MONROE — On what should have been the day that Cori Pahnke walked down the aisle to marry Mike Munford in the company of family and friends, they instead had a day date together.
Their wedding has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They visited Twining Park, held a mini photo shoot and went home to enjoy an evening of dinner, drinks, cake, dancing and a movie.
“We made the day as special as we could and commemorated it,” Mike said.
The couple had set a wedding date of April 4. Due to the pandemic and a “Safer at Home” order issued by the governor, the wedding has been postponed.
A chance meeting
Cori, originally from Monroe, visited North Carolina in high school on spring break with a friend in 1996 where she met Mike and the two “hit it off.” After she returned to Wisconsin, they began exchanging letters — and did so for 13 years, despite never seeing each other.
Both have held on to the many letters exchanged through the years, as a testament to their meaningful friendship. As technology developed, letters turned to emails.
“It was like a best friend,” Cori, 41, said. “We would talk about (getting together) but it never happened.”
And after 2009, they lost touch entirely.
“Life happened,” Cori said.
But in January of 2018, that all changed with a simple Facebook message. Mike was watching television and saw something that reminded him of Cori; he decided to send her a message. The two began communicating again and the connection they had before seemingly picked up where it had left off nearly a decade earlier.
But this time, there were sparks.
“I just know the entire time — I never forgot about her,” Mike, 43, said. “It felt like the timing was right. Somehow — everything just clicked.”
Cori is a big fan of Disney and had a trip planned in October of 2018 and invited Mike to meet her there. The first day, Mike rented a boat and asked Cori to marry him on the water, under the fireworks display from Magic Kingdom.
“The show was called ‘Happily Ever After,’” Cori said. “He proposed during the finale.”
Having the wedding they want
Mike agreed to move to Monroe since Cori has worked as a rural postal carrier here for more than 20 years. He found a job after commuting for a while at RR Donnelley in its IT department. He said he’s enjoying the small, rural farm community that reminds him of his own hometown.
The couple paid close attention as Gov. Tony Evers reduced crowds in mid-March, first to 250 (they were still OK) and then down to 10, when they knew rescheduling was inevitable.
Although the wedding is fairly small, with two people standing up for each of them and a guest list of under 150, neither of them could imagine saying their vows without being surrounded by those they care about.
“I can’t do it without my family being here,” Cori said. “We want to have the wedding we want to have, not the wedding we’re forced to have.”
Their photographer, DJ, officiant, venue and bakery are all local — and they wanted to keep them. When they reached out to see if they were available June 6 and each of them were, it was decided the wedding would be rescheduled.
“Everyone was extremely supportive,” Cori said. “Everybody understands. We can’t say enough about our venues and vendors. They are all working with us.”
With the governor’s extension for the “Safer at Home” order now until the end of May, they’re both hoping they don’t have to reschedule again.
However, if it comes to that — they said they will.
“My family’s small, but my best man is my brother,” Mike said. “Without them it’s not a wedding I want to do without her family and my family there.”
A honeymoon scheduled at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii in May was canceled entirely, Mike said, but the two hope to celebrate regionally, possibly in Door County — and plan to save Hawaii for a future anniversary celebration.