Reimagining Our Pandemic Wedding Taught Me What Mattered Most

As a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, couples all over the world are having to make a very difficult, and often heartbreaking, decision to cancel, postpone, or adjust their best-laid wedding plans. To share their stories—and, hopefully, help our readers process this admittedly emotional and fluid situation, we are asking those affected to share their “Change of Plans” stories in their own words. Below, Alexandra Zuckerman tells her story from Washington, D.C.

In a pandemic, it’s the simple things in life that keep us going. So when it came to reimagining our big wedding day, one thing was not going to change: We wanted to eat ice cream. 

My husband and I never wanted the traditional wedding cake, we were always going to serve Thomas Sweet ice cream. It’s a Princeton, New Jersey, staple, and was my favorite ice cream shop growing up. It’s also happens to be across the street from the church where we got married.

But how could we safely get 40 people from church to the ice cream? One thing came to mind: a “second line.” A “second line” is a wedding parade tradition that originated in New Orleans, in which brass band (the first line) often leads party goers (second line) through the streets in celebration. In college, I spent some time volunteering in New Orleans and always loved the idea of a “second line.” On our wedding day, we weren’t accompanied by a big brass band, but we masked up, and we strutted through the crosswalk to retrieve our sweet post-ceremony reward. 

Reimaging a wedding in 2020 can come in many forms, and let me tell you, we thought through all of them.

Reimaging a wedding in 2020 can come in many forms, and let me tell you, we thought through all of them—elopement, micro wedding, zoom wedding, postponing. At one point, we talked about getting married in the church with only our parents in attendance. In every revision, we still planned to go get ice cream after the ceremony. The best decision for us was to ultimately scale down. We went from having 175 people on the guest list to 40. 

As with most couples planning weddings in 2020, the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions was just a speed bump, we all thought would pass. Matt and I had just returned from a ski trip and were really rolling into high gear for wedding planning. We’d paid a deposit on the venue, the caterers, and an eigh-piece band. Next up on the list was a trip to Philadelphia to meet my mom and maid-of-honor to go dress shopping.

Well, we did not make it to Philadelphia that weekend. Instead, I purchased a sample sale dress online and prayed for the best. The dress arrived just as shelter in place orders went into effect. I called my neighbor to ask her to zip me up and hold the phone for a FaceTime with my mom. She immediately ran over with her two young boys, who were already in their pajamas. They were in awe of the ballgown and danced around me with excitement. 

In June, our venue told us that they would only allow gatherings of 35 people or less. At this point, we had already decided to scale our invite list to 40 people. Since the venue couldn’t fulfill their end of the contract, they gave us a full refund and the hunt was on for a new venue. 

Once we decided to keep our wedding date, the stress started to set in—and I was, admittedly, a wreck.

Once we decided to keep our wedding date, the stress started to set in—and I was, admittedly, a wreck. The idea of having a super spreader COVID event weighed heavily on me. In the span of a few months, I gained nearly 15 lbs.

I was still exercising regularly but would fill my non-working time with mindless television on Netflix and stress baking. I perfected my challah making skills, made those delicious New York Times Giant Crinkle Cookies numerous times, and started cooking elaborate dinners. I ate whatever carbs we had stocked up on during our bi-monthly grocery trips and tried to ignore the fact that I had to fit into a wedding dress. 

I pushed my wedding dress fitting until the last possible minute. At the end of August, I finally went to the seamstress. When I put my wedding dress on it zipped…but I could barely breathe. Without skipping a beat, the seamstress came up with a plan to replace the zipper—it was a sample sale dress, so the zipper was pretty worn anyway—and give me some extra room around the back using some of the fabric that was cut after hemming. 

Photo by Traverse the Tides

I didn’t hit my wedding day goal weight, but the dress felt fantastic, we were healthy, and most importantly, we were deeply in love.

Looking back, I realize that a pandemic, like marriage, can be a humbling experience. Our change of plans helped me realize the things in life that really mattered. I didn’t hit my wedding day goal weight, but the dress felt fantastic, we were healthy, and most importantly, we were deeply in love. Matt tells me every day that I’m beautiful, he dotes on me, he looks at me longingly. He loves me for everything that I am. The pandemic has also given me a new appreciation for our relationship with family and close friends. Happiness comes from how the people around you make you feel, not from how you look on one day of your life.

Photo by Traverse the Tides

I’m not going to lie, hosting a pandemic wedding is hard. Our wedding reception didn’t include our original guest list, meal plan, or an eight-piece band, but we made sure to include the important things: family, life-long friends, and a focus on our love. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from all of this, it’s that life is short, so appreciate what you have, don’t take love for granted—and eat dessert first. 

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