Navigating life in the midst of a global pandemic is a terror, let’s be honest. Long gone are the days when we thought this would be a blip in the radar, where we happily lounged in our sweatpants binge watching Tiger King. Now, months later, people have been forced to pivot their plans and rebuild the structure of their lives. These past six months have been nothing short of a nightmare for the world, but there’s something extra “special” about earning the title of the COVID bride.
Brides are sometimes stereotyped to be nightmares, whether it’s deserved or not—hence the term bridezilla—and if you’ve ever planned a wedding, you probably know why. Juggling perfect etiquette, excessive appointments, budgets, vendors and familial expectations, on top of the rest of your life, can feel like complete chaos. And as a COVID bride, you’re also sailing the churning waters of these unprecedented times, which sometimes means starting from scratch on planning your big day.
That’s what happened to me. After nearly two years of being engaged and four years of being with my fiancé, I was exactly one month from saying ‘I do’ when I realized our wedding was not going to happen—at least, not when we had planned for it to. Although I knew in my heart that we would still eventually get married, I couldn’t avoid the feeling that not only the months but the years of hard work that I had poured into my dream day had suddenly slipped through my fingers. And the worst part was there was nothing I could do to change it.
Needless to say, when faced with the circumstances of canceling, postponing or re-imagining your wedding, you will undoubtedly experience heartbreak. But with every hardship comes life lessons that you might not otherwise have learned.
Here are three impactful lessons I learned after having to postpone my wedding (twice):
1. It’s OK to say yes to yourself.
When planning a wedding, the expectations of others are thrusted upon you faster than you can say “I do.” From parents, to grandparents, to friends, to in-laws, everyone seems to have an opinion on what this day, your day, should be… and oftentimes, we oblige. We say yes to the expectations of others, and in turn say no to ourselves.
This doesn’t stop at weddings; this happens every day. When we feel the pressure of living up to someone else’s standards, we try our hardest to contort ourselves into molds that others have created for us and convince ourselves that it’s what’s best for us.
After postponing our wedding, my fiancé and I had the rare chance to hit the reset button and to change the things we weren’t particularly fond of. What I realized: The things I wanted to change were never my idea in the first place. Each detail was an example of being afraid to say no to somebody else in order to say yes to myself.
To get the things that we desire and to live a life of our own design, we have to learn to say yes to ourselves. We need to learn that it’s OK to disappoint others if that means you avoid disappointing yourself.
2. The best plans have contingency plans.
Pre-pandemic, we were all groomed to plan life to a T. Starting with the academic planners and syllabi that are given to us on the first day of classes, to the variety of digital planning apps that we use to schedule out the many roles of our daily lives, we are taught that planning is part of success. And although that may be true, the fact of the matter is that plans change. They fail.
When booking venues and signing contracts, the thought of a global pandemic wasn’t exactly at the forefront of my mind, and rightfully so. But the lack of contingency in my plans left me with broken contracts, lost deposits and recycling bins full of paper goods. And although I couldn’t have predicted what 2020 had in store, I can fully admit that I didn’t exactly have a Plan B.
The big lesson here? Yes, planning is an essential part of any journey, but so is being adaptable. Life is full of unknowns. This doesn’t mean that you need to plan for the apocalypse each time you write your weekly grocery list, but it does mean you should do your best to leave room for the unexpected.
3. Loneliness is a choice.
To feel lonely in the face of trauma or heartbreak is not uncommon. It’s natural to feel like there are few people in this world who can truly understand what you’re going through, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this process, it’s that there is power in community.
Being a bride at the start of this new decade was hard, and for the first time in my life, the saying “nobody understands” really felt like it rang true. Sheltering in place not only kept me isolated from my co-workers, friends and family, but it also made me feel like I had to grieve the loss of what should’ve been the best day of my life alone. Picking up the phone and trying to talk to friends about it didn’t quite do the trick—it’s hard to get advice when you’re the only person in your inner circle who has ever been faced with the situation you’re in—but I realized that just because the people directly around me hadn’t had the same experience didn’t mean I was all alone in it.
In the digital age, we are never really alone. We have access to groups and communities that we couldn’t have imagined even a couple of decades ago. No matter the circumstances you face in any area of life, you have the opportunity to connect with people you never would have crossed paths with otherwise.
Sure, digital relationships don’t measure up to those interpersonal connections—that’s the simple truth—but having access to other people in relatable situations can offer overwhelming feelings of support and relief. Through online support groups, blogs, digital publications and even situationally-driven social media pages, you can always find someone who is walking in similar shoes.
Our wedding date has now come and gone, twice, and that hasn’t been easy. But I’ve learned that it’s not the easy things in life that teach us the biggest lessons. Our strength comes from struggle, and with every hardship, you can find blessings in disguise. It’s simply a matter of perspective.
Photo by Lesia.Skywalker/Twenty20.com