Proposing to a significant other, planning a wedding, or getting married in the middle of a pandemic is far from ideal. But steadfast romantics around the world are proving that love in the time of coronavirus, though not easy, is still possible.
Over the past several months, strict precautions have taken effect around the world to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Some countries like , while others like the United States have shut down non-essential businesses. With more than 67,000 global coronavirus-related deaths, the practice of social distancing (avoiding crowds and keeping at least three feet of space between yourself and others) has also become essential to help “flatten the curve.” But in addition to increasing loneliness and making dating much harder, social distancing has ruined many wedding plans.
It’s undoubtedly a tough time to take your relationship to the next level, but thanks to a little creativity and flexibility, engagements, wedding planning, and even marriage ceremonies continue to press on.
Proposing in a pandemic
I’m sure no one dreams of getting proposed to during a deadly global pandemic, but three newly-engaged women I spoke with found their partners’ unconventional timing to be a tremendous source of light in this dark time.
Karen Cascone, a 29-year-old in Long Branch, New Jersey, had been quarantining with her partner of a year for three weeks before he proposed. Cascone and her now fiancé, Rich, had always talked about getting engaged around their one-year anniversary in March, so she knew the proposal was coming.
“I’m not really much of a surprise person. I’d rather have control over [the proposal] and be happy than be surprised and disappointed,” Cascone explained over the phone. On March 21, she suggested the two take a romantic, social distance-approved walk on the beach, where Rich popped the question.
“Him getting down on one knee… I was just so happy,” Cascone explained. Though she was upset the private moment couldn’t be captured by a photographer, fellow beach goers saw the proposal from afar and snapped a few photos. “Thankfully there were strangers feet away that noticed him getting down on one knee and started taking pictures,” she said. “I’m really grateful for that.”
The engagement absolutely delighted Cascone, but five days later she was laid off from her job as a sales assistant at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “I really wasn’t expecting it and it honestly put a huge damper on this whole thing,” she said. “If I knew I was going to lose my job so soon after I got engaged, I probably would have held off until everything was more stable.”
The week was full of emotional whiplash, but the thought of one day getting married to Rich is keeping Cascone’s spirits up. “I can’t see my nieces who I’m obsessed with. I can’t see my mom because she’s diabetic. So I’m kind of using [the wedding] as a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “[The idea] that we’ll all be together celebrating is the one thing helping me get through this.”
Monica Shahbaznia, a clinical psychologist living in Los Angeles, shared a similar engagement story. On March 23, a little over a year after her and her now fiancé Mark McQueen started dating, he proposed to her on a social distancing stroll.
The two walked down to the Little Brown Church in the Valley, where Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis married in 1952, because it’s where McQueen first asked Shahbaznia to “go steady.”
Though they discussed getting engaged before, Shahbaznia said she was completely taken by surprise. “I went and I sat in one of the pews. He’s 6’4″ and suddenly started trying to kneel down,” she recalled. “He had this little box in his hand and opened it up… I grabbed him and hugged him and had tears in my eyes. I didn’t expect it — no idea. But it was an absolutely beautiful moment and I felt so at peace.”
Jenn C., a 27-year-old working in retirement and financial planning in Nashville also got engaged in March — though her fiancé, Kolin K., had to change his original proposal plans scheduled for April.
“My parents and best friend had booked flights from North Carolina and were going to meet up with our closest friends to surprise me,” Jenn explained in a Twitter DM. “As social distancing starting becoming more and more mandated and necessary, Kolin had to change course.”
“He decided he couldn’t wait until the self isolation was lifted, especially since no one has any idea when that will be,” Jenn said. Instead Kolin proposed to her at their favorite hiking spot on March 28. Though the two wish they could have celebrated the special moment with family and friends, they FaceTimed to share the good news and realized they’d rather wait to meet up in person when it’s safer.
“Now my mom and best friend can use the flights they had to postpone to come to Tennessee when all of this is over to go dress shopping. And our reunion with friends when we can be within six feet of each other will be an even bigger celebration!” Jenn said.
Proposing is simple, but remote wedding planning is tough
For some, like Rebecca S., a 27-year-old speech-language pathologist who got engaged in October, the coronavirus has made the already stressful act of wedding planning even more challenging.
Rebecca and her fiancé Alex left Manhattan to quarantine with family in Fairfield, Connecticut, shortly after New York began discussing shelter in place protocols. But remote planning has not been easy.
“I found some florists were hesitant to schedule meetings because they would rather show me their showrooms [in person]” Rebecca said in a Facebook message. “I have had some technology glitches and dropped video calls with vendors, which makes the wedding planning difficult. And I have to rely on company website photos, wedding apps/websites and Instagram to evaluate vendors, which makes it hard to compare companies.”
“It’s going to be a test of patience. Right now you’re planning in a war.”
“We were in the process of planning an engagement party for late May/early June, but will probably just have to cancel that all together now,” Rebecca added, noting that some couples with upcoming wedding dates in spring, summer, and early fall have had to (or cancel them entirely).
Luckily, Rebecca and Alex’s ceremony is booked for July 24, 2021, which is still over a year away. But the situation is so uncertain that even people getting engaged during the pandemic are holding off on planning.
“Right now you have to take pause and say, ‘A lot of the churches are appropriately closed and venues are shut down.'” Shahbaznia said. “It’s going to be a test of patience. I just feel like right now you’re planning something in a war. So I want to take a moment to pause and start the planning process once this has passed over.”
Creative coronavirus ceremonies
Though no one should be having large wedding ceremonies or gathering with groups of people during this dangerous time, not all marriages are being put on hold until coronavirus concerns dissipate. Some couples are proceeding with planned ceremonies, but are altering plans to better fit the new global realities.
For instance, Ahmed Saeed, a 28-year-old operations manager in Egypt, just married his partner Hagar, 25, in a heavily scaled-down ceremony.
“Our wedding took place on Friday the 13th of March,” Saeed said in an email, making sure to acknowledge the irony of the date. “Not only did our friends, family, and coworkers who live abroad have to cancel, it turns out that weekend would see the worst storm in Egypt’s history since 1994. So many of those who were in Egypt couldn’t make it as well.”
“It was a roller coaster, a scary one,” he said. “Right up until the very morning of the wedding we were receiving phone call after phone call from someone cancelling or something that we’ve been planning for months not going our way. But we never had a doubt that we would do it, even if it was just going to be the both of us dancing in a muddy puddle with the chaos and lightning in the background.”
Though the ceremony wasn’t “as big or as extravagant” as the couple planned, Saeed and his wife loved their intimate day.
Miguel Jimenez, 31, and his fiancée Kait Hess, 27, also plan to follow through with their wedding that’s scheduled for April 7.
The two Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists who live in Boston plan to have an intimate ceremony with just two close friends (and two cats) in Boston Public Garden. “One of our two friends has acquired a one-day designation from the city to marry us,” Jimenez said in a Twitter DM. After the ceremony, the four will order food from a local restaurant and have a picnic.
“In lieu of our original after party, we are hosting a virtual Marriage Acknowledgement Party with our friends and family,” Jimenez said. Then, when it’s safe to travel again, the couple is planning a seven-stop “Marriage Acknowledgement Tour,” which will allow them to share belated marriage celebrations with loved ones.
“We can spread out our time, money, and most importantly our excitement over the course of several months instead of cramming it and our friends and family into a single day,” Jimenez said. “I am very excited and reassured that despite this challenge we are both very flexible and creative, and have found a way to make the best of it.”
The importance of love in the time of corona
Though pandemic proposals and wedding ceremonies might not live up to original expectations, they’re being heavily embraced for providing some much-needed joy in this chaotic, heartbreaking time.
“It’s good news in the world amongst all this crap,” Cascone said. “People finally have something to smile about when they’re scrolling through Facebook instead of all that scary stuff you have normally been seeing lately.”
When reflecting on the refreshing power of love in this trying time, Shahbaznia drew the common parallel between Gabriel García Márquez’s 1985 novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. “It’s the idea that there is such fear amongst people — people know that they’re infecting each other and that there’s no real true vaccine or treatment or whatever — but love prevails and continues going forward,” she said.
Whether it’s a minimalist proposal, a scaled down vow exchange, a remote Zoom wedding, or a placeholder ceremony in Animal Crossing, expressions of love — no matter how unconventional — hold so much weight during this pandemic.
Several people in this story asked Mashable to not include their last name out of privacy concerns.