Planning a wedding is a faff at the best of times; during a pandemic, it resembles purgatory. You’ve booked the venue, the flowers, the dance floor, and the d.j., only to be told that the venue will not open this year, the florist is out of business, and dancing is illegal. You rebook at a smaller venue—someone’s back yard, maybe—pick your own flowers (“Farmhouse chic!”), and install, at key entry points, hand-sanitizing stations with tasteful signs (“Spread love, not germs”), only to learn that a quarantine has been imposed on out-of-state visitors. Your parents and siblings will no longer be able to attend. They are upset; you will need to reschedule. And so it goes.
For a year and a half, my partner and I had been planning a wedding in Crete, where he grew up. We were already legally married—town-hall ceremony—but we wanted the big shebang: the long train, the complicated seating plan, loved ones from all over the world spilling wine as they danced the sirtaki. We chose a date in June and then watched anxiously as the virus spread through January, and then February. Some time into my own pandemic-wedding purgatory, I began having dreams about my dress fitting in strange and otherworldly ways. The sleeves would inexplicably droop to the floor at the elbows, cartoon-like, or extend past my hands and behind me, like white lines on a highway. One day, in late March, after a relentlessly upbeat weekend at home—quarantinis! CrossFit by Zoom!—I sat down to postpone our wedding. I knew how to write the e-mail because I had already received several, from friends in the same boat. They were always warm, and gracious, and not too self-pitying; “What’s a wedding in all this?” they seemed to say. After I sent the note, I received a flurry of messages of relief and consolation. One friend, who had moved her own wedding twice, wrote simply, “Coronavirus is an asshole.”
All through the spring and summer—which is to say, all through wedding season—the virus wreaked havoc on the wedding industry. “It was bedlam,” Laura Krueger, of Kleinfeld Hotel Blocks, which helps couples book accommodations for their guests, told me. “There were no protocols in place.” On March 13th, the wedding-planning Web sites the Knot and WeddingWire set up an emergency hotline for panicked brides and grooms. “We had hundreds of calls per day for two months following that,” Jeffra Trumpower, at WeddingWire, told me recently. As lockdowns and travel restrictions came into force around the country, “couples started to call and say, ‘What do I do? I’m supposed to get married next weekend.’ ”
At first, people postponed, thinking the pandemic couldn’t last longer than a few weeks. Then they postponed again. “There were stages where it didn’t seem like people fully understood the scope or magnitude,” Andrea Freeman, an event planner in New York, told me. Slowly, two options, both of them buzzkills, emerged: you could postpone indefinitely or hold the wedding right