“It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know it has begun. A thousand heralds proclaim it to the listening air, a thousand messengers betray it to the eye,” says the poet Longfellow. What a glorious time–to be newly in love and looking forward to beginning your married life!
Wedding plans are underway. Intimate or elaborate, weddings are a time of great creative energy. They also are often an exercise in negotiation and compromise with each other and your respective families. Fortunately, most Catholic couples will also be able to be part of a marriage preparation program to help them reflect on the deeper meaning of their new married vocation.
Enter the worldwide pandemic…and life became much more complicated. Plans were canceled and venues closed, wedding planning shifted from organizing a single day event to “marriage planning.” Why? Because COVID has presented couples with challenges that had them questioning what was most important to them. Should they continue with a smaller wedding? Maybe wait and reschedule the original wedding? How should guests, vaccines, masks, tests be handled? How can elderly or infirmed relatives be protected? How will differing opinions, especially with family members, be handled? And the money! Will deposits be refunded? Credited? What if everything gets shutdown again? How many people will need to cancel at the last minute?
Navigating these questions served to clarify values underpinning each couple’s belief system. For many, a wedding during COVID became a victory of perseverance.
Christina and David
Christina and David Proctor of Indiana had finished their Pre-Cana preparation and were looking forward to their wedding in April 2020, when everything closed just 2 ½ weeks before their planned wedding date. While they were initially told there was no way to schedule a wedding, David asked what might be possible and their parish, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, was able to arrange for a wedding (with masks!) limited to ten guests on the planned wedding date.
Newly married, Christina and David found they we required to spend 24 hours a day together as their jobs shifted to telecommuting for the next three months. This intensive transition was smoothed by adding prayer to each day. The Proctors found starting their day with Magnificat’s daily reading and even stopping to say a decade of the rosary provided grace in this time of uncertainty. Both David and Christina remarked on how their experiences during COVID helped them develop patience—and learn how to handle conflict. David shared, “Having enough humility to become vulnerable and share how things are making you feel can really move the conversation ahead.”
As a couple getting married in the pandemic, we learned the lesson of being flexible with our expectations and show our partners grace during times of uncertainty and high stress.Christina and David
As more venues began to open, the Proctors were delighted to be able to hold a celebration of their wedding in June. “There were less guests than we originally planned, and no “pre-parties,” but we loved having our attendants and those guests who were able to come,” said Christina. As the pandemic continued, the couple was grateful for their NFP class as it supported their commitment to a healthy lifestyle. It also gave them more health information to work with as they conceived their daughter, Rose Noelle, later that year. Pregnancy during COVID had its own challenges and Christina remarked, “Our Pre-Cana sponsor couple kept in touch and their advice, especially with regards to a new baby, was invaluable.”
Amy and Nathan
Amy and Nathan McCoy of Columbus, Ohio prepared for their wedding during the pandemic. They loved the building excitement as they approached their wedding, but as the pandemic continued, the uncertainty added a layer of constant worries. To the McCoy’s, it was an opportunity to develop coping strategies. For instance, they were very appreciative of the CCL self-paced class, as they were able to create dinner dates after very long days and go through the lessons online together. Since Amy’s parents had taught NFP, the class was second nature to her. For Nathan, who entered the Church in 2019, NFP was something new. As an engineer, Nathan remarked that, “The method made sense—it is cool to track the data.”
This ability to adapt and find the best in difficult times was something the McCoys got lots of practice with! Through this time of preparation, Nathan shared, “As a couple we would face a pile of tasks each day. We had to decide to stop and take ‘nature breaks.’” Amy laughed as she added, “So we bought a kayak!” This brought them a lot of joy and is something they would recommend to other couples—to commit to adding break time to your schedule (with or without kayak!) Successfully dealing with the challenges of COVID allowed the McCoy’s to present a united front as they approached their wedding date. Days before their wedding in November 2020, Governor DeWine announced possible imminent lockdowns. Fortunately, they were able to go ahead with their wedding. It was smaller than they originally planned, but they truly loved that everyone did their best to be part of the celebration, whether in person, or through their livestream.
Amidst such a busy day, they had a lovely moment of peace when they again scheduled a bit of time to themselves to take pictures at a local coffee shop which stayed open for them. Amy remarked, “That cup of coffee got me through to the reception!” As they listened to the speeches at their reception, they described how they felt the love, support, and prayers offered for them on their wedding day. Amy and Nathan just announced their pregnancy—delighted as they move ahead, united, and hopeful, savoring the gift of life.
Life is full of uncertainty, and while the challenges don’t seem that bad in hindsight, at the time, especially with the prospect of a new relationship, planning a wedding during a pandemic can seem nearly impossible. However, by taking advantage of the Pre-Cana resources and the support of their community and families, couples are finding their way. In the process, they are gaining the blessing of clearer understanding of what matters most to them, skills that will benefit them not just for wedding planning, but throughout their marriage, and hope as they resolutely face the future.
Article by Katie Zulanas. Originally published in Family Foundations January 2022.