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, Alexandra Pucciarelli tells her story from Dallas.
Just a month ago, I was ready to get married on May 10, 2020, in Ostuni, Italy. All the pieces had finally fallen into place, and nothing was standing in our way. We had already started to hear reports about what was happening in Italy, but our optimism and joy about our wedding, combined with all of the time and effort put into planning it, kept us from worrying too much.
Our guests and officiant began to ask if we were moving the wedding, but at that point, we believed things would blow over. Then, people started telling us that they would have to work from home after our wedding to avoid spreading the virus. It seemed to us, at that point, that those regulations wouldn’t last through May—they couldn’t possibly! A few days later, most of New York was told to PAUSE and guests began to drop out. We were still keeping our date.
A few days after that, my parents recommended that I come back to Dallas during the pandemic so that I would have more space, as my fiancé and I live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. It was a few days into my stay in Dallas when we decided that the wedding had to be moved.
In Judaism, people believe the joy of a wedding should still continue even during times of tragedy, that it is, in fact, a sacred duty to celebrate a marriage.
There was a problem with that, though. In Judaism, people believe the joy of a wedding should still continue even during times of tragedy, that it is, in fact, a sacred duty to celebrate a marriage. Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, David Lau, even declared that during the pandemic, weddings should not be postponed, but only have their numbers severely limited. Despite this, we stand by our decision to move the celebration to a time when more people can be celebrating.
Couples across the world are stuck in the same boat as us. I’m even in a Facebook group called Four Weddings and a Virus, where we discuss the woes of planning a wedding in the time of corona. In wedding groups across social media, thousands are doing the same. Some people I know are having microweddings with less than 10 guests, either at their original venues or in their homes. It seems that a lot of people cannot wait to get married. We personally would rather have our wedding in a time not associated with a crisis. I do not judge the people who continue to have their celebrations during this period, but it did not feel right to us.
At some point, this will hopefully be a funny story, but at this point, it is just painful to think about. It’s funny how fast life can change.
It was not easy to decide to postpone our wedding until 2021. First of all, we had an amazing date: 5-10-20. Our now obsolete wedding hashtag was #doublethelove. We tried to hold out as long as possible so that we could keep the date, but the virus only got worse and guests began dropping out. As the death toll in Italy rose, it started to feel dangerous for the wedding to continue, and we decided that we needed to move the wedding to next year.
At some point, this will hopefully be a funny story, but at this point, it is just painful to think about. It’s funny how fast life can change. I met my fiancé, Ian, when I was a college junior. It has been almost seven years, and things are going amazingly. We even got engaged in May 2017 in Giverny, France, Monet’s water lily garden, a place that I dreamed of going for most of my life. It feels like we have been waiting for this wedding forever, and now we have to wait a bit longer.
In some ways, it feels crass to be disappointed or worried about our destination wedding, but it was a big deal for our friends and family. First of all, my father is a first-generation Italian American so Italy has always been a special place for my family. We have visited Italy numerous times throughout my life. Four summers ago, my family took a trip to the Amalfi Coast and Naples. This was the first time my fiancé, Ian, traveled with us and it was amazing. It was when my family really started to bond with Ian, and he became one of us. We hope to capture the beauty we experienced in our first sojourn to southern Italy in our wedding. We were excited to share the country we loved with Ian’s family. This would be their first trip to Italy.
Another major reason we chose a destination wedding was that we wanted to have the ability to connect to our guests on an individual level. About 60 people will be in attendance, which is considered a small wedding in my large and tight-knit family. When we first discussed having the wedding in Italy rather than in Dallas (where I’m from) or New York (where we live), my dad mentioned how it was hard to remember who came to the b'nai-mitzvah ceremonies of my sisters and me unless they were from out of town. Ian and I both wanted to be able to remember and have a special moment with each person who attends our wedding ceremony. Italy seemed to us to be the perfect and obvious choice.
Less than a year ago, we were dealing with the normal stresses and demands of wedding planning. We wrongly believed that it would be easy to plan a Jewish wedding in southern Italy. It is not easy to plan a wedding halfway around the world! But, with the help our wedding planner—we originally believed we would be fine without one, but in the end, we decided we needed help!—we did it. We navigated the language barrier, letting her run with a vision board we created and as many of the particular details that were necessary. We sent out save-the-date cards last August and had our invitations sent out immediately after Thanksgiving. Our RSVPs were due to be in by early March. By the time we heard about the pandemic, all of our RSVPs were in. It felt like we had everything planned and ready. Our biggest hiccup was finding a rabbi who we would want to travel internationally with us, but we even had that in place! Who would have thought there was going to be a global pandemic where our location was ground zero?
There is another commandment in Judaism, Pikuach nefesh, that the value of saving a life comes before all else. ... I believe that we are fulfilling this commandment by postponing our wedding.
There is another commandment in Judaism, pikuach nefesh, that the value of saving a life comes before all else. In times like this, it is dangerous to celebrate and if I can do something to save a life, it is vital that I do. Saving a life is considered in Judaism to be the most important commandment. A person can break any other mitzvot to preserve life. I believe that we are fulfilling this commandment by postponing our wedding.
The wedding next year will be better than ever, and we will even be able to book the hotel blocks we were too late on this year.