When the Groom Got COVID a Week Before the Wedding, This Couple Changed Plans for the Fifth Time

They finally said “I do” at River House at Odette’s in New Hope.

River House at Odette’s

Jewel Lester and Ameer Sherard’s River House at Odette’s micro-wedding was moody and glam. Photography by Avonné Photography

“Love conquers all” — that could be the theme not only of 2020, but also of 2021. The evidence, of course, is the many soon-to-be-weds whose nuptials were impacted by the pandemic — and, at the same time, the ups and downs of life itself. It’s particularly true for this couple, who changed plans five times before finally finding a date that stuck. Their gorgeous, sophisticated and bittersweet River House at Odette’s micro-wedding was captured by Avonné Photography, as you can see below.

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Jewel Lester and Ameer Sherard met in one of the most romantic places — in Antigua, on a trip to celebrate a mutual friend’s 30th birthday. They ended up watching the sunset together one evening, just the two of them, and talking till the wee hours. The day after returning to their respective homes (the Germantown-raised Jewel was living in D.C. at the time, and Ameer was living in Brooklyn), they started dating.

Two years later, Ameer, an FDNY firefighter, proposed. “I said yes, and ever since, I’ve asked him to ask me again multiple times, because I love the way he loves me. … More than anything, I want to keep living life with him, laughing with him and growing with him,” says Jewel, a human-resources officer.

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The couple, who now live in Brooklyn, initially planned to get married on October 2, 2021, at Front & Palmer in Kensington, with 175 guests. The date was special because it would have been Jewel’s grandmother’s 95th birthday, but she passed away in the fall of 2020. Within a week of her death, Ameer’s father was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and Jewel’s dad had two strokes.

“We decided life was too short and moved the date up,” says Jewel. Their new choice: February 13, 2021, at Fame, with 75 guests. When the city shut down indoor events, they looked to New Hope, which had different guidelines. They tried an Airbnb, but the host ended up canceling out of concern for COVID. So they booked River House at Odette’s.

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But that wasn’t the last of it: A week before the wedding, Ameer got COVID. So they pivoted again, moving the date to March 13th. Jewel credits planner Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba of Clover Event Co. for helping them get through it: “She worked with the vendors to handle logistical changes as they came,” says the bride, who notes that the couple had to get a new photographer due to a schedule conflict and lost money on the original caterer. “She talked to me almost daily to make sure Ameer and I were okay.”

Despite it all, the result was a dream. The day had a moody, glam winter vibe, down to the groom’s jacket. During their first look, he surprised his bride when he revealed he’d had “Found a Jewel” stitched into the lining. Both Jewel and Ameer also had virtual first looks with their wedding-party members who weren’t able to attend.

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The 24 in-person guests (there were 200 virtual attendees) all dressed the part: Jewel’s father sported a peacock-patterned bow tie, and Ameer’s dad wore a new feather in his hat. And Jewel’s other grandmother sported a fur coat over her sparkly dress when she walked down the aisle as flower girl.

The ceremony scene was set with plush velvet furnishings and dramatic flowers — RAM Floral used a custom-color anthurium from Haus of Stems that was appropriately named ‘The Jewel’ as well as dyed ‘Brownie’ tulips and carnations, black-painted foliage, and local anemones, roses and ranunculus. Clover also made a custom Harry Potter sign for the bride — an avid fan of the series.

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In another special touch, the couple was married by friend Collin Williams — who ran the group travel agency behind the Antigua trip where they first met.

The reception followed suit with black linens, gold accents, and custom acrylic name cards to welcome each guest to the party — and what a soiree it was. The groom’s favorite part was the soul-train line with their families: “Everyone was out on the dance floor,” he says. A surprise for the bride: Her Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters pre-recorded their sweetheart song to be played during the event, and six of her sisters encircled her while it played.


There were six different doughnuts — sweet potato chai brioche and maple-bacon cake among them — for dessert. And there were nods to Jewel’s late grandmother, like her favorite 7-Up cake, baked by Clara’s Groovy Deliciousness. “I could feel my grandmother’s presence,” says Jewel. “It was perfect.”

Photographer: Avonné Photography | Venue & Catering: River House at Odette’s | Planning, Styling, Coordination, Invitations & Signage: Clover Event Co. | Florals: RAM Floral | Bride’s Gown: Kleinfeld Bridal | Hair: Dommie Cole | Makeup: Robin Chism | Groom’s Attire: Garçon Couture | Entertainment: Jersey Gina (ceremony music); Yannick Jones (reception music) | Cake: Clara’s Groovy Deliciousness | Videography: PenWeddings | Officiant: Collin Williams of Collin Devon Events | Linens: Nüage Designs | Rentals: Party Rental Ltd. (tablescape); Allaire Rentals (furniture) | Photobooth: Dearly Beloved Booth

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