I wasn’t supposed to be here this weekend. I was supposed to be out of town.
In the before times, I had excitedly written down a wedding in my planner for May 16, with three exclamation points.
I would have picked out a cute dress and shoes and fascinator and gotten to meet extended family members, and catch up with friends, and dance, and eat cake. At some point, I probably would have had to suppress an inner monologue about how loud some music was (I’m a terrible young person…I really don’t like loud music. How am I supposed to hold a conversation if I can barely hear myself, let alone someone else???).
But of course, these are the present times, and the wedding my cousin and his fiancee had imagined six months ago didn’t quite turn out the way he probably thought it might have. It wouldn’t have been safe to have so many people coming together from across Michigan and beyond. No party is worth the spread of contagion right now.
So I didn’t get to walk into a church and try to be subtle as I took note of hymnals and bulletin boards and signage and layout (yes…yes, I do have very particular interests). I didn’t get to compare outfits or wait in line to shake anyone’s hands or awkwardly try to remember names of people I hadn’t seen in a while.
But I still got to see my cousin get married. He and his bride still got to say vows in front of their pastor, their friends, their parents, and their extended families, even if the majority of us couldn’t be there in person. We still got to pray together and reflect on scripture together and hope together that their lives would be full of joy and support and partnership.
Through a screen, I watched them walk down a path to a porch instead of down an aisle to a chancel. There was birdsong instead of any instruments. But that didn’t make their vows any different, and it didn’t make their love for each other any different, and it didn’t make their wedding any less real. There wasn’t a bouquet toss, or a cake cutting, or a series of teary speeches, but those things aren’t what make a marriage.
It was small and simple, a ceremony pared down to its heart: vows made in front of God and witnesses to love and honor each other, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.
True, they started their lives together in a time of sickness; a time that in many ways is more “worse” than “better.” But they also started their lives with an act of love: keeping people safe by keeping them apart.
I wish that I could have been there to celebrate with him in person. I wish that their lives together had started under different circumstances. I wish that they could have heard the voices of all the people supporting them and their new beginnings, instead of just watching us wave in dozens of little boxes across a screen.
Afterwards, still dressed up in my spring dress and fascinator, wearing the new shoes I’ve had no occasion to wear in two months of owning them, hair curled and makeup done, I set up a tiny “reception” for the friends I would have sat with. We played games, introduced cats, and laughed at the absurdity of all of it.
It was different. All of it was very different than any wedding I’ve ever imagined, or attended, or read about. But different isn’t always bad. And I hope that their lives together can only get better from here.