationship. They were looking for a marriage partner.
Noah decided being an x-ray technician wasn’t the life he wanted, went into insurance sales for awhile and then joined Pella Corp working second shift in logistics. “I load truck at least once a month,” he said in typical Noah Downey dead pan fashion, with just a slight grin.
The dating relationship moved along to the point of Noah joining the Stanleys on that vacation to Mexico last June, set it up with a photographer to capture Allie’s reaction when he presented her the ring on the beach and has since helped when needed on the wedding plans.
Allie graduated from William Penn in December of 2019 and had been substitute teaching in Albia, Moravia and at Oskaloosa Christian School until the governor ordered all schools shut down.
The young couple continued to work on their wedding plans until March 15 (the Ides of March, you know, when Brutus stabbed Julius Ceasar) when they were returning from a bachelor-bachelorette party and got the news from the governor that no more than 10 can attend weddings, funerals or church services.
“I had a meltdown,” admitted Allie. For a second, just a second, the two considered postponing their wedding indefinitely. “We looked at each other and were both committed to living our lives together now,” said Allie.
It was Chris Downey, Noah remembers, who described the new plan. “Dad called it a rehearsal for the re-enactment,” said Noah.
The wedding will proceed this Saturday at the venue they had picked, which just happened to have a pretty nice, wide parking lot. The event will become a “drive-in wedding.”
“I wanted to set up a popcorn stand,” said Noah. “I got voted down.”
There will be 10 people in the wedding party, including Trinity UMC Pastor Roger Henry, Noah and Allie, Jim and Angel Stanley, Chris and Valerie Downey, Allie’s sister Cheyenne and brother, Austin, and Noah’s sister, Lydia. There’s enough room for 16 cars to park at angles to see the ceremony. Music will be on CD.
A lot of the angst of going from 350 people at a beautiful indoor wedding to a drive-in wedding right out of “American Graffiti” has been removed because of how the two families approach life. “Allie thought it was really awful that most of my family wouldn’t be there,” said Noah. “But it’s kind of normal for a military family to be apart from each other.” Noah has lived in at least a half dozen places around the world. He earned a large number of merit badges enroute to becoming an Albia Eagle Scout in a troop from South Korea.
Allie’s mother is a nurse and more than anyone understands the risks of the coronavirus.
“God and I had multiple fights,” admitted Allie. “I’m a planner. I like order. I don’t know how many times God reminded me that He was the planner.”
There are still some things, just days away from their marriage, that still aren’t completely worked out. Like who is doing Allie’s hair. “Lots of things brides expect to happen, won’t,” said Allie. “Like nails and hair.”
Right now Noah is at his scruffy best with beard and hair that needed trimmed a couple of weeks ago. “I’ve got an Army buddy,” he said.
Has he ever cut hair?
“That I’m not sure of.”
Unlike a lot of brides, Allie will get to wear her wedding dress twice. Noah will be dressed in his Army blues…twice.
And the honeymoon? If they did wanted one, it had to be within 250 miles of Noah’s Guard unit in Des Moines.
“That, we can wait for,” said Noah.
Added Allie, “We might just stay home and play board games.”
The re-enactment of the wedding vows and the reception will probably be held in September, same place, different cake.
“Someone reminded me that the things that seem imperfect in your life are the ones you remember best,” said Allie.
If that is the case (and experience says it is) this will go down as one of the most memorable weddings in Albia history.