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, Maggy Lehmicke tells her story from Seattle.
And to think that I was worried about rain. It’s a common concern in Seattle, even when planning a summer wedding. May is sometimes sunny, June is often rainy and July is generally safe, with clear skies and temperatures averaging 75 degrees.
Which is why when it rained on July 11, 2019—exactly a year before our big day—my inner planner kicked into gear. It was scheduled to be an outdoor ceremony at a farm on Orcas Island in Washington, complete with pigs, goats, and ocean views. I gave in and rented a tent. Anything that could help prevent a disaster, I thought.
What I did not plan for, however, was a global pandemic.
In a world where everyone is looking for solutions or telling you it’s going to be okay, it’s nice to have a voice giving you permission to grieve.
For most of March, I was distracted. My mind and energy had been focused on a friend whose ceremony was scheduled for April 25 in Slovakia. “How are you doing?” I texted her as soon as I heard about the travel restrictions. The answer was as I’d expected: not good. We spent an hour or so talking on the phone. We didn’t discuss cancellations, and I didn’t ask what she was going to do. I just wanted to give her the space to be upset. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much that would mean to her. That, in a world where everyone is looking for solutions or telling you it’s going to be okay, it’s nice to have a voice giving you permission to grieve.
We only grazed the topic of my wedding. I recognized even then that I was unusually relaxed about the whole thing. I knew there was a possibility that it would be postponed, and I had to come to terms with that. It was just a wedding, after all.
I was logical. Calm. Collected. And fully aware that was not going to last.
Which is how I find myself seated on the couch next to piles of sealed envelopes, my cheeks hot with fresh tears. Hours of work tearing paper and tying knots, all culminating with beautiful, handmade invitations and an obnoxious pit in my stomach. They looked rustic and beautiful and so, unequivocally me. But my eyes honed in on one small detail: the date. How ironic, I found it, that what was supposed to make my wedding feel most official was the trigger to remind me that it might not actually happen.
“Just take it one day at a time.”
“Focus on what you can control.”
"Don’t worry, it’ll happen.”
These were the comments of friends and family members, all well-intentioned and entirely oblivious of my emotional state. But the worst was the voice of my own: “It’s just a wedding.”
It was true, after all. People were losing their jobs, with no alternative means of income. Parents and grandparents were confined to senior homes, communicating with their loved ones through notes pressed to windows. More than 150,000 lives had been lost. I wasn’t blind to any of this. If anything, the heartbreak I was feeling was only amplified by the pain of watching the world crumble around me.
There were also the more complex, deep-rooted concerns. The ones suggesting this was fate’s way of reminding me that I start things, but never finish them. That maybe my adolescent belief that I wasn’t built for marriage had been true after all. That the sudden desire for a wedding was simply me veering off my predetermined course.
Luckily, I had positive influences around me to keep my darker thoughts at bay, including the same friend who canceled her wedding weeks prior. We spoke a lot, indulging each other’s anger and heartache. I reminded her that though our situations were similar, they weren’t the same. I would have time to prepare, I said, while she was hit with the immensity of the situation all at once. “You’re right,” she said. “You might have it worse.”
Though I didn’t necessarily agree with her at the time, in some ways, she was right. While she was robbed of her time to grieve, I would likely be robbed of the blissful anticipation leading up to my wedding day. Between a slow burn or being engulfed in flames, it was hard to have a preference.
When things started taking a turn for the worse, I scheduled a call with my therapist to check-in. It was the indecision that was killing me, I realized—I didn’t want to have to wait until a month before my wedding to cancel.
I had spent so much of my energy focused on how I’d cope if the wedding were canceled that I hadn’t considered how I might feel if it were to actually happen.
She asked why I didn’t want to make a decision now, and I told her I wasn’t ready to deal with the consequences. Something about my response caught her attention. “What worries me is that your first concern is other people,” she said. “What about you? Will you be ready for this wedding?”
But I didn’t have an answer. I had spent so much of my energy focused on how I’d cope if the wedding were canceled that I hadn’t considered how I might feel if it were to actually happen.
When April came around, things were looking even more bleak. I listened to everyone complain about time moving slowly, but for me, it was moving way too fast. The hopeful messages continued pouring in, but I tuned them out. They were only pushing me toward the gut-wrenching realization that I wasn’t excited about my own wedding. I couldn’t afford to be. And no one should ever have to say that.
It wasn’t until I answered a call from a former co-worker that my mindset began to shift. After more tears, a sad attempt at sharing gratitude and mutual venting about the dreary outlook of the future, she said something that stuck. “Just remember that whatever happens, this is not you failing,” she said. “You’re not a failure.” And there they were: the golden words that I hadn’t known I needed to hear.
So many people remained convinced that it would happen—my wedding serving as a beacon of hope in an otherwise turbulent time. But I didn’t have the emotional capacity to reassure them that it was okay if it didn’t…or understand how that had become my responsibility.
I won’t pretend that things magically got easier from there. The only difference is that I was now (for the most part) doing it without the weight of everyone’s expectations on my shoulders. Between what seemed like messages of false hope and blind excitement, I finally gave myself permission to make a decision. One that would belong to us—not everyone else.