Today was going to be my wedding day.
Angie and I had everything planned. A ceremony by the beach; a reception at the winery across the road where I grew up; thirty guests joining us from overseas.
But then the coronavirus came.
I first read of the strange Wuhan virus back in January. By February, I started to wonder if it might cause trouble for any of Angie’s family arriving from the United States. A month ago, I even asked our wedding venue if they had a cancellation policy for global pandemics. I was joking—but I was also kind of serious.
Last weekend, I went camping with friends for my bucks party. I checked my phone more often than I normally would—and for good reason. One after the other, Angie told me of American friends and family cancelling their trips as international flights became harder and harder to navigate.
With heavy hearts, we had already decided that our wedding would only go ahead if, at a minimum, her parents were able to make the trip. By the time my bucks weekend was over, it was only my future in-laws and Angie’s maid of honour who were still planning to board their flights.
When our PM announced that everyone arriving internationally had to self-isolate for 14 days, we knew it was all over. There just wasn’t time between their touch-down and our ceremony.
Months of dreaming and planning came to a sudden, sobering, sickening end. It felt like a practical joke; like a twisted movie script; like someone else’s tragic life. But it was ours.
After tears and many phone calls to family, we decided that it was only right for us to still get married. But we would keep the affair low-key and only celebrate properly in a year or so, when all the current craziness was over.
Angie and I were very blessed by loved ones who reached out with words of encouragement and practical help. A very generous friend offered us her homestead as the setting for a humble garden party.
We had our solution: Angie and I would marry in a private ceremony at the beach with just my family in attendance. Afterwards, we would take up our friend’s offer and host our Australian guests—including those from interstate—for an outdoor party with braziers and wood-fired pizza.
We only had a week to plan it. But with social distancing rules changing every day, the stress grew increasingly unbearable. Who knew if tomorrow, gathering sizes would be limited to ten like the USA, or backyard parties banned altogether?
It was all too much. On wise advice from my sister, we decided to shift the day forward, and get married the day after next.
Only in my nightmares have I planned my wedding in 24 hours, but that’s exactly what we did. On the Sunday just passed, before love itself was outlawed, I eloped with my beautiful bride on the windswept sea cliffs of Second Valley. It was nothing like we had planned, but it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Afterwards at my sister’s place, we celebrated with just twenty of our nearest and dearest. It was the most lavish backyard shindig you’ve ever seen, and we are indebted to those who made it happen.
Three days into our honeymoon—just yesterday in fact—we checked the news. Weddings are now limited to an attendance of five. Even social events hosted in homes and backyards are prohibited, according to the PM’s latest advice.
Good thing we got in early.
As I look back over the last few months, it is overwhelming to think of all that has happened. Just before we returned here from the USA, Angie’s Australian visa was bungled. Had we not chased down the Department of Home Affairs in sheer desperation, she’d still be stuck at home in America.
Then the Australian bushfires came. A day before boarding our flight to Australia, we heard unbelievable news from my family that the Adelaide Hills were on fire. The first news headline we saw told of our wedding venue almost burning to the ground, and heavily damaged vines in every direction.
It really seems like it was the wedding that wasn’t supposed to happen. But it has—and it yet will. When our thirty long-lost loved ones can finally join us, we will be throwing a very, very big party.
For now, there are a few lessons I’ve learnt from all that has happened.
This situation is far bigger than us. Before our wedding, I scanned the news for how it would affect Angie and me. For days, our hopes and dreams and absurd amounts of money were all hanging on the whimsical dictates of world leaders.
We still hope for most of this to be redeemed at a future date. But now that the stress of a cancelled wedding is behind us, it is easier to see how this situation is affecting everyone.
India has just begun a 3-week lockdown. Spare a thought for the countless millions who are “locking down” in tin and tarpaulin slums.
I don’t mean to downplay your suffering. But keep in mind that you are not alone. We’ve all been affected—and there’s a good chance that others have it worse than you. They need your prayers, and maybe your practical support, too.
I have a phenomenal wife. I have heard of bridezillas, but Angie isn’t one of them. She has handled this whole catastrophe with perfect poise and maturity.
On hearing that every family member and childhood friend was blocked from witnessing her marriage, Angie dried her tears and planned a second wedding. And then a third. And like me, she enjoyed the day with all of her heart.
She understands what more brides need to: a wedding does not a marriage make. All the celebrations in the world can’t outweigh the joy of a union forged by God inspired by the selfless example of Christ.
We’re less than a week in and clearly we have lots to learn, but I can’t imagine a bride of better character to begin this brand new life with.
God is always in control. During countless moments this week, it felt very much like God was not in control. But feelings don’t trump facts. God always has a plan. And often, His hand is seen best in hindsight.
Just before we planned our makeshift wedding, Angie and I prayed with my family. On our knees, we asked God to open a door. He did. Only days after walking through it, that door shut. Had we not heard God and obeyed, both of our families would have missed our marriage.
God’s timing was perfect in other ways too. Just as Angie and I were about to recite our vows to each other, all of us turned towards the ocean to watch a pod of dolphins splashing in the sun. It sounds too good to be true—yet it was so.
God’s hand was also seen in the generosity of others. My sister Carli dropped everything to make our day, small as it was, the most memorable day ever. She made a hundred phone calls and hosted and cooked pizzas and took photos and did it all with a beaming smile. Our friend Donna who offered us her garden was just as caring and selfless.
During dark days, we were carried by the prayers of God’s people and their many messages of support and love.
We have too may blessings to count.
One day we will celebrate our wedding, and we can’t wait. But for the time being, we’re just enjoying marriage.