It was the moment we’d waited for all our lives. The pews were filled with hundreds of our family members and friends, all of them smiling, many of them teary-eyed. On the altar proudly stood the priests who had been spiritual fathers to us over the years. By our side, dressed to the nines, stood our siblings and closest friends who had traveled from across the country to be with us on this special day.
The sanctuary was filled with the most beautiful sights, smells and sounds imaginable. Radiant flowers adorned the altar; incense billowed toward the heavens; the choir rang out in sacred polyphony and lifted the hearts of all to God. We stood at the altar, hand-in-hand, gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes. Everything had gone exactly as planned. It was the perfect way to say, “I do.”
There’s just one small problem: that’s not how it happened.
The lead-up to our wedding had been relatively straightforward. Like many Catholic young adults, we’d spent years preparing for our wedding day. As singles, we’d navigated the perils and pitfalls of the dating scene, received plentiful dating advice and spent hours upon hours praying for our future spouse. As a dating duo, we’d built a friendship and intentionally discerned a potential future together. And as an engaged couple, we’d decided early on that we wanted a “big, Catholic wedding.” Our dream was that through its beauty and grandeur, our wedding could be a witness of Christ’s love to all in attendance.
And so we set about planning our big, Catholic wedding. Venues were booked, dresses were ordered, invitations were mailed. Before we knew it, we were in the home stretch, just weeks away from April 18th, 2020: our perfect day.
And then one day, we received text from one of our guests, asking if we had considered a Plan B. We hadn’t.
In the early days of the pandemic, we’d remained optimistic about our special day. But as shutdowns and stay-at-home orders commenced throughout the country, we were faced with the troubling reality that our “big, Catholic wedding” would not go as planned.
We had two options before us: postpone the wedding until some unknown, post-COVID time, or get married on the original date with a guest list reduced from the original 250 to ten (including ourselves).
For weeks, we wrestled with the decision. If we postponed, we could keep the wedding we’d planned. But when would that be? Weeks, months or years in the future? How long would we have to wait to begin our life together? It didn’t seem right to put our marriage on hold for the sake of having the wedding the way we wanted it.
At the same time, the prospect of a private wedding was devastating. No family members aside from our parents. No out-of-town guests. No bridal party, no choir, no first dance. Just a small, humble wedding.
After plenty of prayer, discussion and tears, we came to peace with the small, humble wedding. It was the Feast of the Annunciation. We gave our “yes” to God’s new plan with just twenty-four days to spare.
Over those twenty-four days, we witnessed an outpouring of generosity from our friends and family. A local priest opened his church to us and offered to livestream the wedding. Would-have-been groomsmen mailed me pieces of their suits (after I had failed to pick up my own suit before department stores locked down). The day of the wedding, a family we had never met decorated the parish hall for our humble “reception.” And a group of friends drove from out-of-state to surprise us in the parking lot.
It was a far cry from the “big, Catholic wedding” of our dreams; but in its simplicity, it was the most beautiful wedding we could have asked for.
Why do we share this story? While not everyone gets married during a pandemic, we have all had plans ruined by COVID-19. Whether it was your high school graduation, your senior year of college or your family vacation, we feel for you. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
But while we’re the first to say that it’s okay to grieve what you’ve lost during the pandemic, we also want to encourage you to look for the hidden blessings.
And so, here are the three principles we learned when Covid-19 ruined our wedding:
- It takes a village. The pandemic gives us no choice but to rely on one another. God reveals his love for us through those he surrounds us with. Who is he calling you to rely on?
- Sometimes the “small” is a bigger witness than the “big”. We wanted a big, Catholic wedding with all the smells and bells. We wanted its grandeur to be a witness to our faith in God. Ironically, saying “yes” to the small, humble wedding felt like an even bigger act of faith! We are not called to do great things, but small things with great love (St. Mother Teresa).
- God wants to serve you. We wanted to bless others through our wedding, but God used the small wedding to bless us. What a gift! Where might your desire to serve others be getting in the way of how the Lord desires to serve you?
This pandemic has brought us all real and significant losses. It is our sincere hope that in the midst of these losses, you are able to discover the great gifts that our Lord desires to give you.
It was in the brokenness of our ruined plans that Jesus was waiting to meet us. In our grief, our suffering and our dashed hopes, he was calling us to trust him and to rely on him. He was drawing us closer to himself.
May you always encounter Jesus in your ruined plans.