Maybe COVID-19 ruining our big wedding was the plan all along. When we got engaged in September of 2018, my fiancé Zach and I chatted about getting married in Yosemite National Park, where we were living at the time—just eloping and then moving back to the Midwest. We like things simple, and it seemed like just the relaxing and stress-free plan we needed. My mom, ever the traditionalist, had a different plan; she was set on seeing my fiancé and I tie the knot.
And truth be told, once I started thinking about celebrating with all of our friends and family, I started to get really excited about the idea.
Fast forward to September of 2019. My fiancé and I moved back across the country to Kansas City and had just moved into our new house, a milestone we wanted to check off the list before we started the wedding planning. We set a date for the spring of 2020, and everything started to get real.
We selected a venue, went wedding dress shopping, picked out a cake, started paying our photographer… the works! The process was fun and less stressful than I’d heard it would be. And as a bride on a budget, I was putting in the extra work to explore the various options for food and drinks to get the least expensive option. Wedding dress shopping with my Gucci tastes on a dimestore budget was time consuming, but I was committed to keeping our costs low!
Just over two months out from the wedding, we only had rings, a suit, and vows to worry about nailing down. My sister and my best friend were well into the bachelorette party planning, and my mom was all over the decor. As someone who relishes in planning and being ahead of schedule, I was over the moon.
It was at this point that I heard about the virus. News about COVID-19 was starting to speckle my Twitter timeline, and the fact that it was spreading rapidly was starting to make me feel uneasy.
I stayed on top of the news, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on about the novel coronavirus. Most people were still shrugging it off at this point, not taking it seriously. I didn’t know what to think, but I had a feeling that it wasn’t good. When businesses and events started closing down, the brides in my favorite wedding planning Facebook group had to start cancelling their weddings. Most of the initial shutdowns and cancellations were on the East and West coasts, so the reality of the impact this disease was having hadn’t quite made it to us in the Midwest yet.
I stayed on top of the news, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on about the novel coronavirus. Most people were still shrugging it off at this point, not taking it seriously.
The Facebook group quickly became divisive; alarmist and devastated brides having their feelings invalidated by women who were already married, or brides whose wedding was too far out to be bothered worrying about something “like the flu.” Women were lashing out at other women on totally non-COVID-related topics. It was a stressful and sad—and quite frankly, angry—place to be. I had to leave.
Just two months out from the wedding, with more and more things shutting down across the country, travel was beginning to be restricted. Friends and family members started losing their jobs. Zach and I started to realize that our wedding guests would need to start booking travel to our wedding soon. While a lot of brides were looking at whether they could or could not hold their event due to event restrictions, we were much more concerned with the stress—financially and emotionally—our wedding was putting on our guests.
At the end of March, my fiancé and I made the call to postpone the wedding. There’s no defined etiquette for how one should postpone or reschedule or even cancel a wedding. (Cue the Four Weddings and a Virus Facebook group creation, a lifesaver to spring brides everywhere.) I quickly transitioned into the more appropriate group for me, accepting my fate as a Corona bride. Brides were putting together templates and resources for one another, providing feedback on invitation language, and sending love when someone just needed the space to scream.
Many couples were rescheduling, but as the realists we are, we decided to postpone indefinitely.
I used some of the information I found in the group to email everyone on our guest list and made calls to those who weren’t the email type. The news was received with overall love and support and lots of disappointment, mostly from friends and family who were excited for us, and knew we were looking forward to it. Many couples were rescheduling, but as the realists we are, we decided to postpone indefinitely. The experts had no idea when it would be safe for our friends and family to gather again, and if they didn’t know, then, of course, we didn’t either. It seemed like the easier option than possibly rescheduling again.
When we postponed until further notice, we went through the process of notifying vendors. Many didn’t respond to us, but our photographer was gracious and flexible. We decided to chat in another month. In April, our photographer pushed us to at least get a second date on her calendar, just in case things get better and we were able to go through with our wedding. Setting a second date also gave us something to look forward to, but we still didn’t want to tell people we’d rescheduled for fear of having to postpone again. Zach and I decided between the two of us that we’d see what the COVID situation was toward the end of July and try to give everyone an update at that time. Morale in our house was low, but honestly, whose wasn’t?
For the month or two that followed, it was constant questioning and a stall in planning. I’d lost all motivation to nail any plans down.
“When is the wedding going to be?”
“Have you set another date yet?”
And then, once group sizes were allowed to get larger in our region, it was:
“Why don’t you just have a small wedding?”
“You could get married in your backyard?”
“What are you waiting for?”
“What are you going to do to celebrate your original wedding date?”
It was constant. When asked, I didn’t get the feeling that people really wanted to hear our answer, or when they did hear it, they looked at me like I was making an excuse to not get married. Umm, nope. I’d try to explain that two-thirds of our wedding guests were from out of town, including 100 percent of our immediate family. If we had a small local ceremony, our closest friends and family wouldn’t be able to make it. That, and I had a deep fear that the coronavirus would just hang over the ceremony and celebration and it wouldn’t feel like the celebration of our dreams. In the Four Weddings and Virus Facebook group, I learned that lots of brides had this fear. How could we sit back and enjoy this joyous day when people are dying all over the world?
How could we sit back and enjoy this joyous day when people are dying all over the world?
The persistent questioning coupled with the never-ending news cycle of doom felt like hundreds of pounds of weight on my shoulders. And the waiting and not knowing felt hopeless. But I kept reminding myself, we’re in no hurry.
My fiancé and I have stayed employed and stayed busy throughout the spring, and I’ve leaned into the online community of women going through the same experience. I saw so many brides struggling with their vendors not being flexible, with their families not being flexible, with sick relatives, with fiancés overseas, or with putting families on hold, and it helped me to remain centered and humble. We weren’t losing a lot of money on uncooperative vendors. We weren’t putting our life on hold until we got married. Our relatives were being safe and staying healthy. We were still the lucky ones. And still, the not knowing persisted.
Worrying about the wedding felt not only pointless, but also selfish, so we didn’t. Both Zach and I got involved supporting those in our local community who needed food, money, and supplies, and doing our absolute best to not go insane in the house. The wedding stayed quietly in the back of our mind.
The Wedding Date
By the time our original wedding date rolled around, Zach had totally put the change behind him and was looking forward to the future. I tried to do the same, but the full weight of things crashed down on me. I was supposed to be joining a new family and celebrating with all of my favorite people. I didn’t want to get out of bed.
To my relief and utter appreciation, bouquets of flowers and sweet texts from friends filled my entire day. c
Once the day passed, I felt lighter. We still didn’t know what the plans were going to be, but people slowly got tired of asking us if we’d picked a new date. It’s almost like they totally forgot, and honestly, it was a relief. The pressure of having a wedding slowly melted away over the next few weeks. With the pressure off, it was much easier to not dread the date that we’d make our decision on whether or not to have our wedding on the secondary date.
Even when it feels like the world is against you, there are people in your life that are there for a reason. I realized that mine will show up for me even when I don’t ask for them to.
As summer continued to pass and news of the virus spreading seemed to get worse and worse, we still didn’t feel safe being around a handful of people—let alone our whole families or friends. News of dozens of people getting COVID-19 after attending a wedding kept popping up on our timelines and newsfeeds. It felt irresponsible to host a group of people to celebrate us. Many brides and grooms were still moving forward with small weddings, and I was genuinely happy for them. Genuinely. But with our guests traveling across the country, we had to have the conversation. Is the health of our guests worth risking for the wedding of our dreams? If we did risk it, would the fear and confusion around the virus bring down the mood on our big day? Did we want to wait until a vaccine was widely available to host our wedding?
Is the health of our guests worth risking for the wedding of our dreams? If we did risk it, would the fear and confusion around the virus bring down the mood on our big day? Did we want to wait until a vaccine was widely available to host our wedding?
Ultimately, Zach and I decided the answer was no. The risk of our loved ones getting sick and possibly having long-term damage from a virus that doesn’t have a vaccine was too high. We didn’t want that pressure and responsibility to be on us. The second date with our photographer was just too soon. In an ultimate resolve and sigh of relief, we decided we’d get married—just the two of us. Our original dream wedding.
My fiancé was thrilled when we made the decision, of course—he’d wanted to elope all along. And my bridesmaids gave me overwhelming support, “Go marry your man, lady!” It was the right choice; having a plan gave me relief and I was finally at peace. I get to marry my dream man in the mountains. We’ll be at minimum risk, and our friends and family won’t have the emotional and financial strain that our wedding would put on them. Plus, as people keep saying, what a story to tell.
We’ll party with friends and loved ones eventually, but for now, we’re off to go get married.