Why would anyone want to get married in the midst of a global pandemic?
Love, baby, love!
My COVID-19 marriage saga began in February. My SO (significant other) and I had been toying with the idea of marriage, but as the first glimpses of the Corona virus (remember when people thought it related to the beverage?) began to surface, as a “mature” (I hate that term) couple, we decided it might be responsible to ensure each other was taken care of should anything arise.
Always being one to do things differently, I proposed the Tuesday before Valentine’s Day while my SO, soon to become my FI (fiancé), was preparing lunch – “Wait, let me turn off the stove” was his response.
Following the “yes” and a burnt omelet we began envisioning what a wedding might entail. Getting married in your fifties is not like when you’re a young, blushing twenty-something. You don’t need all the “stuff.” The plan was to conduct a small ceremony and reception with 50 guests at a local hotel.
As we live both in Palm Springs and Los Angeles, I began researching the L.A. County web site to see about a license. The number of COVID cases was beginning to increase, so we decided a courthouse ceremony followed by a more formal wedding event later in the year might be best. We had been planning a trip to San Diego with two girlfriends for June and I saw online the city offered civil ceremonies on a grassy area overlooking Mission Bay – sold! I grew excited with the prospects of cool sea breezes caressing my newly married cheeks.
Then, everything shut down.
San Diego’s City web site said they had stopped issuing wedding licenses, same thing with Los Angeles. There was no word on when a workaround would be devised or when the issuing of licenses would resume.
Then, things got worse.
As shelter-at-home orders were issued, our trip to San Diego was cancelled. The vast, wide world began shrinking to the boundaries outside of our front door. My wedding dreams began to melt like cake icing on a hot day.
Following two months of lockdown, I discovered that Riverside County was beginning to issue licenses on a limited basis. We completed the online application and a week later received a call: “Go to Regal Cinemas’ box office in Palm Desert. You can finalize the paperwork and obtain your license at the box office.”
I wanted to ask: “Does that come with buttered popcorn?”
We showed up on a hot, dry day at the movie theater. It resembled a ghost town. Inside the box office there were two fully masked, socially distanced clerks. I couldn’t resist: “Two for Father of the Bride.”
They chuckled and we obtained our license.
We planned to do a Zoom wedding, but while conversing with the reverend who would conduct the ceremony, he said the recent resumption of religious events would allow for an in-person ceremony for up to 50 guests – the facility was very large so we could mask up and social distance. We would have an outdoor lunch onsite for a group of 40.
Instead of invitations which typically would say: “We are registered at…” we included a statement: “We will adhere to COVID-19 Guidelines.”
The Wednesday before our marriage, I got a text from a friend: “The governor shut down religious events.” We frantically called the reverend like we were dialing to heaven directly. The response was we could do the ceremony, but only have nine guests. The lunch had to be cancelled.
Outdoor dining at restaurants was still permitted, so we hurriedly contacted Sagebrush Cantina, which has a large open patio. They could accommodate us. We pared down our guest list to 15 immediate family members and a few close friends, apologizing to the rest (they were likely relieved as COVID cases were once again surging). There would be no congratulatory line, hugs or group pictures. No conga lines or drunken toasts. Guests had to sit with those they came with and put on a mask when not eating.
Having heard about “family spreads,” we worried heavily about any possible infection, so we took on the role of public health officer to ensure everyone kept masks on and maintained their distance. I planned to bring a wooden stake and some garlic for a close friend who is a known “serial hugger.” Should she try something, I could keep her at bay.
Anticipating a possible statewide shutdown two days before our wedding was incredibly stressful – I monitored the governor’s noon updates, hoping I didn’t hear the words: “total shut down.” Finally, the big day came. I was calm, no make that relieved, that despite everything, we were going to tie the knot. The marriage went off without a hitch and our guests had a wonderful time. After months of being cooped up, they were probably ecstatic to be at any event – albeit a small, socially distanced one. Our wedding was likely the event of the year for our family and friends (if for no other reason than it was probably the ONLY event this year).
So, now at age 59, I am married for the first time in my life. I think every wedding has its share of dramas, but for those who are being wed during this time of pandemic, we have gratitude that we have been able to marry the ones we love – despite any odds. To remind me of our unique and challenging nuptials, I plan to frame the picture of my spouse and our mothers standing on the altar in face masks.
And, with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”