The Pandemic Wedding Redefines What’s Beautiful

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The Pandemic Wedding Redefines What’s Beautiful

By Brittany Chaffee

Source: Wit and Delight

The weddings of our past glorified closeness; intimacy in large numbers. They valued sharing cake and side hugging cousins after six tap beers in the early twilight hour of 6:00 p.m. Weddings have always been an expensive reminder that we can celebrate with the ones we’ve loved for life and fuse families together with sparklers, champagne flutes, and silverware tapping on china. They are the embodiment of extravagant gestures and travel. Weddings of yesteryear taught us how to be monumental, practiced, and traditional.

These are the weddings of our past because, of course, a pandemic came into play.

Before writing this, I stared at a blinking cursor for a long time. Planning a wedding, and writing about it, feels insensitive in this new world. I recognize the deep privilege I have to be readily able to plan a wedding during a pandemic. My life hasn’t changed too dramatically since March, when this all started shifting the narrative. I’m a writer, so I was able to freelance and make do after I lost my corporate job. My fiancé is in finance, a job not affected by the blow of this change. Our wedding, scheduled for late September, has experienced a facelift, but I don’t want this post to be about how we’re complaining about the changes we’ve had to make. We’re lucky. The present of our lives could certainly, certainly be heavier. Our experiences are different, and through all of it, I have this undeniable craving to document every minute of the struggle because I have to find out what I don’t want to know, especially as it pertains to the “seemingly selfish” desire to celebrate love in a world that is hurting. Weddings are still happening. Discussions with family are heavy and tough. Expectations are high and low. Fear is imminent. And we’re all experiencing the new.

Our experiences are different, and through all of it, I have this undeniable craving to document every minute of the struggle because I have to find out what I don’t want to know, especially as it pertains to the “seemingly selfish” desire to celebrate love in a world that is hurting.

Marriage has slowly become a more unlikely and unequal institution, due to the pandemic itself and unemployment and eviction and the general desire for couples to have a more intimate celebration. I mean, weddings are expensive. Oftentimes they’re more than a down payment on a home—and most certainly a decision that feels sporadic and moderately forced, depending on expectations from family. For Jake and I, we both decided we’d invest a little money in the celebration and make a bash out of it. We set a long engagement to save the money, stuck to it, and set the date almost three years out.

Then, life happened. And no one knows how to plan a wedding in a pandemic. First of all, CDC guidelines to have a wedding are loose and confusing. Vendors are adding “pandemic” clauses in contracts. Venues in some locations are allowed to host up to 150 people, while states are recommending gatherings of only up to 20.  Recently, I saw a wedding invite that separated their invites into three groups: Group A, Group B, and Group C—and whoever RSVP’d first would get the invite, Group A getting first dibs and so on. I’ve heard horror stories about vendor cancellations. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve heard beautiful stories about couples hiking up mountains and eloping in boots and high altitudes. Couples have given back to their communities and filmed uplifting, heartfelt videos for family and friends. I think perhaps the lesson here is this: Weddings are still managing to be epic, gorgeous chaos-sandwiches. The new world has simply changed how they’re dealt to us.

Our wedding has been just that. A delightful chaos-sandwich. We sent out our Save the Dates last year, when days were nothing but another 24-hour bundle that ended in “y.” When we decided in June that we were going to have a small, safer version of the wedding, we had to send out 100 letters to the people we couldn’t invite explaining our reasoning. Everyone was incredibly understanding. It was heartbreaking to tell close friends we’d be celebrating with them virtually instead, but at the end of the day, safety was our top priority. Selfishness couldn’t steer the ship for us.

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