Photography courtesy of Salas Image

I was never the girl who dreamed about her wedding. But when Matt proposed in mid-February on a pier overlooking an Arkansas lake, it was exciting to think about all the possibilities for our special day.

I never wanted my wedding to be a grand production, so we settled on a relaxed Sunday-morning ceremony in September, followed by brunch, dancing and yard games. Despite having no previous expectations, I wanted this. 

Matt and I had one month of pre-marital bliss before the coronavirus hit and Dallas County implemented its shelter-in-place order. By that time, we had already booked and paid for a venue, caterer, photographer and florist. 

Then we waited.

Over the next several months, just like everyone else, we learned to navigate a new world and worried about our jobs, with the added burden of wondering if we would be able to get married. 

I avoided social media, deleting the apps from my phone and checking my accounts solely for work purposes. I couldn’t handle the bad-news stories, the angry political posts and the comments berating brides audacious enough to have a wedding. The one I remember most went something like this: “Well, if I were a bride, I wouldn’t have a wedding. I love my friends and family too much.”

Even if we had wanted to reschedule, we couldn’t. In July, our venue stopped rescheduling weddings, and couples had to uphold their contractual obligations. Some people canceled or postponed and lost thousands of dollars in the process. We were not in a place financially to do that. 

For us, getting married wasn’t just a legal change. It was a life change. We lived in separate apartments, deposited money into separate bank accounts and even ordered off separate Amazon Prime accounts. We didn’t want to put off our marriage indefinitely. There’s no guarantee the virus will subside six months or a year from now. It was best to proceed as safely as possible.

I felt judged because of our decision. People assumed I was being selfish or irresponsible when I was doing all I could to make sure everyone who came could celebrate with us safely. I gave myself whiplash trying to keep up with the ever-changing local and state health guidelines while juggling the numerous other tasks that come with planning a wedding. 

Everyone was required to wear masks at the ceremony. We placed bottles of hand sanitizer at every reception table and sanitized the pens after people signed the guestbook. 

We took those precautions because we love our friends and family. We value their health and safety, but we are not solely responsible for it. Our guests were adults who knew the risks and were capable of making their own decisions based upon their social comfort level. I never pushed or persuaded anyone to attend. 

Even well-meaning comments can be hurtful to a stressed and emotional bride. The phrase that really irritated me was, “It doesn’t matter. You’ll still be married.” It seemed callous coming from friends and family who never had to worry about a pandemic when planning their wedding. I wish they had acknowledged my disappointments instead of acting as if they didn’t exist.

There were days when I cried. Thankfully, my mom missed her calling as a therapist and was there to listen when I had an emotional meltdown. It helped knowing I wasn’t alone. I know several women who got married this year, and even if we didn’t talk about it, I figured they understood better than anyone the peculiar challenges of being a corona bride. 

My desire for control sometimes made it difficult to enjoy the journey. The more uncertain my world became, the tighter I held onto my plans. After a particularly emotional day, I realized my grip had become a clenched fist, and I needed to loosen my grasp or risk being miserable for the rest of my engagement. I accepted that my wedding wasn’t going to look how I envisioned and readjusted my expectations — masks and all. 

I realize how fortunate we were. Unlike so many couples, Matt and I never had to postpone our wedding because the state was shut down, and our guest list was small enough from the beginning that, even with limited venue capacity, we never had the awkward task of uninviting guests. We have so much gratitude for the people who braved a pandemic to support us at the wedding, and we are even more thankful that no one got sick. 

Sept. 6, 2020, was a day full of joy, excitement and a lot of love. This year certainly needs more of those days. 

Know a corona bride? Been invited to a wedding?

Here are helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Be kind. Note: This applies to everyone, not just brides. Everyone is going through something this year and deserves a little extra patience and compassion.
  • Respect the couple’s decision to cancel, postpone or move forward with their wedding. They have made the best choice for them based on circumstances you may be unaware of.
  • Your RSVP doesn’t need to come with an explanation, opinion or judgment. A simple “yes” or “no” will suffice.
  • If you can’t attend, that’s OK, but be up front about your decision. Don’t tell a couple you’re coming and then change your mind.
  • Barring illness or emergency, if you say you’ll come, come. Prices for food are per head, and with limited capacity, there may be other people the couple would like to invite.
  • Don’t know what to say? Try, “Sorry you’re going through this,” “I’m happy for you” or “How can I help?”

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