Real Stories

What to do when your wedding is during a pandemic

Sometimes it takes a pandemic to show you what’s really important. When our March wedding had to be postponed, a live-streamed backyard wedding became the perfect celebration.

The only guest to our wedding, not including the officiant and photographer, was an iPhone on a white tripod, propped up on the A/C unit in our backyard.

When Bosch and I got engaged a year ago, we already had our wedding planned in our minds.  A small, laid-back weekend-long gathering of just immediate family and best friends, it was going to be more like a family reunion than a traditional wedding. Now that I had the ring on my finger, we had the OK to start making the plans a reality.

Throughout the year of our engagement, I worked hard to get a handle on my anxiety so that I could enjoy our wedding day to the fullest. I used self-talk, meditation, and advice from therapists. I imagined how I would handle torrential downpour or a last-minute vendor cancellation, but I never thought to prepare myself for a global pandemic threatening to destroy all the dreams I’d had for this day.

First, our honeymoon to Puerto Rico was postponed. 

As the internet-wide guilt trip of social distancing grew stronger and more and more news reports of canceled flights came out, Bosch and I told ourselves that we were going to go forward with the honeymoon until they forbid it. 

We were set to jump on a plane to San Juan on the evening of Sunday, March 22nd after the wedding festivities were done. On the Sunday prior, the governor of Puerto Rico instated an island-wide curfew of 9PM and a mandate for all non-essential businesses to close at 6PM in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. That wasn’t exactly the government forbidding us to go, but it certainly wasn’t an encouragement.

In what felt like a massive defeat, we canceled our trip and promised each other we’d make it to our dream honeymoon as soon as this all was over. We booked two nights at a quarantine-friendly cabin so we could jet off somewhere, even if it was only an hour and a half away. Besides, we still had the actual wedding to look forward to.

At just 30 confirmed guests for the wedding weekend, we were confident that we were in the clear to move forward. The venue we booked for the celebration starting Friday, March 20th sent out an email saying we could postpone for free, but they didn’t say they were closing, so we kept on. My step-mom, an RN, encouraged us to ask people who aren’t feeling well to stay home. We did, but nobody had shown any symptoms. My best friend coming in from Colorado felt it was best to cancel her flight. I was disappointed, but we kept on.

When the truth can feel like poison, denial is a powerful antidote. As I sat at my desk at work and the topic of the virus inevitably started up between my coworkers, I put on headphones to drown them out. I stayed off Instagram and certainly didn’t watch the news. I sent out emails to the wedding guests saying our plans hadn’t changed.

The CDC, along with state and federal government, began suggesting we stay away from the elderly or other at-risk populations. Then they said to limit gatherings to 50 people or less. We were still in the clear, but the guidelines didn’t stop there. The number of people allowed together in one room kept getting smaller as more and more businesses closed their doors.

On Tuesday, March 17th, I texted my sisters and vented about my frustration. I was unbelievably disappointed about postponing the honeymoon, heartbroken that my best friend couldn’t attend the wedding, and furious that this virus was creating a dark cloud over what should be one of the happiest occasions of my life.

On top of that, I felt an immense amount of guilt for worrying about this in the first place. People have lost their lives or the lives of loved ones, many are struggling for basic necessities, children are going without lunch, people are losing their homes, small businesses are closing left and right, while others are suffering through racist attacks. I had the audacity to be upset about a silly little wedding?

Despite trying to stay ignorant of reality, I knew the global death toll was increasing rapidly, but I wouldn’t let myself look at the numbers. Every number was someone’s grandmother or immunocompromised friend or medical worker spouse. The tragedy of it all was too much to bear, and I tried to escape within the illusion I’d built for myself.

Well-meaning loved ones told us, “The most important thing is you two are married, and that’s going to happen this weekend no matter what.” I couldn’t help but be frustrated at that statement. Of course we’re going to be married, I thought. All it takes is a signature from the right person for us to be legal. I wasn’t worried about not being married — I was worried about not having the celebration we had been planning for years.

When I talked to Bosch about my feelings, he comforted me by reminding me what he always did: “This is just a blip on our timeline.”

On Wednesday, March 18th, what happened to be my fiancé’s birthday, I got a text from my dad as I got ready for my last day of work before the wedding.

Make sure you feel comfortable moving forward with the wedding. If you’re going to postpone, today is the day to do it,” he advised. “Whatever you decide to do, we are behind you 100%.”

Annoyed, I locked my phone without responding and threw it down on the counter. I continued applying my makeup, but I was too distracted. He had put into words what my deepest fear had been. The heaviness that had lived in my stomach for weeks had been given permission to escape, and it was now poised on my chest, like a cat ready to pounce. 

I showed the text from my dad to Bosch. He was in as much denial as I was. He resisted, then gave in. I gave in, then resisted. We went back and forth like a tennis match, never getting closer to a match point. We were a split household, torn apart by the competing forces of determination and social responsibility.

About four hours later, we were still tearfully debating. I can’t remember who said it first, but slowly and gently, we came to the conclusion to postpone. The hard truth was that if we moved forward, there was no way we could have a normal wedding. The dark cloud would inevitably hang over the entire occasion, making it a “coronavirus wedding,” instead of the one we’d dreamed of. 

Also, it wasn’t just about us. If we gathered in that large of a group, we were putting not only ourselves, but everyone we interact with, in danger. We couldn’t in good conscience move forward with our wedding as planned.

We texted our friends and family. I began emailing vendors. Each time I wrote or said the words, “We have decided to postpone our wedding,” that heavy weight on my chest got lighter. I could breathe a little easier. My fiancé seemed more like a teammate than ever before and I felt nothing but gratitude for the loving and supportive man I had chosen to spend my life with.  

We still wanted a 3/21 wedding anniversary date, and besides, after having been together for more than seven years, we weren’t prepared to wait one more day to be husband and wife. Life is too short, after all, and who knows what the future holds.

Our photographer agreed to pick up the cake we had ordered on her way to our city, and thankfully we had purchased champagne already. I did my own hair and makeup and zipped up my dress myself, while my sisters gave their beauty advice and emotional support over FaceTime. 

“So how are you feeling?” my oldest sister asked as I blended my eyeshadow.

I paused for a moment and tried to find the words to express the thought that had been in my mind since we made the call to postpone.

“Doing it this way… makes the whole thing feel both more and less significant at the same time,” I replied. “There’s not going to be anyone else there, so it’s less of a show. That’s what’s making it feel less significant. It kind of feels like it’s just us hanging out. But at the same time, there’s nothing taking away from the actual exchanging of vows. What’s left is just me and Bosch. That’s a really huge deal.”

In the end, it was only our officiant and photographer who were present for our wedding vows, but the original group of 30 got to join virtually through a livestream service called Eventlive, which was offering its service for free during this crisis. The whole thing was recorded, so we sent it out to all our extended family and friends afterwards.

The ceremony was short and sweet — an abridged version of what we had prepared for the original occasion. I decorated a corner of our backyard with some of the lanterns and greenery I’d purchased for the wedding. We displayed the cake, complete with the cake topper from my grandparents’ 1947 wedding. Surrounding the cake were framed photos of us and our families. 

There was no piñata, margarita machine, or s’mores around the fire pit. No fun games or trips to a local winery. No morning-after brunch with mimosas and Bloody Marys. Just my husband and I — and the promise we made to love each other for the rest of our lives.

All in all, the exchanging of vows, cutting of the cake, and champagne pop was about 15 minutes long. After we waved goodbye and shut off the livestream, Bosch and I, newly married, sat and ate tacos with our two wedding guests. We chatted as if this was any other day.

And in reality, it was any other day. Bosch and I have been friends for more than a decade and committed to each other for nearly as long. We’ve co-habitated, including in the house we bought together, for years. The ceremony was just a way to make it legal and an excuse to get dolled up and drink champagne.

After the tacos were gone, our wedding guests left us alone in our home. It turns out that just getting married was the most important thing after all. Once it was over, all that was left was just me and him, grateful for our health and well-being. And it’ll continue to be me and him, hand-in-hand as we approach the next blip on our timeline — together.

Photo credit: Eva Cranford Photography

by Brooke Blanton Leith

Brooke Blanton Leith is a writer and editor from San Antonio, Texas on a search to consume as much cathartic and transformative content as possible during her short time on this earth. When she’s not creating, she can be found nose down in a novel or catching the latest feature presentation. Brooke is a member of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation and San Antonio Writers’ Guild, and volunteers as a Reading Buddy for San Antonio Youth Literacy.


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