This Wednesday, my fiance and I were supposed to be celebrating the end of our first month as a married couple. Unfortunately, as one of the many couples around the world who have had to postpone their wedding due to COVID-19, we didn’t spend it as we’d hoped: on a beach in Sri Lanka, spamming our friends with photos of our honeymoon. We spent it at home, just like we, and a third of the rest of the world, have spent most of the past month.
Ten days before what was meant to be our wedding day, the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic. As an international couple, we’d planned an international wedding in my fiance’s hometown in South Australia, with 25 of my friends and family from the UK flying over to celebrate. After an 18-month engagement, in order to give everyone from the UK time to plan and save for the trip, we were looking forward to a few days of surfing, partying, and relaxing with our favorite people in the whole world.
All of that changed once a pandemic was declared. In addition to predictable wedding nightmares — like where to sit that one guest that nobody likes — my fiance and I had other concerns. As the situation worsened, we didn’t know if my friends and family would be able to enter the country, if a lockdown would be enforced before our planned date, or if our wedding would put the health of the people we loved most at risk. A week before the wedding was due to take place, we discussed our options and agreed that we would postpone our wedding “in a worst-case scenario,” confident that it wouldn’t come to that.
An hour later we had a phone call from one of our guests from the UK. Through tears, she explained that, due to the risk of her being stranded in the event of mass border closures, her airline had recommended her against flying to Australia, and therefore, she wouldn’t be able to attend our wedding. The next day, although my family was safely on their way, three other guests who had also been able to board their flights were told that they would have to self-isolate in Australia for 14 days on arrival, and three more guests had called to say that they would be unable to attend, among them my maid of honor.
When the few guests who were able to come had arrived, it became clear that there was no way we could press on with our wedding. As the pandemic worsened, our English guests became anxious about whether they would be able to get back to the UK, and our Australian guests became anxious about the health risks posed by our guests from overseas.
We’d always wanted our wedding to be about bringing both sides of our family together, but in the days leading up to our planned date, the Australian side of our guest list plummeted from 80 guests to eight. Almost everyone was frightened of our English guests, and even members of my fiance’s family and the bridal party began to avoid us.
It was this change that forced my fiance and me to make the heartbreaking decision to postpone our wedding, four days before it was due to take place. In the process, it also painfully reminded us of our international status. For us, and for international couples like us, the freedom to travel is the bedrock upon which our relationship, and the relationships with one another’s friends and family, are built.
It’s now been over a month since we chose to postpone our wedding, and I’m still not married to the man I love. I also know that I won’t be for at least a year, a fact that’s harder to accept than I anticipated — I never knew how much I wanted to publicly declare my love for my fiance until I had the opportunity taken away from me. The only silver lining is that we live together, so aside from both of us coping with the emotional fallout of not being married, little has changed in our relationship.
With my family, on the other hand, it’s a different story. My fiance and I may have homes in two hemispheres, but we’ve only got a house in one. So, when my family flew home two-and-a-half weeks ago, we all knew that when we said goodbye that it would be indefinitely. We still don’t know when we will see each other again, and it’s hard to put into words how that feels. It is safe to say that, in comparison, postponing our wedding feels like a relatively minor tragedy. Or at least it would if it weren’t for the loss of thousands of dollars because we didn’t have wedding insurance.
Faced with these prospects, and with the knowledge that we’re in for a far longer engagement than either of us expected, my fiance and I are trying to concentrate on the positives and look for evidence of the love and friendship that’s so integral to our relationship. We are in awe of the love and patience our friends and family from the UK have shown us, accepting without question that the wedding and holiday of a lifetime many of them had traveled here for has been called off indefinitely.
We have also been deeply touched by the friends and family in South Australia who have made small gestures that mean the world to us. On what would have been the morning of our wedding, my soon-to-be sister-in-law dropped off a grazing platter from a local chef. That evening, my soon-to-be father-in-law left a homemade apple crumble by our front gate. A week later, my boss from the small independent bookshop I work at stopped by with a mountain of books to keep me going through self-isolation.
More than anything else, we are both intensely grateful for one another. Ironically, before we postponed the wedding, we had asked my mother to read Sonnet 116 in which Shakespeare describes how love “looks on tempests and is never shaken.” In the face of the current tempest, our love remains resolutely unshaken. We may not be able to share it the way we might want to right now, but we will do one day, with everyone from our global family there to celebrate with us.