SOLEDAD — Chris and Nellie Vallejo Longoria celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary during an outdoor mass at Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church in Soledad on Aug. 29, the same date and church they were married in 1970.
The Longorias live in Los Banos and said they regularly come to service in Soledad about every other week. They have two daughters and five grandchildren, and those in attendance at the small ceremony were their longtime friends as well as family members.
The bride’s only living sister, Aurora Vallejo Alvarado, was matron of honor. The best man was the groom’s brother, Steve Longoria, who was in the Army in 1970 and couldn’t get leave to be part of the original ceremony.
“We met in high school, at Gonzales High School, when we were sophomores,” Chris Longoria said. “Our first date was to come to church.”
Nellie Longoria said it took longer for Chris to park and pick her up than it did to drive to the church, since she lived within two blocks’ distance.
“Here we are again, it’s a special place for us, very meaningful,” Chris Longoria said.
He credited the church as being something that has centralized them and kept them focused, which has added strength to their marriage.
“You have your ups and downs in marriage, like every marriage does,” he said. “But the best thing about it is during hard times, when you love each other, you support each other in overcoming whatever adversities may come your way.”
In reference to the five decades they have spent together, Nellie Longoria said it takes “family, faith and love.”
“We’ve seen the best of each other and the worst of each other,” she said. “The thing that will divide you is if you don’t love yourselves when you’re angry. We still have our church, we still have our faith.”
“One of the things that really stands out for me is when you’re in a relationship, if the other person can love you seeing the best of you, but when they see the worst of you and they still love you, that’s true love,” Chris Longoria said. “That’s what we have.”
The mass and renewal of vows was held outside with limited guests due to statewide Covid-19 restrictions, which include changes to how churches operate.
With a large ceremony, churches require those in attendance to gather in the parking lot, but when a group is kept to a small size, they can hold services under an on-site tent canopy, such as the one used for the Longorias.
“There’s something beautiful about looking at all the flowers, and the air is clear,” Nellie Longoria said. “We’re blessed that today is a beautiful day. It’s not too hot or not too cold. It reminds us that life is good.”
She noted that while the recent fires and the ongoing pandemic have been cause for concern, celebrating their anniversary was a way to put the darkness behind for a little while and enjoy happiness for a day.
The Longorias both grew up in Soledad, and not only were part of the Class of 1967 at Gonzales High School, but also went to Hartnell College, San Jose State University and San Diego State University. They are currently retired but volunteer with their church and local organizations.
Another link to the past was the lasso, a ceremonial rope used to bind the couple together to represent their bond during a Catholic wedding ceremony. The Longorias have the lasso from their 1970 wedding.
“Our daughter used it at her wedding and now we’re using it again today,” Nellie Longoria said.
Numerous members of the wedding party, including the original flower girl, were in attendance to watch the ceremony.