When you picture a wedding day, you think of a few common things: flowers, a white dress, suits and ties. Although my wedding day did (technically) have those things, I never imagined it would happen without a bridal party, a fancy dinner, or a first dance. And I certainly never thought I’d get married in a driveway in the middle of a global pandemic.
When my now-husband and I realized our larger wedding event needed to be postponed due to COVID-19, it brought on a mix of emotions: frustration, confusion, sadness. But we knew it was the right decision to make for us and everyone involved. A wedding ceremony with all of our friends was not going to happen, so we needed to reset our expectations. Even without the big party we could follow God’s heart for marriage.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24.
We also knew that whether we had a traditional wedding or not, we wanted to be married. Rather than wait for an unknown time when we could gather in a large group, we decided to move up our timeline and unite our lives with a small family ceremony at my parents’ home. It may not have been the original plan, but God carried us through the losses and helped us to see the blessings.
Postponing our wedding event meant giving up a lot of time, money, and dreams we had for the big day. So many of the visions, both big and small, that we carried for the big day went up in smoke. One of the hardest was knowing that my in-laws, who live in California, would miss out on the chance to see their son get married. Because of the pandemic, they were not able to make it to our ceremony and it broke our hearts that they couldn’t be there with us. We were able to incorporate them into the day through FaceTime, but we all missed being physically present with one another. The same was true for many of our other close family and friends. So many people that we love and who have been a part of our lives missed out on being a part of this milestone in our lives. Getting married in such unique circumstances put us in a place we’d never imagined; we were forced to make difficult decisions. We carried a sense of loss into our wedding day that was outside of our plans.
Weddings can often be associated with selfishness and “bridezillas” who want the wedding to revolve around them and their glory. Couples often plan weddings with their own wants and preferences in mind. Our more intimate wedding ceremony was an act of empathy for all those who might end up sick if we had pursued our original plans. Making the decision to postpone our wedding event forced us to step outside of our own desires--what the day might feel like, how we might look, the gifts we might receive--and focus on the bigger picture. We certainly didn’t want to cause anyone harm or make them choose between their own safety and our wedding. The health of those we love had to be the priority above our own ideas for our big day.
The word “essential” has been used and redefined a lot throughout this pandemic. Postponing our wedding event made us consider the question: if we do get married, who do we need to be there? Due to the limited number of guests, everyone at our small ceremony was there because they were essential to us. No one was invited out of obligation. Every person that was there had invested in us and our relationship, supported us through our decision, and continues to uplift us in our marriage. Pledging our commitment to each other in front of that select group of people was incredibly meaningful. Even as we missed others who have also been an essential part of our lives, we were grateful for the gift of this little community blessing us on our way.
Marriage is a partnership in which we bend and compromise to care for the needs of the other. We face all of the unexpected challenges of life as a team under God’s guidance. We commit to one another without knowing what lies ahead for us, but trusting that God will walk with us.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Our marriage begins with a recognition that we are not in charge of the bigger plan. Flexibility is essential as God redirects us and leads us on unexpected and sometimes challenging paths. We hope to celebrate our wedding with a larger celebration in the future that more of our loved ones can attend. These plans too will need to be flexible to the plans that God is working out in our world.
Even though our wedding day wasn’t what we imagined, it had its own unique blessings, which include being a part of a bigger story. We can forever share our 2020 wedding testimony of stepping out in faith together in the midst of a global pandemic to speak our vows to one another. It will be a story that we will tell throughout the years as we watch others making wedding plans. God is faithful and he walks with us through challenges.
Planning our original wedding event was a stressful experience. And it’s silly now to look back on the arguments we had about flowers, song choices, and even napkin colors. When we stood at the altar (a wooden gazebo my brother built that morning) and looked into each other’s eyes, it became obvious that none of that would’ve mattered anyway. We had dreamed and prayed for this day. We had strengthened our relationship through hard conversations, relationship books, and marriage counseling. We were ready to step into marriage together, no matter what it looked like, because our decision to get married was never about the wedding day anyway. One day’s plans somehow look trivial in light of the lifetime we committed to together.
Don’t get me wrong. Our wedding day was beautiful—but not because we had the fanciest decorations or the prettiest photos. It was beautiful because God created marriage to be intimate, messy, and imperfect. Because love, at its core, is about sacrificing for the good of the other. As we begin our lives together, these are lessons we will keep learning. And I know that our imperfect wedding day will forever stand as a reminder to us that no matter the circumstances “[love] always hopes, [and] always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster