Change of Plans: COVID-19 Made Us Realize That Our Wedding Was Never About The Big Celebration

"It was about giving hope to the community with a message that ‘love always wins.’”

change of plans

Photo by Hector Javier/Art by Cristina Cianci

As a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, couples all over the world are having to make a very difficult, and often heartbreaking, decision to cancel, postpone, or adjust their best-laid wedding plans. To share their stories—and, hopefully, help our readers process this admittedly emotional and fluid situation, we are asking those affected to share their "Change of Plans" stories in their own words. Below, Javier Ruisanchez tells his story from Washington, D.C.

Growing up, I always dreamt of what my wedding day would look like. As a gay kid, I never thought I would get married—people like me did not get to have the “happy endings” like the ones I saw in movies. 

That feeling quickly changed when I met Michael. It was love at first sight, and I knew I would marry him one day. On November 18, 2018, in Stafford, Virginia, Michael got down on one knee and proposed to me in the middle of a photoshoot. Little did he know, I had already planned a proposal in Paris. On a very early morning in March 2019, I, too, got down on one knee (in the rain!) and proposed to the love of my life in front of the Eiffel Tower.

That feeling quickly changed when I met Michael. It was love at first sight, and I knew I would marry him one day.

Right away, we knew we would get married in Puerto Rico because it’s where I am from. It’s also a special place for us as a couple as we worked with the Red Cross on the island following Hurricane Maria. We decided we would get married in the mountains on top of the rainforest on August 8, 2020. (Growing up and going to El Yunque National Rainforest was one of the most monumental moments in my life.) Our venue, Hacienda Azucena, sits on the top of a mountain with the view of the rainforest and the ocean. It has the most jaw-dropping view, and when we stood in the spot where we would say “I do,” we knew we had found our venue. 

When we stood on the spot where we would say “I do,” we knew we had found our venue. 

For the next year-and-a-half, we planned our dream wedding with the help of vendors from Puerto Rico as we wanted to give back to the island that gave me so much growing up. We made a decision to have our guests and bridesmaids wear all white. We love fashion so we wanted everyone to look elegant yet modern and chic. When it came to the decoration, we decided to have our reception under a clear tent so everyone could still see the beauty of the island—yellow lights, white flowers, and gold details, it was all about amplifying the beauty that the venue already had.

elopement
Photo by Hector Javier
elopement
Photo by Hector Javier

Every part of the wedding planning journey was exciting because we were always working on something new for the wedding. Everyone told us that the few months leading up the wedding would be filled with pure excitement and last-minute details, and we were prepared to get everything done together. We were honestly prepared for everything…except a global pandemic.

During the month of March, we were distracted. We kept planning. Everyone told us about how excited they were while getting their flights, booking their hotel rooms, buying their outfits, and asking us if we needed any help. We hoped COVID-19 would not take over the day we had planned for months on end. March flew by, and we still had hope that we would have all of our friends and family on the island to celebrate our big day. Then April and May passed, and June arrived. For a second, we still had some hope as some states were reopening.

It wasn’t until our wedding venue contacted us on June 8th that reality kicked in: Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, our guest list would need to be limited to immediate family members. It was hard to hear because the little hope we had gone out of the window. After talking to our parents, siblings, and wedding vendors, we realized the best option was to postpone our wedding for next summer. We wanted everyone to stay safe and healthy, and we truly felt like it was our responsibility to postpone.

We wanted everyone to stay safe and healthy, and we truly felt like it was our responsibility to postpone.

For me, it was hard, but Michael continually reassured me that the way I was feeling was okay. He said it was normal to be sad as we had put so much time and effort into making the day unforgettable, but also helped me realize that there were thousands of couples going through the same process. He said that something good comes out of every bad situation. 

By the time July arrived, we had slowly begun to accept the fact that our dream wedding would not be possible. But we still wanted to get married—so we decided to elope on July 18, 2020! We messaged an officiant, contacted our decorator, Jose Luis, and sent an invitation to all of our family and friends so they could join us virtually. Then, just four days before we were set to wed, the governor of Puerto Rico closed all beaches and public areas.

Our plan was to elope at the beach, so at this point, we felt like the world actually did not want us to get married. Thankfully, Jose Luis, who was our angel during this process, saved us: He found a new venue in the mountains of Trujillo Alto, and was able to get everything—flowers, chairs, and decorations—in just three days so we would feel special.

elopement
Photo by Hector Javier
elopement
Photo by Hector Javier

Our wedding day was truly spectacular. Our best friend, Claudia Vicente, ended up shooting our elopement, and having her there, in addition to our family, was so special. On the sunny morning of July 18, 2020, we read our vows to each other, and we'll keep them forever in vow books from our stationer Paper Crafts.

However, after getting married, we realized that August 8, 2020, our original wedding date, was still such a special day for us and we needed to celebrate somehow. That's when the stars aligned, and we met international photographer and videographer, Hector and Tessa, who suggested we do a sunset photoshoot at la Cueva del Indio, one of the oldest caves in Puerto Rico, to celebrate. They made August 8th a day to remember. 

elopement
Photo by Hector Javier 

At the end of the day, we realized it was never about the big wedding celebration for us. It was simply about celebrating love, inclusivity, diversity.

elopement
Photo by Hector Javier 

After we postponed our wedding, it was hard to stay positive, but our vendors have made it extra special. This process has really shown us that everything happens for a reason and that something good comes out of every bad situation. We did not have our dream wedding, but we were able to make some incredible memories that will last a lifetime through the process. This experience has made our relationship stronger and our love for each other grow. 

At the end of the day, we realized it was never about the big wedding celebration for us. It was simply about celebrating love, inclusivity, diversity. It was about giving hope to the community with a message that “love always wins.” It was about taking the step to start a life with my forever best friend.

Also, he was right: Something good does come out of every bad situation. We got married, and we can’t wait to do it again next summer with 100 of our closest family and friends in Puerto Rico. 

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