Climbing Out of 2020 Wedding Planning Hell

For worse

I didn’t want a wedding.

I wanted to marry my partner because I wanted to be able to take care of him and be a legally and socially recognized family.

But the idea of planning a big, expensive event was not something I’d ever dreamed of.

For our parents, however, having a wedding was an important milestone that they wanted to celebrate with us and the people they care about. So we acquiesced and decided we could plan an event we’d all enjoy by booking an all-inclusive venue and carefully selecting vendors aligned with our feminist values.

I was actually starting to enjoy things.

But then, in January, our wedding venue announced they would no longer host our wedding since they’d decided to sell the property to buy a larger mansion. We scrambled. We hustled. We mostly fixed it.

And just as things were getting back on track, the largest health crisis in the last 100 years exploded in the U.S. As I write this, there’s a shelter-in-place order keeping me at home. My parents are both at higher risk of getting sick. Vendors are emailing us asking what we intend to do. And my family members aren’t so keen on buying flights.

We don’t have all the answers and what’s right for us might not be right for you, but here’s how we’re handling it.

We’re getting legally married on our original date.

I was most upset about the idea of postponing because I wanted to marry my partner of nearly four years as soon as possible. We realized that since we already have our California marriage license quite early, all we need is an officiant and a witness to make our marriage official. Fortunately, we live with our best friends, who would be playing these roles anyway, so we have a quarantine quorum! To make the day more than just signing a form, we’re also thinking about ways to make it special, like:

  • Baking our own wedding cake: I’m not crazy enough to try to bake my own wedding cake for a full-on wedding, but for three other people who already know my baking skills? Bring it on. As a special bonus, the person actually baking our cake for the event agreed to give me baking lessons over video calls, and I’ve been developing a bomb-ass recipe for our first wedding cake.
  • Including our parents: We were planning to give our parents digital photo frames loaded up with the family photos we’ve been diligently scanning to include in our wedding day. Taking this a step further, we’re giving them Portal devices, which will also allow them to call in for our little ceremony.
  • Getting fancy: My fiancé purchased a second suit when he got his wedding day outfit and I purchased a dress for a post-wedding brunch that we’ll wear to spruce things up. And my lovely hair and makeup artist also gave me tons of knowledge on applying my own makeup (not a skill I have), so I can put that into practice.
  • Documenting the day: One of the wedding gifts we’ve already received is a nice SLR camera. We’ll be using it to document our tiny celebration and hopefully reuse the images and footage for the actual wedding day event.

We’re moving our wedding date by a full year

For us, we chose a specific wedding date that was meaningful to us, so the idea of losing that was something we didn’t want to sacrifice. But more so, we hated the idea of postponing a few months just to be faced with a similar choice if things continue getting worse. To give ourselves some breathing room, we’re choosing a new date that will mark our one-year anniversary of our legal marriage and five years as a couple. This has some advantages:

  • Talking with our vendors about transferring our date: So far, this seems to work well for keeping many of our preferred vendors since they’re largely dealing with postponements for the fall. We want to support and continue working with the wonderful people we’ve carefully selected for our special day.
  • Using the extra time to enjoy the details: After our first major disruption to our wedding, we lost so much time we’d planned to use for personalized touches. With a postponement, we regain that time and more for projects like making family videos.
  • Hoping for the best with our guests: Since almost all of my friends and family would need to travel for our wedding, I’ve been nervous about people not being able to come. Even pre-pandemic, one of my closest friends had to decline because of a competing family event. Another long-time friend just had a baby, which I hear makes traveling difficult. And the two year old cutie we hoped would be our flower child is a little too young for the job this year—but maybe he’ll be ready later.

We’re changing our names later

We’re combining our names to make a new family name. Because of some odd restrictions the state of California puts on what you can change your middle name to when getting married, we were planning to change our names by petitioning the court after our wedding (more work and money but worth it for us).

Originally, we wanted to make this change when we got back from our honeymoon, but now we’re thinking it might be something exciting and special to save for the new wedding date. Similarly, we’re saving signing our Ketubah—a beautiful documentation of our promises to one another—for the day we celebrate with all our friends and family.

In trying to look on the bright side, one thought I’ve had is that we joke about how with wedding planning, you learn a lot of things you’ll never use again—but maybe that’s not true now! It looks like we’ll get to use all of those skills again next year.

And, like we told our guests in the long-form, snail-mail letter we sent announcing the change: marriage is for better or worse, and while this is the latter, our commitment remains.

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