My fiancé-husband and I are one of the tens of thousands of couples across the country that have had to postpone their wedding. It is a privileged problem to have amidst the health and financial challenges crippling the globe right now, but a heartbreaking one nonetheless.
We came to the decision slowly, begrudgingly, until we settled on a plan that wasn’t a settlement at all, but a multiplication: We decided to get married three times.
I had never been a person who dreamt of weddings. The most romantic image I could conjure was of the two of us at a courthouse, swearing before a judge that we would take care of each other.
My partner on the other hand has a deep cultural desire to have a larger ceremony and to be witnessed, a celebration not just of the two of us, but of the two of us in and with our community. Being that my partner is an extrovert, has great ideas, and I love him, I threw myself into this version with joy.
We recruited the bridal party and pieced together a color palette. We hand-cut and painted 300+ tiny wooden mountains for table décor. We set a date for June 2020. I got the dress. Oh, the dress! I still haven’t figured out where to store that dress now.
Then of course, COVID-19 had its own plans.
That we waited so long to make the final call is indicative of the very real stages of grief that we needed time to cycle through: There’s no way the pandemic is going to last into summer; maybe we can just push into July, August, September; what’s even the point of having a wedding at all?
Just this past week we finally crossed over into acceptance like a marathoner with a twisted ankle at 26.2, exhausted, but finished. The wedding would have to be postponed.
The wedding. But not the marriage.
We decided to get legally married for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that in uncertain times you sometimes need something tangible, binding, to hold on to. We didn’t want to make it into a “thing” – in fact, we are not quite yet calling each other husband and wife, preferring to wait until at least our second ceremony to allow those feelings in. But when logistics aligned and we made the spontaneous decision to do it this past Friday afternoon, we celebrated.
The ceremony was quick, casual, and the most fun we’ve had in weeks, as we’ve been taking social distancing quite seriously. During our own suspected infections we stayed inside for fourteen days straight. In the two weeks that followed we left home infrequently, only to get groceries and take walks around the block. So by the time we stood in our rabbi’s front yard we were starved for human contact, as are most Coloradans right now.
In Colorado, you can self-solemnize, so we didn’t really have to do any of this. With in-person requirements suspended we could have simply signed the license ourselves and sent it back. But with zero fanfare these days or in the foreseeable future, why not celebrate the smaller moments? Sometimes you just need a win.
I put on make-up for the first time since early March and we recruited a close friend to hold a phone to Zoom in our parents. Under an enormous coniferous tree in our rabbi’s front yard, with snowmelt still softening the ground, we signed the document that binds us in the eyes of the state and proclaimed how grateful we were that we haven’t gotten sick of each other in quarantine.
We also laughed, and it was such a relief.
Then, we drank two bottles of champagne on the grass and gloried in in-person conversation with each other and with two people (mostly at a socially appropriate distance, of course) for whom we have so much love and respect.
Though we’re not considering this to be our “official” ceremony, it certainly had a spiritual element to it, which would never have happened if the coronavirus hadn’t redefined what togetherness means now and perhaps, forever.
Being present with other people, physically and psychologically, is a joy that I hadn’t often considered before and hope not to take for granted any time soon. When we left, I was filled with ruach, or at least my definition of it, a spiritual energy and fulfillment that will carry me forward for some time to come.
So what of our other two weddings?
We’ll have another small ceremony in June, possibly on our original date, and finally claim that “married” feeling that we’re putting off for now. The third will happen when it’s safe for our community to fly and gather again, and now there is no rush.
We’ll have our big, raucous party, and when we do, it will be worry- and COVID-free.
Kelly Baug lives in Denver.