When I said ‘yes’ and felt a ring slide down my fourth finger, the sun was bidding us goodnight as it set into the sea on the coast of Cornwall, the south-western tip of England. The weather was beautiful (for their standard), a little windy, with the sun reflected in golden yellow as it slowly descended unto the stretch of clear blue water. Eight months and too many Facetimes to count later, my fiancé and I—him in London, and me back home in Jakarta—are now confronted with a vanishing wedding plan, an uncertain reunion, and a strong-willed determination to stay hopeful.
If you spoke to me earlier this year, you probably got to hear me ramble on about how excited we both were to have our wedding signal the start of our lives together here. It marks a new adventure for us, in that, one, we’ve never been married before (us both), and two, it presents a new culture and a new place to live (for him). So, wedding venues were scoured, theme colours decided, and handmade invites scanned and sent.
At that time, our borders were still closed, but we were hopeful that it would reopen by the later half of the year; thus allowing us to see one another and possibly have our friends and family fly in to celebrate with us. So we waited. And waited. To our demise, new variants emerged, swiftly followed by regional lockdowns and the ever-changing travel restrictions.
Like many others, we had to adapt and be flexible. We weighed back and forth on alternatives, devising scenarios of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’, amongst them the unimaginable decision of “Should we still go ahead with the ceremony even at the cost that immediate family members won’t be there?” But as time went on, our substitute plans too, dwindled.
As fellow brides and grooms-to-be have probably also picked up, for efficiency, I’ve mastered the language of updates, though the words stubbornly remain the same—“We’re still waiting for the restrictions to be lifted. There’s no set plan yet! But we’re okay.” Then comes the virtual meetings, with venues, florists, and family members, discussing all possible possibilities, with the conversation always ending with both parties dispiritedly muttering “we’ll have to wait and see…”
After a while I wasn’t sure if the knowledge that my story is one amongst many brought me comfort or more grief, knowing so many others are going through the same disruptive predicament, with the uncertainty that only grows heavier with time. Through it all, my emotions have reached extremes: ranging from joy, excitement, anticipation, to disappointment, confusion, and yet somehow, a stilling sense of gratitude. And on it goes, all over again — at some points, the repetition seems quite comedic, and I tell myself “at least I can rely on this.”
Speaking to a few friends, also ‘pandemic brides’, they shared what’s been most challenging through this season of uncertainty. For some, it’s the repeated act of getting their hopes up only to be slapped with a hard no, somehow always told at the very last moment, leading to a flurry of last minute changes and cancellations. For others, it’s the delaying of a day that was supposed to be joyful and celebratory, instead suffused with frustration and tears. And then there’s others, to whom, the mere idea of being together would have been more than enough.
Still, there’s a lot of humbling insights I’m taking away from the past few months. For one, the pandemic has shifted our focus to what is truly being celebrated. It’s unearthed new possibilities of how this long-awaited day can look like (micro-weddings!) because whether in a group of 10 or 150, the love does not change. In the past year, I have seen friends get married without family members present, ceremonies scaled down to a lockdown-approved affair, reception meals packed in takeaway boxes, and of course, covid tests and hand-sanitising stations in room corners next to signs which read something like “Covid can’t stop love.”
As funny as it sounds, isn’t it true? In all this, love is worth celebrating. And when the time comes, and it will, I am confident it would have all been worth the wait.