Change of Plans: We've Waited 20 Years to Get Married—What's One More?

"Despite all the hurdles placed in front of us, we will continue to march on."

change of plans

CRISTINA CIANCI/Courtesy of Tiffany Woo

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, Tiffany Woo tells her story from New Jersey.

Twenty years. For many, that is a lifetime of milestones. But, for my fiancé Clayton and I, those were the years we spent crisscrossing the path of life until we reached our resolution to be married. The year 2020 would have been the culmination of many years of personal and professional hurdles and the start of our new life together as a couple. However, like many others, the decision to wed during a pandemic became a challenge for us

Rewinding back our love story: It all started at a friend’s Christmas potluck when I was in my 30s, and no crystal ball could have determined where things would progress over time or how many challenges we would continue to face. Not in the typical love story fashion, we met, fell in love—and, then, I moved overseas to the Netherlands, taking a position in pharmaceutical research which led me around the globe for many years. I was young and ambitious, and my time was spent mostly in various cities and moving the needle on my career. Clayton was working in New York and kept a consistent career path in the pharmacy field.

He was always my greatest cheerleader and patiently allowed me to live out my dreams.

Constant distance and conflicting schedules became a way of life for us, yet an encouraging phone call or an endearing card—I’m a huge Hallmark card fan—would set us back on the path of love and commitment. He was always my greatest cheerleader and patiently allowed me to live out my dreams. About six years ago, he decided to pursue his own dream of heading west to Seattle. Perhaps I did not initially endorse his new endeavor, but it was important for me to respect and support his dreams just as he had done for me. However, this now put a continental divide between us.

Just as we started to contemplate our future again, fate again dealt me a card of being a caregiver for my parents. An accident left my mom ill and bedridden, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer. While maintaining a full-time job and being an only child with little support nearby, I felt challenged both mentally and physically for two years. The tragic loss of both of my parents by 2019 made every day seem like a challenge.

In Chinese, there is a phrase called Chong Xi, which is when a wedding is expected to bring happiness after a time of negativity. After all that had happened, we were excited to finally celebrate and embrace a happier time with our family and friends. 

Learning to embrace life once again came from having a new welcoming family. Clayton and I both come from traditional Chinese families where the family institution is the pinnacle of strength. It was their warmth and encouragement that completed my circle, and which allowed us to once again plan for our future. In Chinese, there is a phrase called Chong Xi, which is when a wedding is expected to bring happiness after a time of negativity. After all that had happened, we were excited to finally celebrate and embrace a happier time with our family and friends. 

In January 2020, we got engaged—still living across the country from one another!—and began planning a destination wedding in New York City. Firmly rooted in Chinese tradition, I also needed to find an auspicious date. Having luck and good fortune on the wedding day was an important planetary alignment and we settled on October 18, 2020. We wanted a Sunday and, on the Chinese calendar, there were only two Sundays—the other was the 4th but 8 is a lucky number in Chinese so we went with the 18th. By February, I had already booked the venue, ordered my dress, hired an amazing wedding planner, and even had custom designed wedding invites ready to print. Before I could compliment myself for a job well done, along came the pandemic in March and again we were faced with a new challenge of Now What

Initially, I tried to use my scientific training and take a logical approach but instead, I was purely driven by my emotions about the end of the world as I knew it. There was no amount of scientific data being presented by any government official that would endorse or negate our decisions so that approach was futile. 

In the end, there were two processes I followed to overcome our challenges: Prioritization and Rationalization. My initial discussion with my fiancé felt like someone trying to convince someone else that life truly was worth living, while I was sporadically sobbing through his rationalized arguments. Although having a large wedding may not be in the cards now, that didn’t translate into not getting married. His reassurance was key to our decision for having a civil ceremony on our scheduled date. (Our guests to join via Zoom.) Countless tissues later, I realized our love was much more important than how we celebrated that love to others.

Next came the rationale for why we were delaying our wedding celebration: Maintaining the safety and health of our family and friends was the first of the utmost importance. Yet, the delay also gave us a new milestone: The renewal of our vows a year later. The support and validation of our decision were critical during this time, not only from those closest to us but also from the wedding planner and vendors whose expertise facilitated making rational and educated decisions. “You don’t know what you don’t know” nor should we be expected to know everything. The wedding process has so many intricacies and with the help of additional cheerleaders in our corner, we've turned our indecisiveness into solid decisions and a challenging situation into a positive experience. In October, we'll still have our perfect wedding day, and we'll also have a new day to recognize our landmark anniversary a year later.

Despite all the hurdles placed in front of us, we will continue to march on. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” It is that love that Clayton and I share that will help move us into our next phase of life, even if it will be in year 21.

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