Love in the Time of Coronavirus
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
By Rev. Rob Schenck
Minister, Civilian Chaplain and Registered Wedding Officiant
The appearance of the novel coronavirus and its potential disease, COVID-19, has turned the world upside down and led to the cancellation of innumerable in-person events. Couples are asking me whether they should postpone their weddings. Most package their wedding plans inseparably from their marriage plans, but I don’t. I do think it is wise to delay weddings—but not marriages. I’ll explain. . .
A wedding is not the same as a marriage. I’m reminded of this important distinction every time I look at my various state certifications for “solemnizing marriages.” No one needs legal or even religious authorization to preside at a wedding. While I do see weddings as very special celebrations, they are just that—a celebration—a “party,” if you will. Sure, a wedding celebration generally has a deeper meaning and even more solemn purpose than other types of festivities, but, still, the wedding is an event. In contrast, a marriage is a commitment—a profound and personal pledge—a unique bond between two human beings. It is easy to cancel and reschedule a wedding—but it should be difficult and complicated to change one’s intentions for marriage.
For this reason, should their hearts be set on it, I am urging couples to proceed with their plans to marry. Marriage is multi-layered set of individual and corporate decisions, an enormously consequential reorganization of one’s life and way of living, a set of emotional, intellectual, spiritual, romantic and even practical commitments; a configuration of reciprocal relationship unlike any other in one’s life.
Marriage is too important to casually postpone or reschedule. Two people, exclusively committed to one another—and, in healthy ways, dependent on one another—should, if they want to, go ahead with formalizing their relationship and starting their “official” life together. This can be done in a quiet (even “secret”) simple exchange of vows with just themselves and their officiant. Alternatively, they might have a very small ceremony with family members and/or a few friends present with them. Some couples will do a simple ceremony like this in their home, in a church or chapel, even at the courthouse, then raise drinks or have a congratulatory dinner. The wedding ceremony itself can be scheduled as far into the future as necessary with the same or a different service included—with a first-time recital of the same or different vows—or performed as a renewal of vows. Sometimes family and guests at the bigger occasion know the couple is already “legally married,” and sometimes they don’t. After all, your personal business is, well, your personal business!
In most of ceremonies, I include this caveat: “No ceremony can create your marriage; only you can do that—through love and patience, through dedication and perseverance, through talking and listening, helping and supporting and believing in each other, forgiving and accepting forgiveness, appreciating your differences and similarities, and constantly growing in the depth and breadth of your relationship.”
These elements of marriage—as compared to the wedding event—are matters of the heart and are expressed within the intimate bond of two persons in love. They do not begin or end at the wedding, but start long before and last long afterwards. If you have marriage plans, consider proceeding with them and enjoy the deep pleasure and unique companionship married love brings to you. If you have wedding plans, consider postponing and rescheduling until a date when all your guests can celebrate with you without anxiety over their health and the health of others.
Happy marriage—and future wedding—plans!