I Was Supposed To Get Married Last Weekend — Here’s What I Did Instead

For two years, I’ve had a very clear image in my mind of what 28th March 2020 was supposed to look like. There would be wildly intertwined flora cascading from the roof of a greenhouse, set against the sublime backdrop of a Moroccan-red sunset. Spring’s very first roses would be in bloom. My wedding day was meant to be a meticulously planned symphony of colour, pageantry, and romance. But it never happened. 
Instead, 28th March was a much less dramatic affair, with me in a dress dug out from deep within my neglected closet (I’ve had the same few pairs of sweatpants on rotation for days), the freshly buzzed scalp of my fiancé, Mohamed, who’s given himself what we’re calling “the quarantine cut,” and a laptop arranged on the table that currently functions as both office space and eating area. The screen featured pixelated clusters resembling the top halves of 20 family members — including my recently ordained brother and a quarantine cut of his own. And there were roses after all... just the kind that arrive on your doorstep in a slim cardboard box. 
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It didn’t look anything like the event we had initially scheduled — and we still haven’t said, “I do” — but the uncomplicated specialness of it all turned out to be a different kind of perfect.  
Navigating our way through the emotional turbulence of postponing a wedding was an unfortunate but obvious choice for Mohamed and me as the coronavirus outbreak started to escalate in early March. Our wedding was something we’d always seen as an opportunity to celebrate love in all its forms, and to thank our communities for their support as we stepped into the next phase of togetherness. We’ve never taken that responsibility lightly, and weren’t going to start as the quiet rumblings of a threatening disease began to crescendo. With the safety of 160 guests as our top priority, there was simply no event big or important enough to jeopardise their wellbeing.
Still, typing out the words of our postponement email felt like tiny jabs to a heart that was so set on experiencing the Marrakesh wedding we’d organized together — the one that kept us up at night giddy over cake and playlists, eager to share Mohamed’s family, culture, and home country of Morocco with a flurry of Americans. But to host any kind of in-person social gathering would not only have been impossible, it would have been utterly irresponsible. So hitting send was also a relief, like removing the backpack of worry I’d been carrying around for weeks, and unloading its contents on the table for all to see. The concerns growing deep within my gut were no longer internalized and a revised plan to push the festivities to late November was officially in place. But just as Mohamed and I were gaining a personal sense of clarity and control, the world plunged deeper into a state of disaster. 
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What was, at the time, an epidemic has since evolved rapidly into a pandemic, leaving people without jobs, parents without childcare, and healthcare providers overburdened. Small businesses are struggling to survive, and too many lives have been weakened and lost. We’re all adjusting to some new version of normal during this global crisis that has thrown the world off balance while uniting its dizzied inhabitants against a common enemy. The virus itself may be invisible, but the avalanche of chaos and uncertainty it has caused is something that’s been seen and felt everywhere. So rescheduling the caterers? That’s about as insignificant as getting dressed up these days when we’ve got absolutely nowhere to go. 
As everyone grapples with a radical shift in routines and priorities, the things that seemed to matter so much just weeks ago — for a bride-to-be like myself, that was guest-to-canapé ratios and an uncooperative seam on my gown — simply don’t anymore. We now long for the most basic parts of life that were taken for granted like hugs, a meal enjoyed in the company of friends, and the ability to enter a grocery store without feeling terrified. But the strange emptiness where the banality of the everyday used to exist is nothing like the grief consuming many who have lost loved ones to this pandemic, and disrupted schedules and cancelled plans are a surmountable consequence of the outbreak in comparison. 
Even though I wanted to acknowledge 28th March, and everything it was supposed to be, by doing absolutely nothing at all, Mohamed had other plans. We were to fully embrace what responsible socialising looks like in 2020: a cyber cocktail party courtesy of the ever-popular Zoom video conferencing software. This was our non-wedding wedding day, and we were going to make the best of it. The attire was formal and the menu comprised of anything lying around the house that could be turned into an acceptable meal. 
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When we logged onto the call, there they were: aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, my brother, and my grandmother, all formally dressed (at least from the waist up) and ready for us. Their tables were set, their drinks were served, and their smiles were tremendous. Despite the border closures and social distancing rules keeping us apart, we were still together. My heart was so swollen with love for these digital beings, and for the man that managed to get them all into our living room, that I actually felt it expand into my throat as I choked my way through words of gratitude for their health and participation. I thanked them for taking this gathering seriously and for persisting to make 28th March an unforgettable day — one that was always supposed to be about people, not things.
As a family, we’ve been hit hard with the fact that nothing in life is guaranteed after my 55-year-old, marathon-running aunt was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer last year. The coronavirus pandemic has only amplified this reality. So if the only thing we and the rest of the world have for sure is the present, we have to seize it and live those moments beautifully. Side by virtual side — and in a fabulous dress when possible. 

These days, as Mohamed and I continue preparing for the lifelong commitment of marriage under circumstances more extreme than we’d ever imagined, the promise of “in sickness and in health” has never been so relevant. Each new day of being quarantined together has brought me deeper into this relationship, revealing even more parts of him to appreciate and to cherish. Our official vows may be on hold, but our love has guided us through this difficult time so far, and I just can't wait to see where it takes us from here. 
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. It says you can protect yourself by washing your hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing (ideally with a tissue), avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and don't get too close to people who are coughing, sneezing or with a fever.
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