One day, Christa Hartz will tell her grandkids about how she was a “pandemic bride” who got married in November 2020. Although the world was topsy-turvy, her love for her husband, Cortland “Cort” Hartz, never wavered.
“I spent most of Spring 2020 having a glass of wine while watching the nightly news, worrying what was going to happen with our wedding,” says Christa, who works at Arthrex as an organizational specialist in development and is pursuing a master’s degree at Florida International University. “There were times I thought we’d have to just do it at the courthouse.”
Christa’s doubts grew after two friends postponed their celebrations, so she looked into rescheduling for 2021. “We were shocked how quickly the 2021 calendar booked up,” she says. “Most available dates were on Monday through Wednesday.”
After much deliberation, the couple decided that their outdoor venue and modest guest list minimized COVID-19 risks, so they forged ahead. The honeymoon was another story. With their dream destination—Greece—unfeasible, they opted for an extended stay at their wedding hotel instead.
In the days leading up to the big event, Christa obsessively tracked Hurricane Eta, which ravaged Central America before turning toward Florida. “I never considered that a storm was a realistic threat so late in the season,” she says. Fortunately, Eta downgraded to a tropical storm and then bypassed Collier County. When Christa and Cort married on the lawn at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club on November 13, it was a clear-skied, mid-70s evening.
The venue—the site of countless dates for brunch or drinks, as well as Cort’s August 2019 proposal—held tremendous sentiment. “It’s our favorite place to hang out and relax,” says Cort, a physical therapist at Millennium Physician Group in Fort Myers.
Christa chose earth tones to play up the hotel’s fantastic sunsets. Reception tables were draped in terra-cotta linens and topped with gold chargers, with alternating high and low centerpieces of Quicksand roses, white hydrangeas, pampas grass, eucalyptus, and white phalaenopsis orchids. Her bridesmaids wore rose-gold sequined gowns that flickered in the sun and, later, beneath strings of twinkle lights.
Hip-high linear arrangements that complemented her centerpieces lined the aisle and led to an understated gold hoop with groupings of orchids and pampas grass that served as the backdrop to the couple’s vows. A dramatic cascade, her bouquet dazzled with plump white peonies and a blush king protea.
While Cort donned a traditional black tuxedo, Christa enchanted in an off-the-shoulder, honey-colored Martina Liana mermaid gown with a lace overlay and a striking train. Hidden beneath her hem was a piece of her mother’s wedding dress. She wore her hair in loose curls and kept her makeup neutral, with the exception of a golden smoky eye.
Of the couple’s 50 guests, most were family members. “Everyone present was someone close to us, a relative or a friend who feels like family,” Christa notes.
Both the bride and groom named “close ties with family” as an endearing trait in the other that convinced them they had found their match. “Family is everything to us,” Cort says. “Our family is responsible for making us a couple.” Despite growing up in the same city and attending the same college (Florida Gulf Coast University), Christa and Cort may have never met had her mother and his aunt not set them up on a blind date.
Once Christa relented to meet Cort in January 2018, she immediately felt relaxed. “We just meshed,” she says. “It’s always felt like an easy relationship.”
Several relatives were in the bridal party. Christa’s sister-in-law, Holly Strickland, was her matron of honor, while her nephew, Maverick Strickland, was the ring bearer. Cort’s father, Michael Hartz, was his best man.
After exchanging their vows, the couple concluded the ceremony with a unique ritual: placing letters to each other and a bottle of their favorite wine inside a keepsake box. “The goal is to wait until our five-year anniversary, then open it, enjoy some wine, and read these romantic notes,” Christa explains.
While the contents of those letters remain secret, the deep love fortifying this union is as lovely as a Naples sunset.
Photography by Michelle Gonzalez