Pandemic Weddings

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, October 4, 2020

By: Eleanor Wellford

The young woman sitting on the sofa next to her fiancé had tears in her eyes. She had been confronted with yet another “that’s not allowed” when it came to planning her wedding, and she was reluctantly letting go of Plan C in order to consider Plan D and maybe Plan E. Plans A and B were long gone.

Contingency plans have become the norm for any couple planning a wedding this year. So has the necessity to “scale down”. Guests who were on the first list had to be politely uninvited as subsequent guest lists included only family members. Some couples held out hopes for a large celebration of the marriage sometime next year, but that’s been a small consolation.

My youngest child, Beth, was married two years ago and I’ve heard myself say more than once how glad I was that we weren’t planning a wedding this year! While that may be true on some level, it’s also true that the weddings I’ve experienced recently have been more about the sanctity of the service itself and less about the hype that has made the wedding planning business so lucrative and the wedding couple so exhausted by the time they finally get to the altar. The 15 to 20 or so close family members have felt more like participants in the intimate setting than like guests. That’s been a silver lining.

There have been other silver linings, too, such as pets having front row seats at outdoor weddings, or starting times being simply whenever the family has gathered and seated instead of right on the hour or half-hour. And the flowers defining and gracing the outdoor spaces have been more spectacular than ever.

During this time of our lives, it’s been hard to plan anything – much less a wedding. But I’ve loved being with couples and watching them work together to adjust to constantly changing parameters. One of the questions that I like to ask them in their last pre-marital counseling session is what they’ve learned about themselves in preparing for their wedding. Until this year, the grooms have usually answered that they’ve enjoyed being part of the planning more than they thought they would and the brides have answered that they’ve learned to realize when their stress levels are too high. Now their answers are full of empathy for what each has had to endure, acceptance of whatever version of a wedding they will have, and of gratitude for learning not only what’s important in a wedding, but in life itself. Those answers may not be wrapped up in shiny paper and ribbons, but they are gifts, nonetheless – gifts of the Holy Spirit. And they keep on giving.