Marriage Story

A Wedding in the Chaos of COVID-19

Rebecca Schönheit, Tablet’s German writer, had a big wedding planned for April. Because of the coronavirus, her plans changed.

I was in seventh heaven. We had gotten engaged at Christmas and by January had started to plan the wedding. We got the paperwork together, arranged the date with the church, bought and engraved the rings, and sent out the invitations. And of course, I had already gone out to try on dresses and find shoes — all the things you look forward to as a bride. Now all we had to do was wait and look forward to the big day.

We live in Berlin, but as we grew up in different parts of Germany, and both spent time living and studying abroad, we knew the guests would be a mix of people — the ideal ingredient for a successful party. And we knew we wanted a big party. Our plan was to get married at the end of April before everyone went away for their May holidays, before the deluge of summer weddings began.

But as March began, our joy was increasingly clouded by events surrounding COVID-19. Every day, the situation became more serious. And the prospect of a glittering celebration, with so many people — children and elderly, friends from all over the country, friends who worked in health care — became more and more unrealistic. The prospect of having to cancel this wonderfully planned party made us incredibly sad. But even sadder was the idea that the marriage itself might not happen anytime soon.

On March 16, we finally decided to ask the registry office how long they thought they would be operational, and if our wedding ceremony in April was still realistic. The registrar informed us: “We do not intend to close. But you never know… If you want to be on the safe side and be spontaneous, come by tomorrow at noon. We’ll have you married in no time. We’ve got all the papers right here.”

Are we spontaneous? YES! So the wedding was set: March 17, during lunch break.

My outfit didn’t quite match my expectations, but at least the weather exceeded it. After we went to work in the morning, we arrived at the registry office shortly before noon in bright sunshine. The registry office was empty. Nobody standing in front waiting — it was a strange picture. After we rang the bell, we were let in and greeted with the appropriate distance. The registrars were thrilled with our spontaneous decision, and tried to make up for the missing guests with the sheer quantity of photos they took. Just as quickly as they took them, we shared them with our friends and families, who we could picture sitting excitedly on their phones sharing the moment with us.

After we had exchanged the rings (unbothered by the erroneous date in the engraving), the registrar allowed us to kiss with a wink. “I’d better stay behind the desk so I don’t hug you by mistake,” she apologized, all while taking more photos.

wedding

After the ceremony we went out to dinner, toasting with Aperol Spritz and for just a moment feeling that we were on a romantic date in Italy. Because the sun was shining, and we were sitting outside with plenty of distance to the other tables, it almost felt as if it was just the two of us in the whole world. A mini-honeymoon in the middle of Berlin on a Tuesday afternoon — there are worse scenarios.

But another highlight was scheduled for the evening: a video conference with all our wedding guests. We were to meet at 7:00 p.m., in front of the computer, for a toast. We got ready, opened a bottle of champagne, and positioned ourselves in front of the camera.

Little by little, more and more people joined in: some had dressed up, some decorated their rooms with “just married” flags, some fed their babies, others sat in quarantine on the balcony of their hotel. Still others were sick in bed. But all of them had a drink in their hands, and all of them joined us for a virtual toast. Seldom have I experienced such happiness as I did during these minutes.

Having so many people in the conference, a conversation was quite impossible. But just the fact that so many people can feel so close to each other, despite so many kilometers of distance, to share such a wonderful moment, moved me to tears.

wedding
 
wedding

Of course, I would have been happy with real hugs and the clinking of glasses and the conversation with family and friends in the same room, but sometimes you have to accept limitations. Because of the video transmission and the photos and phone calls throughout the day, I didn’t feel like we were celebrating alone. The requirement to minimize your social contacts as much as possible didn’t feel so much like a restriction, as long as you interpreted it the right way. It’s not about barring you from sharing your life or talking to each other. All it’s about is being in separate rooms — and what better era for that than this one, in the time of cameras, mobile phones, and video calls?

I still hope that we can still celebrate properly, that I can wear my dress and hug my family. But until then, I am grateful. I am grateful for the fact that the registrars did their jobs with so much love and enthusiasm; grateful that my friends and family did end up joining us; and of course, grateful for the man at my side, who is now my husband in the midst of all the chaos.

 

48 Comments
  1. Congratulations from Boston, MA!
    A beautiful story..best wishes to you both!
    Susan D.

  2. Aus Holland viel Glück und Sie haben eine wunderbare Geschichte für Ihre Enkelkinder!
    Constant

  3. That was a lovely and very responsible thing to do! Congratulations and all the best to you both.

  4. Congratulations from India!!

    Stay blessed and safe!!

    Best wishes for a beautiful future to you both! This is true love!!

  5. Congratulations from San Francisco! Have a blessed life together full of love and wonder. A new adventure by each other’s side.

  6. Grateful, as you mentioned so many times, is the key word. You’ve discovered the true meaning of love, family and celebration of life. Many joy-filled years ahead and Congratulations from Montgomery , Alabama.

  7. God bless and enjoy your wonderful LIFE together from Detroit, Michigan, USA

  8. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.
    Something to smile about during these interesting times.
    Congratulations to you both.

    Don’t change the engravings. Just ad the new date. Great reminder that you didn’t let time stand still..

  9. This bought me so much joy on a cloudy Saturday morning!
    Congratulations and blessings for many years to come! 💖

  10. Congratulations. It has been an unique and unforgettable wedding. Such a nice story.
    You did it right.
    When the situation comes back to the normality, please send us a photo with your lovely dress and surrounded by your beloved
    Keep safe
    Claudine, from ibiza

  11. What a wonderful story! Congratulations and all good wishes for many, many happy years together from Belize

  12. Gut getan! Eine sehr bewegende wundervolle Geschichte. Herzlichen Glückwunsch und alles Gute! Der Tag Eurer Hochzeit ist der Geburtstag unseres jüngsten Sohnes. Er lebt in den USA, wir in Deutschland…

  13. 𝐂ongratulations both of you from New Jersey Best wishes you guys did it , wonderful story full of love

  14. A lovely story congratulations to you both, my son and his fiancée have had to postpone their wedding but we’ll have a fantastic day when all this is over xx

  15. Congratulations on your wedding. May your love last through eternity.

  16. Congratulations and wishing you a wonderful
    Marriage .

    Stay safe

    Ec
    From San Diego
    A happily married woman for 40 years.

  17. that is nothing short of amazing! congrats! and you two will NEVER forget such a historic memory of your wedding day…in this very unusual time. It will be talked about for years and generations to come!

  18. Sounds like a couple made for each other. You look beautiful and make a handsome couple. Best wishes, your story by the way made me shed a tear just as I do at all weddings. Thank you.

  19. What a beautiful story! And such a responsible thing to do. Congratulations from Hong Kong! All the best! 💕💕💕💕💕💕💕

  20. Love this story and so happy for both of you…You look so happy and we wish you the Best of Everything in your life together…You will celebrate with family and friends down the road…Congrats…Lynnie & Richie Naples florida

  21. Wishing you years and years and years of joy … Keep on celebrating (and, when the time comes, be sure to send us photos of you and your husband in wedding fancy-pants wedding attire among family and friends). Cheers!

  22. Congratulations from Australia! My grandparents had to postpone their wedding during WW2. They had a wonderful story to tell their grandchildren in the years that followed – wishing you a wonderful life ahead with your beautiful story to tell!

  23. As someone who has decided to propose on Friday when my quarantine ends, I am even more inspired now.
    Wishing you a life of health and happiness, laughter and love

  24. Sue and I had a May 9th wedding day planned. Invites out, photographer and DJ hires. Friends from all over with booked flights and hotel rooms. We had to cancel 10 days ago. Sad but the only option for so many reasons. We have been together for 10 years and this will only strengthen our bond…..and we will always have the best story about the pandemic and the wedding. Hopefully, we will tell that story with a happy ending for our world – or a less unhappy one. Either way, thanks to all for sharing. Love is not defined by a ceremony or a date but by long term commitment , support and consideration. I think.

  25. This story bought a tear to my eye – how truly beautiful. And I love the fresh red and white spotted dress you chose to wore. it was fun, fresh and uplifting !
    All the best from Wellington, New Zealand – Elizabeth Barbalich, founder and CEO Antipodes skincare

  26. Thank you for sharing your day it was so moving , you and your husband are truly blessed to have one another. I hope you share when you get to wear that lovely dress you have been looking forward to wearing.

  27. Thank you Rebecca and your husband for sharing this wonderful happy time of your lives. Yes, amazing that you had that sun in Berlin!
    I wish you much happiness and tons of joy every day!!!!

  28. Congratulations from Denver, CO! Best Wishes on your life together…you and your beloved have already weathered one storm together!

  29. Loved your dress. Congratulations and best wishes from “The Mitten State” Michigan in the USA. Your are still married, what a handsome couple, and what a story you will have to tell your grand children.

  30. My daughter Julie sent me a link to your lovely story. We lived in Munich for ten years during the 1970s. (At the time my husband Larry worked for Radio Free Europe.) Our life there was a fascinating cultural experience and provided much material for my recently published memoir (“Only Gypsies Move on Sunday”).

    While our wedding day in the summer of 1960 took place in less hazardous times, it was, nevertheless, one to remember–as I’m sure yours will be.

    Best wishes.

    Irene McCoy

  31. Welcome to the club!!!!You both look stunnigly beautiful! Wonderful couple! Best wishes from Greece, Mimi Deligiannidis

  32. Gerry (Birmingham),
    So delighted to here of your wedding. You looked beautiful, you always do. Loved the article. I wish you both wealth, health and happiness. Lots of love 💕

  33. Congratulations to you both, may your days be filled with many smiles, kisses and tears of joy. Your spontaneity and creativity is inspiring. Blessings to you, from sheltering in place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

  34. You belong to each other now 😍
    The party will wait, but the important commitment has been made.
    Congratulations on not waiting!!!

  35. We did the same too. A wedding booked for June 14th, all cancelled but a ceremony in a synagogue organised in three days, just before they closed all places of worship. We got married on March 19, I had for some reason got my dress, altered and collected the week before, and my husband had on a whim bought his new suit way ahead of the original planned shopping date. We are both in our 60’s, and I am blessed to still have my parents 84 and 87. Postponing indefinitely would have made the likelihood of them being there remote (after all who knows) so we did it! Wishing you a lifetime of joy and happiness

  36. When all this is over have your wedding day as if it is the first. What does a date matter you will still have your lovely day looking beautiful in your wedding dress with all your family and friends. These are unprecedented times. CONGRATULATIONS. Please post your new wedding photos in the future. We all look forward to seeing them xx

Have something to add?

Your email address is only used for our verification process to help reduce spam comments
and will not be shared, published or stored for any other purpose.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.