How to manage your wedding expectations in the time of COVID-19.

Throughout the world, engaged couples are reeling in shock. Meticulously planned weddings are unravelling amid the various lock-down policies.  

In many places, weddings are now limited to the couple, the celebrant, and their witnesses.  

The disappointment is crushing and the change in plans come with very real financial consequences. Some couples fear their deposits will be forfeited and others are struggling to find available venues for later dates when (hopefully) this all settles down. 

How can couples navigate this stressful time without burning their relationship and losing their peace? 

Here are a few tips to help you rise above the disappointment. 

Tip 1: Be gentle on yourself 

That painful feeling you’re experiencing… it’s called grief. It’s a spirit-crushing, gut-churning, heart-wrenching emotion. You didn’t ask for it, and you don’t deserve it, but it’s still there.  

Right now, you’re grieving a dream; a long-cherished dream for a particular wedding day experience. For many couples, this is a dream that’s been in development for many years. It’s normal to be upset and angry.  

That dream is no longer feasible, and your emotional task now is to let it go so you can begin the process of re-investing in a new vision for your wedding day. It’s important to let the old dream go. Really let it go. 

Tip 2: Be gentle with each other 

Everybody grieves differently. Couples often come unstuck during intense grief because their coping processes are misinterpreted by the other. Some will need to talk, talk, talk about it and this will drive the other nuts. Some will withdraw and want to process it privately, and this will send the other into panic.  

Some will bounce between rage, denial, despondency and apathy. These are all normal reactions to grief yet they can be very difficult for our beloved to witness. 

Be respectful of each other’s needs and draw on the support and empathy of close family and friends. Politely put distance between you and those whose own upset or issues are unproductive in helping you deal with your grief.  

For some, the grieving will also tap into long-suppressed misgivings about the relationship. While scary, this is a healthy thing if it brings them to the surface where they can be addressed and resolved. 

It can help to use tools like journaling, meditation and prayer to process your loss. It is especially in times like this that God most wants to draw close to you, so consciously share your wild emotions with him. 

Tip 3: Take control and move forward together 

The positive response is to move forward together in the new reality. Living in the past of what was meant to be does not serve you well. How do you do that? Some ideas include: 

  1. Don’t try to simply transfer your ‘old’ dream wedding to a new date. Aside from the complications of aligning the venues, people and services that will almost certainly lead to more disappointment and frustration, it is also out of touch with the new reality that is our world.Things may not get back to normal as quickly as we would hope, and this pandemic may change our way of life permanently. No one really knows yet, so try not to base your revised wedding plans on a return to the old way of doing things – you’ll run the risk of being disappointed again. 
  2. Most couple’s wedding plans become the accumulation of every good idea and desire we’ve ever had. It grows from two people desiring to commit their lives to loving each other, to a multi-day, multi-venue extravaganza: buck’s weekends, hen’s nights, kitchen tea, rehearsal dinners, meet-the-international-family lunches, pre-wedding and post-wedding events.These are all good things, but in our world right now, many of these are simply impossible. Fortunately, they are not necessary to your central desire to begin living your life as husband and wife. 
  3. Your wedding day as you planned it would have been a beautiful experience with friends and family. However, the next day it would have been just a memory; a cherished memory for sure, but none-the-less, a past event.The deeper question you need to ask yourself is: do I want to be married or do I want to have the dream wedding day? Our old way of thinking thought of those as inseparable. New times necessitate new ways of thinking.  

Tip 4: Dealing with the financial implications 

Weddings are already expensive enough. With this added complication, your budget may be stretched beyond reasonable levels.  

Before crafting new wedding plans, take some time together to really explore your financial values: 

Tip 5: Play the long game 

Some of the best advice we read when looking for ways to help our stressed daughter during her final school year was to ask the question: will this matter in five years? It really helped keep things in perspective as she prepared for her final exams and worried about whether her marks would be good enough to study her chosen course. 

It also works well in other situations. In five years, will the kind of wedding day celebration we have matter? We don’t remember much of ours. It was a great day and if we put our mind to it, we remember something about the flowers (arum lilies), the reception (a very crowded restaurant that no longer exists) and the guests (mostly extended family and friends of our parents).  

What really matters looking back was the fact that on that day we said, “I do” to loving each other for life. That is what made the day, both literally and liturgically! 

One of our younger work colleagues married last week with just three other people present: the celebrant and two witnesses. Their family, spread over two continents, tuned in on Facebook-live to share in their joy.  

For them, making their wedding promises before the Lord was more important than the parties and celebration or even the international honeymoon. They chose “I do” over “I will … when everything is perfect”. It was a choice to not let circumstances prevent them from what was most important. 

Keeping perspective on disrupted wedding plans includes remembering that the purpose of the wedding event is to become married.

It is remembering that there are lots of people suffering right now.  

And it is remembering that every challenge we face together and overcome, is building our relational resilience and laying the foundation for our endurance over the decades. 

Yes, it is an incredibly important day in your life, perhaps THE most important day. But it is still just a day and it’s important not for the details but for the sacred promises you will make, and which will define the rest of your life. 

COVID19 has crashed your wedding and destroyed your wedding plans. While your old dreams may not be realisable, this is a chance to make a new dream. Use this precious opportunity to re-connect with your most important mission as a couple and pursue it with passion. 

This article is also published in the Catholic Leader as “When COVID-19 crashes your wedding plans”. Photo by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash.