‘To hell with it, let’s just get married already’: Megan Gogerty and Chris Rich tap into their creativity for COVID wedding

Megan Gogerty and Chris Rich in Iowa City on their wedding day, June 7, 2020. — courtesy of Megan Gogerty

“Here’s the thing that’s true of every good wedding,” says newlywed Megan Gogerty. “You spend so much time, money and energy worrying about if the napkins are going to match the table setting and is the caterer late and what did I do with my ascot? But then you get there and you realize none of that matters. The only thing that matters is the person in front of you who you love, and the people around you. And frankly, this pandemic has really brought that to our awareness.”

Rather than postpone their nuptials, as others have in light of COVID-19, Gogerty, an Iowa City-based comedian, actor and playwright, and her fiancé Chris Rich, a set designer, moved theirs up by seven months. Utilizing Facebook Live, some festive face masks and their creative skills, the couple tied the knot on June 7.

“We were never going to have a traditional wedding, but I wasn’t expecting a plague wedding!” Gogerty said. “But it was so joyous … it became really clear how hungry our community was for some good news.”

The two met three years ago at a fringe drama festival in Alabama. Rich was working as an instructor at the University of Alabama Theatre and Dance at the time. He said he became “infatuated” with Gogerty as soon as he saw her one-woman play, Lady Macbeth and Her Pal Megan.

“Someone who is so intelligent, so empathetic, so vulnerable in her art — I was just fascinated,” Rich said. “She made me laugh pretty constantly.”

The feeling was mutual.

“We had a real meeting of the minds right away,” Gogerty said. “I knew right away when I met him; I was like ‘Oh, here he is! Here’s the one!’ We speak the same language and we hold the same values.”

Before they’d even formally dated, Rich told Gogerty he planned to move to Iowa City to be closer to her. Even though they were “desperately in love with one another,” Gogerty feared him uprooting his life when there were so many variables — would her kids like him? Could he tolerate Iowa’s snow and ice?

Rich made the leap anyway, getting his own home in town. On their first date in Iowa City, Rich proposed to Gogerty over dinner at Thai Spice.

“I did not say no, but I had concerns,” Gogerty recalled. “And Chris said, ‘Well, tell me your concerns.’ I started rattling them off and by the time I got to my 15th concern, Chris says, ‘OK, let’s see if I can address them, and when you’re ready, you ask me.’”

Courtesy of Megan Gogerty

Over the next year and a half, Rich bonded with Gogerty’s children (his border collie Schooner helped sweeten the deal) and moved in with them. Rich was hired by Riverside Theatre and has crafted sets for Gogerty’s original productions, including for the highly acclaimed Feast. in October.

“The designs he has done for Riverside have blown open the doors of the imagination,” Gogerty said. “He is my absolute favorite collaborator.”

“It was wonderful to be a part of the process from the ground up, which is not normally how a designer works,” Rich said, echoing Gogerty, “She’s my all-time favorite partner and collaborator.”

On Christmas Day 2019, Gogerty recruited her two kids to help with a special present for Rich.

“The children wrapped themselves up in big moving boxes like presents and jumped out of the box saying, ‘Merry Christmas, she wants to marry you!’” Gogerty said. Rich’s answer, of course, was yes. “And everybody cried.”

They reserved the North Ridge Pavilion in Coralville for an afternoon wedding in January 2021. Then COVID happened.

“We entered into this period of uncertainty. Right now there’s a real question about what’s going to happen in the fall, in the winter. I thought, I don’t want to wait till January only to discover we can’t get together,” Gogerty explained. “So we decided to hell with it, let’s just get married already. We’ll just have a little ceremony and then eventually we’ll have the reception.”

But was it really the right time? Just four days before their wedding, state troopers had ordered the use of teargas and flash-bang grenades against protesters in Iowa City marching against police violence and racism. But Gogerty said a good friend who had family in the hospital reassured her, saying, “Look, I need a candle in the dark. I need some good news. Please, please give me something to celebrate.”

The couple obliged, and “our quiet little ceremony quickly spiraled out.”

Megan Gogerty performs ‘The Tether: A Pandemic Play’ for an Iowa City household on April 25, 2020. — Genevieve Trainor/Little Village

Inspired by Gogerty’s The Tether: A Pandemic Play — written during quarantine, designed by Rich, and performed for one household at a time at a safe distance, with Gogerty holding the end of a long, thick rope and the audience holding the other, symbolizing connection — the couple traded traditional wedding vows for a series of ceremonies at the homes of their friends. Each stop would focus on a virtue — hope, trust, generosity, etc. — that Gogerty and Rich believe is exemplified by that person.

“They gave their story, they gave their blessing and they were able to participate in a way that you wouldn’t normally see in a standard ceremony,” Rich said.

The dozen mini-ceremonies were livestreamed for their loved ones scattered all over the world. The all-day affair ended with the couple driving to Des Moines, where Gogerty’s sister, a judge, officiated the marriage.

Loved ones gather (safely) to witness Megan Gogerty and Chris Rich’s nuptials on June 7. — courtesy of Megan Gogerty

“It was gorgeous,” Gogerty said. “Without minimizing the horrors of the world around us, it became this opportunity not just for Chris and I but for our whole community to say ‘these are the things that we love and value, and number one is each other.’”

So, how has married life been?

“Bliss. Absolute bliss,” Gogerty said. “We let go of all convention, all obligation, and are just doing what brings us joy and what allows us to serve our community, and that’s been just so liberating.”

She said they haven’t bothered to plan a honeymoon trip yet, “but what’s a better place to honeymoon than glamorous, exotic Iowa City?”

Megan Gogerty, with the help of her daughter, sends a message to friends and family watching their wedding day livestream. — photo by Benjamin Stuben Farrar, courtesy of Megan Gogerty

Emma McClatchey is Little Village’s managing editor, and feels very single right now. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 284.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misstated the university at which Chris Rich taught in Alabama. Little Village regrets this error.

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