It was a surreal moment: my boyfriend had taken me into the woods of the undeveloped property that he owned. I was standing in my nicest romper and a pair of my favorite gym sneakers for our two year anniversary, my shiny stilettos left in the trunk of his car once I realized they wouldn't make it through the woods. We were dreaming about the house we wanted to build there, talking about the stream that ran across the front of the property, and the flatter piece of land towards the back. He pointed behind me. “What does that say?”
I turned around to see Will you marry me? carved into an oak tree. Alex got down on one knee and held out the most beautiful pear-cut engagement ring, the diamond reflecting the light that streamed through the canopy of trees. Neither of us can remember what we said, but at some point I told him yes. We held each other amongst the trees, beyond excited to start the next chapter of our lives together. We didn’t quite realize that our next chapter would include this much quarantine.
Alex and I got engaged March 18th, 2020. That same day, the University of Alabama cancelled their spring graduation ceremony, the one I was supposed to walk in. We told all our friends and most of our family about our engagement over the phone since most people were already practicing social distancing. A couple days later, all the restaurants in Alabama were told to shut down their in-house dining. Almost every single person we called to tell our happy news to wished us congratulations before going into their concerns over the pandemic, an event that seemed to be growing in magnitude overnight.
Being a bride-to-be in the middle of a pandemic is scary. A wedding is an event that, while wonderful and beautiful, is also one of the most stressful times for a bride. You have to deal with money and family, the coordination of everybody in your life, and the pressure of perfection. Now add a heaping dose of uncertainty on the top of that: When will quarantine end? Will it be safe to meet in large groups even when (if?) it does? How do you decide on a venue when you can’t visit them? How do you set a date if you don’t have a confirmed venue?
My mom and I are tentatively planning an engagement party for late July; we don’t know if it’s ridiculous to assume that quarantine will be over by then, or ridiculous to assume it won’t.
I’m extremely lucky in this pandemic both as a person and as a bride. As far as I know without testing, I’m not sick. Nobody close to me has gotten sick or passed away, which I’m so grateful for every day. I have a safe home where I can quarantine with my cat and my fiancé. We have food and Netflix and each other. As a bride, I still have a ton of time to plan. Even though my schedule has changed (something that irks my anxiety), there is still plenty of time to manage it all. I haven’t lost money on down payments or had to cancel my wedding. I didn’t have to change my event from 100 people to 10. I’m not waiting anxiously to see if my August, September, or October wedding will be cancelled because events still won’t be allowed. While there’s certainly anxiety from the unknown variables and sadness every time I pass a bridal shop, I’m newly engaged and lucky to have not lost more. A lot of brides are watching months (or even years) of planning their dream wedding become wasted for reasons so completely outside of their control.
Yamani, a bride-to-be from Arizona that I talked to, has had that unfortunate experience herself. She met Steven at their church. “He had just moved into the area and it was his very first day at church. I saw him during our worship service and it was basically love at first sight,” Yamani said. “We have talked every single day since.”
He popped the big question on February 10th, 2020, and the excited couple set their date for May 23rd the same year. All of their plans changed completely as the Corona Virus began to affect the United States. “At first, when everything started, it was a lot of uncertainty towards the wedding, because May was still pretty far away. We thought 'Will things be okay by then?' but we weren’t able to plan anymore because a lot of vendors were closing. We initially changed our reception plans, but as time progressed, we learned that our wedding was definitely not going to happen May 23rd,” Yamani said. “At least not the way we expected it to.”
As long as their out-of-state parents are able to attend the ceremony, they plan to still wed on the 23rd of May, but that decision wasn’t easy to come to. “Initially we were against it for sure. You spend all this time planning—and we didn’t spend as many months as the average person, but we had a lot of plans from before we got engaged—so it was disappointing to see them all start to fall through.”
Another bride-to-be I chatted with, Chelsea Jarvis, is anxiously waiting to know more about her October 2020 wedding. She met her fiancé in 2015 when the two bonded over their matching Grateful Dead t-shirts.
He proposed in 2019. “I planned a trip to Ireland in the end of October,” Chelsea says, going into a trip they took to the Cliffs of Moher. “It was pouring down rain and so cold and the wind was blowing so hard that he had to like hold me up. We walked around, and we were both getting wet when he got down on one knee.”
The wedding planning started immediately: a ceremony at Capitol Park in Tuscaloosa in front of the ruins of the Rotunda, a tented reception with vines hanging from the ceilings and Persian rugs covering the ground, a bread table, and one of the most important details—Chelsea’s dress, the same dress her mother wore, re-done for the bride. As with everyone else's, these plans are paused. “Right now, for me, I just really don’t feel comfortable putting all this money down for deposits when we have no idea if we can have a wedding.”While this is difficult for Chelsea, it's also brought about some reflection. “This really makes you take stock of what’s important,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s still going to be me in my mom’s dress and him at the end of the aisle, and we’re going to be married, so who really cares what it looks like.”