Vanessa Palacios never pictured being a bride and certainly never wanted a traditional wedding.
"What was important to me, and it wasn’t about a paper or law or ring, I didn’t even know if I wanted a ring," Palacios said. "To me, it was important to be tied to the universe somehow."
Palacios and husband Josh Skierski were one of six couples to get married in a mass ceremony Monday afternoon at Blue Jar Barn in Belton just moments before eclipse totality.
Blue Jar Barn is a wedding and event space on the property that was formerly known as Rudy's Bluegrass in the Woods. Co-owner Ray Turner said the whole event came together in about two months.
Turner said their team became nervous after no one signed up to get married for the first three or four weeks. All six couples signed up within a couple weeks of each other, he said.
Palacios and Skierski traveled the farthest for the ceremony. They drove up from Atlanta in a 37-foot RV. A small group of friends and family and their dog Leona also came to Belton for the ceremony.
The couple met at a Valentine's Day party in Atlanta in 2010 and were engaged for several years. When they began planning a wedding, they knew they wanted to incorporate the universe somehow.
The couple had planned to get married during the Leonid meteor shower in November, but then Palacios read online about the opportunity to get married at Blue Jar Barn and thought it would be a good fit.
“It just kind of made sense when we started talking about the significance of the eclipse," Palacios said. “We’d been trying to find something to connect us. What better way than to be aligned with the earth, moon and stars? Light and dark brings life. You need lights and shadows.”
Skierski said the couple was also drawn to the idea of sharing their day with other people.
“We don’t like to be in the spotlight all that much," Skierski said, "so it’s like taking the eyes off of us and putting it on the sky and everybody here. It’s nice to come together with total strangers and share this beautiful day with them.”
"I always say strangers are some of my favorite people," Palacios added.
David and Susan Summer were among those strangers. The couple from Anderson had been married for 18 months, but used Monday's ceremony as a vow renewal. They marked the occasion with new rings – tattoo rings with an image of an eclipse where a gem stone might normally be.
Each of the six couples paid $300 for their wedding. That included the ceremony, photographs, drinks, snacks and 10 guests.
The couples didn't meet until after they said their vows. The ceremony itself was non-traditional. Brides and grooms recited vows in unison, and a crowd of onlookers at the site for their own eclipse viewing cheered from a distance as the couples kissed and were introduced as married.
The couples then took group photos in solar eclipse glasses then stood in awe as the sun was eclipsed by the moon for two minutes over their wedding site.
“It’s a special day for us," Palacios said, "but it’s also fun to be attached to a part of history.”