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, Lia Seth tells her story from San Mateo, California.
I hate having a fiancé.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my partner more than anything in the world, and I love that he’s part of my life. But I hate this phase of the relationship.
Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I hate the word “fiancé” and everything that comes with it. It carries more baggage than I ever could have realized.
I’d never been a huge fan of “boyfriend” either. It feels very juvenile to me—there’s nothing to differentiate between two 13-year-olds who have been dating for 10 minutes saying, “This is my boyfriend,” and two forty-somethings who are cohabitating and have been in a committed but unmarried relationship for years saying, “This is my boyfriend.” Less than a year into my relationship, I was ready for a new word; I didn’t feel like “boyfriend” encompassed where we were as a couple. But now that we’re engaged and planning our wedding, I think I’d take “boyfriend” over “fiancé”.
The word immediately shifts the focus of any conversation as soon as I utter it, whether I want it to or not. Last fall, I was in my office kitchen with a group of coworkers, casually chatting about cooking and meal prep. One woman said that she had finally acquired an instant pot and was making her first curry that night, but was nervous because the recipe she found seemed complicated. I told her that curry can be surprisingly easy to make, and mentioned that my fiancé and I have a five-ingredient curry recipe that takes only twenty minutes and requires just one skillet. Immediately, the response from everyone in the conversation was: “Fiancé? You’re engaged? Oh, how exciting! When’s the wedding?” This happens every time I say it. Their eyes shine over with glee, clearly expecting me to echo their feelings. They feel entitled to my plans and also to my joy. Of course, I’m excited about my wedding, but at that particular moment, I really just wanted to talk about curry.
Even before we were engaged, people told us again and again that we would need to savor this magical yet temporary time period. Once we became engaged, I was again reminded that I wouldn’t have a fiancé forever and that I should enjoy the novelty. But to me, the enjoyable part will come once I’m married.
Of course, I want a memorable and beautiful wedding, but I also just want to be married. I want the stability and respectability of 'husband.'
I’m not the first person to say that wedding planning is stressful and difficult. Whether you know it or not, there are a whole lot of people in your life with a whole lot of opinions, and managing those opinions while managing your own priorities is a difficult balance. Within a week of getting engaged, I was eager to make some decisions and move forward. Of course, I want a memorable and beautiful wedding, but I also just want to be married. I want the stability and respectability of “husband.”
When the state of California, along with most other states in the country, started sheltering in place back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our wedding planning quickly halted. Because of my impatience, we got a lot done early; our venue was confirmed and booked within two months, and we had signed contracts with our florist and DJ just weeks before things started shutting down. We didn’t have a lot left to plan or book, but all the plans we made quickly became moot as we began to understand that it still would not be safe to gather in groups by our original autumn 2020 date.
Today, dropping “fiancé” into an otherwise normal conversation still shifts the focus immediately, but now, people aren’t excited for me—they’re concerned. “Fiancé? You’re engaged? Oh, how stressful! Are you still having a wedding?” Their eyes crinkle down with worry, clearly expecting me to echo their feelings.
They still seem to feel entitled to my plans, but now also to my anxiety.
Countless couples across the country have found themselves caught in a situation where they have to postpone, change, or cancel their wedding plans. Many of those couples were counting on legal marriage for insurance or visa purposes. The whole industry has been hit hard, affecting the incomes and lives of caterers, makeup artists, venues, and photographers. It’s an unbelievably stressful time for everyone involved, and some people need to share those stresses as a way to cope. Personally, I prefer to keep my feelings about it between myself, my fiancé, and my therapist.
Personally, I prefer to keep my feelings about it between myself, my fiancé, and my therapist.
I understand that it’s human nature to want to connect with others—to share in each other’s joy and triumphs, pain, and low points. But I’d caution people to read the room. Are you invited to this wedding? If not, you do not need to ask what an engaged couple’s plans are. Think about it: If you’re so worried and concerned about how I’m doing and if my plans are affected, consider how my fiancé and I are feeling.
“Husband” feels good to me. It feels stable. It feels respectable. It inspires confidence; it doesn’t interrupt or reroute conversations. “Husband” feels right. But legally, that word isn’t mine to use just yet. One day, hopefully, this year, I’ll have a husband and will be able to use that word proudly. But until then, I’ll have to wait out the anxiety of “fiancé,” however long it takes.