On a cold evening in December 2018, my fiance and I sipped on Old Fashioneds at a cozy bar in Sonoma County, revved up after an emotional afternoon. Hours earlier, as Jerry and I were touring Hanzell Vineyards, admiring California’s oldest pinot noir vines, he suddenly knelt down and asked me to spend my life with him. I was shocked: not that he asked me to marry him – we had been together for years – but that I didn’t see him coming! All I could say was “Of course! “
And that started our great adventure – an adventure, it turned out, that was much more dramatic than either of us could have predicted. After all, a pandemic was something that only existed in my science fiction novels. And we were fortunate enough to have a happy few months of old-fashioned wedding planning before the harsh realities of what a pandemic really meant hit us.
While I would never wish for an experience like we’ve had with any engaged couple, it proved to me what I already knew to be true – that Jerry and I are made for each other. Life is messy, but having the right person by your side is everything. We took on these challenges together, hand in hand, as a team, and that’s marriage, right?
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But sitting at the bar that winter night, with stars in my eyes, I had no idea what to expect. Innocently, we began to scribble on some napkins which would be the first draft of our guest list. One hundred names of our closest friends and family stared at us.
Almost immediately the list started to grow – only a few names at first, then a few more, and before we even knew it our guest list was over 150. Where were all these people going?
We visited almost every wedding venue in town before choosing the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. It ticked all of our boxes – classic Santa Barbara style with an intimate ceremonial space and a beautiful stone courtyard with plenty of space to dance and strings of lights that begged for a party.
Next on the list was The Dress. It required a cohort of five women, including my mother, Jerry’s mother, my bridesmaid, Jerry’s sister, and my future niece. They all crammed into the boutique lounge, sipping champagne as I wandered in and out of wedding dresses. My dress was the last – lucky charm seven. As soon as I saw myself in this long sleeve lace dress with a dramatic neckline, I knew it was the right one.
I tried to hide my excitement when I walked out of the lodge. But when I saw tears springing from my mother’s eyes, I knew he was a keeper. I’ve never loved a dress so much. And “the best news? »Declared my bridesmaid:« It’s on sale! She is also a guardian.
Planning for the wedding was going better than expected. We picked flowers, sampled tastings, and met our new favorite person – our wedding month planner. Jerry and I spent a few nights filling out, stamping and sealing our invitations. It was such a relief when we finally dropped them off at the post office. All the heavy lifting was behind us.
And then March 13 arrived. The India office went virtual overnight. Staff were invited to work from home for the next two weeks. But two weeks became a month, and a month became indefinite. Rumors began to circulate in the city – friends were delaying their weddings in May and June. News of the wedding postponements filled my social media feed.
That’s when I did what any adult woman does when she starts to panic: I called my mom.
Together, we decided that it was too early to know what the situation would be in August. We would wait until Memorial Day before making a decision. I promised to stay calm. But the weeks passed and the news only got darker. Memorial Day arrived and I took off my rose-colored glasses.
Jerry and I started talking in circles, weighing the options over and over again. My poor parents answered our phone calls daily, patiently listening to each of our plans. We even started talking about moving the date to 2021. That’s when I sat down and looked at Jerry and I said, “August 15th is our date.” He smiled at me and said, “I know. We might have lost our Plan A wedding, but we were determined to stick to August 15th. It was our date.
The following weeks were a bit crazy. We envisioned plans – B, C, D, E, F, and G – plans that were almost immediately scrapped as soon as they were put in place. It was tiring.
At the time, there were no consistent guidelines for weddings. Our salespeople all worked at different levels – some were in full swing, pivoted to fit the moment, while others were banned from operating.
The governor had the power to shut down operations within hours – what if he decided to shut down our county days or even hours before our wedding?
Then there was also moral responsibility. What if someone gets sick, or worse, because of our marriage? Was it even possible to get married?
We were there, weeks before our wedding day. I was supposed to swim in marriage bliss and mentally prepare myself for the biggest day of my life, but instead I wondered if it would even happen.
Four weeks before August 15th, Jerry and I found ourselves sitting in my parents’ garden. With gin and tonic in hand, we made what we called Plan Z.
Plan Z was designed to work no matter what.
We moved the wedding to my parents’ backyard, limited the guest list to the wedding party and immediate family, and defined the appropriate COVID-19 measures. Everything would be outside, the seats securely spaced, the guests gifted sanitizers, and all the vendors on board with the protocol. I even found the perfect mask to match my dress. We toasted Plan Z – we finally had a plan.
August 15, 2020 arrived and it was truly our day. Morning showers moved through the city, just enough to keep us going, but also to wish us good luck. “It rained on my wedding day,” my mother told me. “And look at us: still going strong after 35 years.”
A few hours later, I was standing in my parents’ dining room, arm in arm with my dad, about to walk down the aisle. In less than an hour, when Jerry and I finally kissed, the next chapter in our lives began.
The evening was filled with delicious food and wine, but the toast was my favorite part. My dad gave a welcoming toast that made everyone cry in his third sentence. And during the witness’s speech, he said the nicest words a bride could hear on her wedding day: “Sometimes you go to a wedding,” he said, “and you know that is not going to last. But this. This here. This is the real deal.
For years, I had heard brides speak of their marriage as the happiest day of their lives. I would roll my eyes. I did not understand. I thought they were talking about their dress or the party. Now I realize it’s love. Not only the love that I feel for Jerry, but it is the love that I felt from everywhere. Everyone was beaming with love and Jerry and I were the reason.
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