I’m So Glad I Got Married in 2020
A year ago, I cancelled my wedding. Two weeks later, I got married.
In the ten years since I left my home country and relocated to Canada, I’ve travelled for a lot of weddings. There are certain special days you just have to be there for, no matter how many credit card points have to be scraped together to do it. So when it came to my own wedding, I felt only a tiny bit guilty about choosing a venue two hours’ drive from my house, but an eight hour flight for many of our nearest and dearest. I hoped it would be worth the trip; a rustic mountain-top restaurant accessed by gondola, with our ceremony on the outdoor patio surrounded by dramatic peaks, still snow-capped in early April.
Of course, the year was 2020, and the day surrounded by loved ones was a victim of destiny. Reading the first reports of an emerging virus in China, I nervously checked the terms of my wedding insurance. A couple of weeks later, the writing was on the wall. All over the world, borders were slamming shut and large gatherings were banned. Making the decision to cancel was surprisingly easy; there was no other logical choice. Everything was out of my hands. Once I had successfully convinced my mother not to hop on the last plane out of Heathrow to try and dodge travel restrictions, I was filled with a sense of calm.
I was never the girl who dreamed of a big wedding; my husband hates being the centre of attention even more than I do, and would have been much happier eloping. While I was excited about our day and sharing it with friends and family, the expected level of fuss felt off-putting from the moment we got engaged. I cut out the parts of the whole affair I found outdated; being ‘given away’, spending the night before apart from my groom, tossing a bouquet, changing my name. What took me aback was how many people found this surprising, bordering on scandalous, particularly other women. Maybe I’d been living in a feminist bubble, but traditions I had thought were on the way out held much more sway than I expected. Plus, I was asking all those people to come all that way…just for little old me. And so I worried. I worried about letting people down. I worried about spending enough time with each of my guests and running out of energy on the wedding weekend. Obstinately choosing sneakers to wear with my gown, I still worried about being bridal enough.
My heart goes out to all the brides who pinned their hopes on a big day last year and had it snatched away from them. But for me, the pandemic offered an escape. I hadn’t realized how heavy the weight of expectation was until it was suddenly lifted.
There are moments I will always treasure from the run-up to my wedding that never was. Dress shopping with Mum; my step-dad tagging along and becoming surprisingly opinionated for a man more used to dovetail joints than sweetheart necklines. Zipping my little sister into her bridesmaid dress in a Montreal boutique, while trying to distract Dad from the price tag. A hilarious night out in the city with my girlfriends after my final fitting. If I could tell future brides one thing, it would be this; the joy of the thing isn’t confined to just one day. The before and after are just as important — maybe even more.
The other big lesson; while my preferred role in a wedding turns out to be ‘guest’, I really wanted to be married. So, two days before our original date, I contacted a registrar in our home town. He was available and perfectly comfortable doing a small outdoor ceremony. I transferred him $120 and just like that, we were back on.
On the morning I should have been checking place cards and arranging table greenery, I woke up in my own bed. After toast and a cheeky mimosa, I curled my own hair while video chatting with my mum and grandma. My husband helped me into my dress; I checked the knot on his tie. His best man pulled up in a half ton truck to drive us the three blocks to the river; I got the full princess treatment with a milk crate to help me step into the cab. Pulling up by the footpath, we picked our way through a few trees to reach a clear spot on the snow-covered bank. A few friends watched from the nearby pedestrian bridge, spaced two metres apart along the railings.
As we exchanged our vows, my friend captured the moment for over 200 people watching via livestream.It was a group you could never assemble in one room, scattered as they were across continents, but that bright April morning they were all with us. In the midst of the first round of pandemic ‘lockdowns’, our virtual day was a bright spot; friends wore fascinators with their sweatpants and held their own mini gatherings on Zoom. Not being able to hug our local friends after the ceremony was especially hard; but we got a great picture on the empty main street as we all walked back through town. In less than an hour, I was back at home with my brand new husband, cozied up in the white sweats my aunt sent as a gift. We video called our families, ate takeout pizza washed down with champagne, then watched a movie and got an early night.
It was nothing like we’d planned. But in its own way, it was perfect.
Looking back now, a couple of weeks away from our first anniversary, I know I made the right decision. Friends who postponed their weddings around the time I cancelled mine are still waiting for the right time; with every pandemic setback, they suffer the disappointment all over again. I’m dying to see my family, of course. When we finally can throw that party, it’s going to be a night to remember, and all the more fun without the wedding-related pressure. In the meantime, I have what I wanted all along; an amazing husband. If someone asked me to trade our first year of marriage for another year waiting for a perfect day… well, that’s one thing I’d have to say no to.