I planned my wedding around the football schedule of Louisiana State University. It’s true. My husband asked me to marry him in December of 2008; we did not tie the knot until October of 2009. I had my heart set on an outdoor ceremony followed by a fairly fancy indoor reception, and living in Louisiana I was not subjecting myself or my friends and family to an outdoor wedding ceremony in the sweltering Louisiana summer.
A Louisiana fall wedding was ideal weather-wise but not football-wise. Not wanting to be the bride who demanded a few hundred people attend my wedding while the Tigers of LSU played football, and admittedly not wanting to miss a game myself, I checked the calendar and became Mrs. Zeigler on an October Saturday when the Tigers had an open date.
That was over ten years ago, but in recent weeks I’ve thought a lot about the many details I juggled when planning my own wedding as I’ve watched couple after couple face agonizing decisions about the wedding plans they had prior to this global pandemic that has halted the gatherings that so often mark life’s milestones. This virus is insidious, not only ending some lives but stripping all of us of the shared joy and camaraderie that gives meaning to our lives. Those who lose loved ones cannot gather together to mourn. Those who wish to marry cannot do so in the presence of all the friends and relatives with whom they wish to share their joy. It is tremendously frustrating that our inclination to be together, to celebrate, to mourn, to worship, and to offer physical and emotional support to one another in the face of a threat, is currently inadvisable due to the invisible, pervasive nature of this virus.
This moratorium on weddings, birthday parties, graduations, and funerals feels like an especially cruel emotional blow. The human desire to press on, to face the unthinkable and adapt as needed, is surfacing in many creative ways during this pandemic. The Guardian reports that the state of New York has legalized video wedding ceremonies. The new order affords couples the opportunity to marry using audio and video technology so long as the couple provides valid ID during the video conference, the ceremony is performed live, and the couple is within the state of New York.
In The Odyssey Homer states, “There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” So often we want those delighted friends with us when we exchange our sacred marriage vows. It’s true that legalities require the presence of witnesses to the ceremony, but the eyes of friends and family on a couple as vows are exchanged is a tradition nearly as old as the institution of marriage itself. So much of the fanfare surrounding a wedding ceremony is a couple’s way of signaling to the community that they understand the seriousness of the commitment they’re making. Similarly, attending a wedding ceremony is a public affirmation that you support the couple’s decision and will be a source of encouragement as they navigate life together.
Ultimately though, when the flowers have wilted and the cake has been eaten, marriage is about two people making a lifetime commitment to each other, a commitment that will certainly be tested over and over again as their life together unfolds. There is something a little sad but also fitting about the thought of a couple marrying inside their New York apartment during a global pandemic that has thwarted everyone’s plans. It’s a beginning that mirrors some of the absolute truths in any successful marriage: you must adapt to the surprises life throws at you, and you must find joy in each other despite sorrow.