Planning a Wedding During COVID-19
Planning a wedding is stressful enough without having to do so during a global pandemic. Newlyweds, Kara and Alvin, recall their challenging journey to their wedding day, and share how they were finally able to become husband and wife.
Planning a Wedding During COVID-19
Myrtle Alegado: Worry, pressure, and stress. Lots of stress. A staggering 96% of couples admit to feeling this emotion while planning their wedding according to a study of 500 newlywed or engaged to be wed couples published on brides.com.
These numbers are even more telling – “40% of couples categorized wedding planning as “extremely stressful” while 71% thought it was more nerve-wracking than other major life events like finding a new job.”
Now, that article was published before COVID-19. Today, we’re going to look at what planning a wedding was like for one newlywed couple I had a chance to chat with who got married during the global pandemic.
Welcome to Happy Life, a podcast brought to you by INCMedia that aims to help newlyweds navigate through the first years of marriage. I’m Myrtle Alegado and I’ve been married to my husband Paul since 1999.
[INTRO MUSIC & CATCHPHRASE]
Inspiration to make your marriage thrive, you’re listening to Happy Life.
Myrtle: Planning every detail of your big day really does take a lot of work. The happy couple has to decide on things like guest lists, decor, and even the reception venue. When you add a global pandemic into the equation of wedding planning, you’ve got a whole new set of unexpected hurdles.
Let’s welcome our newlyweds for today’s topic, Kara and Alvin, from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Hi Kara and Alvin! We’re so happy you’re here with us today.
Kara Pascual: Hello, Myrtle. Thank you so much for having us today on Happy Life. And Alvin and I are so grateful to take part in this topic, which is very timely for us. Right, Alvin?
Alvin Pascual: Yeah, but definitely quite nervous.
Myrtle: Aww, no need to be nervous. So how have you two been, you know, aside from the nervousness?
Kara: Well, of course we also gained weight as part of marriage.
Myrtle: Oh, I think that’s part of the COVID-10 or COVID-15 people say.
Myrtle: Everybody’s putting on 10 or 15 pounds. Can you explain where St. John is and what it’s like there?
Kara: So, St. John is in the province of New Brunswick, which is part of the 10 provinces here in Canada. And we’re also part of the Atlantic provinces in the eastern part of the country.
Myrtle: And I had to actually Google Map it and even though I’m Canadian, and I’ve lived here all my life, I had to refresh my memory. I believe it’s also between Quebec and Nova Scotia and then just a little bit north of Maine, correct?
Alvin: That’s correct. So it’s actually two hours away from the US border which is the State of Maine.
Myrtle: Okay so, Kara and Alvin, you’ve been married since August of 2020, correct?
Myrtle: And that wasn’t originally supposed to be your wedding date though right, so can you share the story on that?
Alvin: I proposed to Kara in May 2018 in Niagara Falls, Ontario. So, that was actually the happiest moment of my life at that point. We encountered a lot of challenges along the way, especially we have differing personalities. I am an introvert and Kara is an extrovert. So, a lot of challenges personally, within our internal selves, and together as a couple, as we’re going through the relationship. We encountered that after the proposal. So, we decided to call off the wedding and eventually had to separate, because we realized that we needed to grow as individuals, before we can go together.
Myrtle: And you know that actually makes a lot of sense, because there’s a saying I heard a while back that went something like ‘before you could stand together, you had to stand alone.’ So, what you said, growing as individuals, I’m sure that now has helped you together as a couple. So, after experiencing all of that, you know, having the proposal, being engaged, then calling off the wedding, the roller coaster of ups and downs, what was it like for you to finally be able to plan the wedding together?
Kara: Actually, Myrtle, we were so excited, because we will finally get to restart the planning of our wedding.
Kara: But then we are [in] a long distance relationship, because I live in St. John here in New Brunswick, and he was in Surrey, British Columbia, at that time. So Surrey is, I think it’s in the Metro Vancouver [area]—
Kara: —as far as I know, and St. John is near the Bay of Fundy. So, I am beside the waters.
Myrtle: So, literally you’re [on] other sides of the country.
Kara: Yeah, other sides, west and east.
Myrtle: You’re that far apart in distance, different time zones, so how did you stay organized and on track with all your wedding planning.
Kara: Well, Alvin is the techie type of person, and he’s really organized. I guess it’s because of his job. So, he created a Google spreadsheet for us to keep everything on track, to see our progress, to see what we’ve missed, and we always check it every month, and then it goes to every week.
And I am really happy even though that we are both far away from each other. I am really thankful that Alvin’s family is very supportive, because I only have them as my family since my parents, my siblings, are in the Philippines. I know it’s very unfortunate that they are far away from me, but they still give support by giving me advice on how to do the wedding, even though we’re far away from each other.
Myrtle: That’s really great. And actually the spreadsheet is a great idea to stay organized, so good job, Alvin.
Alvin: Thank you.
Myrtle: And we heard, you know almost all couples admit to feeling stress during wedding planning. What were your stress levels like, you know, especially since you were planning your wedding during a global pandemic and you have the distance as well to handle?
Alvin: So, I’m not really the type of person that stresses too much. Because I realized that in order to get this wedding planning to work is if one person is easily stressed out, the other person needs to be calm and be able to think things through. That’s why I was able to be organized and bring solutions like using a spreadsheet to see the progress, things like that. So, that helped me to reduce my stress.
Kara: Well it’s very opposite for me, because I am 110% stressed at that time.
Kara: Well, I think it’s because I’m far from Alvin and from a family. It’s really hard to interact with one another if you’re far away. It’s different when you can see each other. You can talk to each other right away.
And there’s a lot of restrictions when COVID-19 started in early 2020. All of us are so nervous because flights got suspended. Actually here in St. John, in the whole province of New Brunswick actually, they suspended the whole flights so there’s no airports open [at] that time.
Kara: Yes, everything is closed. Even the stores are closed. So while I was searching for a gown, I couldn’t find the perfect gown for me, because I don’t really like looking online. Because what if I receive it and then I have to alter it because it’s too small for me or it’s too big for me. And stores are closed so I don’t have a way to alter the dress, and it’s really hard to make decorations. And the worst thing is, we really don’t know if the wedding will be pushed through because of this pandemic,
Myrtle: And I think initially when we spoke, you had hoped to get married earlier in 2020, not in August, right?
Myrtle: But then like you said the pandemic hit. And so in addition to the wedding date, what other changes did you kind of have to accept and deal with because of, you know, pandemic and lockdown and everything?
Alvin: So, the toughest thing was that Kara’s family could not make it to the wedding because of the government restrictions. We really wish we could have changed that, because it would be very valuable for their family to witness the wedding ceremony in itself.
Kara: And to add to that, my family’s not members of the Church Of Christ, and I really would want them to witness how the wedding is done inside the Church, and how solemn it is. Because I also wanted them to be part of this Church.
Myrtle: And you said that there were a lot of government restrictions as well, right? Did you have to do a lot of research when it came to that, such as how many people were allowed to gather, and how did that affect your guest list?
Kara: Well, yes I actually checked the government restrictions, every month and then every week, because I find that they change the rules, very often. So, at first, the maximum capacity indoors in British Columbia is 50 guests or 50 people. And then they lowered it to 25. It’s really hard to determine who will be in the chapel, because we also have people who are dear to us that we want to be with on our wedding day. But then, we couldn’t because we have to follow those restrictions.
But of course, people can’t travel anyway, so we are thankful to the Church Administration, because they approved us having a video streaming for them so they can attend to our wedding, even though it’s virtually. And to my surprise, to our surprise, a lot of them were able to connect. More of them were able to witness the wedding, than going to British Columbia personally to see the wedding. So I’m happy with that because we were able to share our very special day to our dear loved ones and friends.
Myrtle: Oh yes, definitely. And that’s pretty incredible that a lot of people, a lot of your guests, were able to actually watch it even though, like you said, it was virtually. But just having them there, I’m sure, was something that you will remember.
So here’s an interesting statistic I’d like to share with you. Zola surveyed over 2000 couples with weddings from March 2020 and December 2022. Most of them were originally scheduled to get married in 2020 and found that COVID-19 has changed the way that almost all of them are thinking, feeling and planning. You know, with having to decide how to handle the guest list, based on restrictions in each city or province, or how to implement safety protocols at the ceremony, and most importantly how to still celebrate with loved ones, even though they’re far away, it’s definitely a lot to think about. So Kara and Alvin, what do you recall was one of the biggest stressors during your wedding planning?
Kara: Well for me, Myrtle, I am a frontliner, I’m a nurse here in St. John. And being in the period of the pandemic, It’s very stressful.
Myrtle: I can imagine, yes.
Kara: Most of our residents here are at home, while we are still working in our respective jobs. That resulted for me to have a lot of health issues because, of course, when you stress out, your body will react to the stressors. I was hospitalized many times because of that.
Myrtle : Oh no.
Kara: I think it’s because of fatigue, too much thinking, anxiety, and we were also short-staffed every day, because my co-workers were also getting sick of working every day. Because we cannot have our vacation time because of this pandemic. On top of that, I have to do the wedding planning with Alvin.
Myrtle: Stress on top of stress.
Kara: Yes, stress on top of stress on top of stress. That’s how I can tell it. Two weeks before the wedding, I got injured at work. That made me become more stressed.
Myrtle: Yes, definitely. I mean, how did that injury happen if you don’t mind me asking?
Kara: I was in the Alzheimer’s unit, and one of my patients got very aggressive and hit me on the head, and I lost consciousness. Yes, I had a concussion, and I was sent to the emergency after that. And I was so nervous that our wedding will be canceled because of my situation. It’s only two weeks left. I really did my best to do my devotional prayers, and to do the physio religiously. I didn’t skip any day of my physio, because I really wanted to be with Alvin. Because it’s really hard to be living by yourself, that’s why I really prayed a lot. But then another thing. I felt very uncertain because my flight keeps on [getting] re-booked by the airline. So, I really don’t know what will happen to our wedding
Myrtle: So you had more hurdles than most normal couples, for sure, when wedding planning. But how did you show support to one another during this time, especially you, Alvin? You knew that Kara got injured. How did you support each other during this time?
Alvin: So, the important thing that we realized is communication and honesty is key. We had daily video calls so we can communicate with each other what’s happening, when it comes to the wedding planning, when it comes to ourselves personally. So, we also did things to uplift each other, like funny faces, like funny video calls and things like that.
Myrtle: Thank goodness for modern technology, right, that you can have those video calls nowadays.
Alvin: Exactly. And especially we were able to send each other quotes and different social media posts that helped lift each other in these hard times.
Myrtle: Yes, definitely. And you also continued to stay active within your faith and, you know, attending worship services?
Alvin: Definitely, those are the one of the key things that help us uplift ourselves internally, is with the performance of our duties and making sure our faith is complete.
Kara: Yes. And, in addition to that, we also trusted each other more, especially that we are far away from each other. Because if you don’t have trust [in] your partner, you will be more stressed.
Myrtle: For sure.
Kara: Yes, and most importantly, we trusted everything to our Almighty God, because we all know that everything happens for a reason. I know LDR (long-distance relationship) is very hard. So, why make it harder, right? So, make it lighter.
Myrtle: Yeah, true.
With any type of planning, there are always uncertainties, but planning for your big day during a global pandemic, you can be sure to expect the unexpected. We heard about the changes and turn of events that Kara and Alvin experienced. Now, whether you’re presently engaged or already a married couple, are you currently dealing with something similar, with something unexpected which is now having an impact on your relationship? If you are, then we invite you now to listen closely to some advice from the Bible on how to deal with the unexpected. Let’s welcome back a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ, Brother Felmar Serreno. Hi, Brother Felmar and welcome back to Happy Life.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Hello, Myrtle and hello to all the Happy Life listeners, and hello to our guests for today, Kara and Alvin. I remember hearing at the introduction, in your courtship it was a long distance relationship, right? I think Alvin was in Surrey, British Columbia, and Kara was it St. John?
Kara: St. John, New Brunswick.
Brother Felmar: St. John, New Brunswick. I wanted to ask, where have you decided to settle, here on the west side or over there on the east side?
Kara: Well, that’s a very difficult question. (laughs) But of course we want to be near the family. So, we want to settle on the west side.
Brother Felmar: On the west coast, okay. But currently, you’re still out there in St. John, New Brunswick. Is that right, Kara?
Kara: Yes, we’re just waiting for some papers to be completed and we will go back to the west side, the west coast.
Brother Felmar: Okay, I see. How is it over there in St. John at the moment?
Kara: Well right now, the Atlantic bubble, which means that all the Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI/Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, will finally be open for travel. So, well you have to quarantine for 14 days if you’re from outside the Atlantic bubble.
Brother Felmar: I see, okay. Well, thank you for sharing that with us. Onto our discussion now, dealing with the unexpected. So, should we be surprised or discouraged when things don’t turn out the way we planned? Let’s listen to what the Bible says here in the book of Proverbs, chapter 16, verse one in the Good News Translation, and we’ll read verse nine in the New Century Version:
We may make our plans, but God has the last word.
[Proverbs 16:1 Good News Translation]
People may make plans in their minds, but the LORD decides what they will do.
[Proverbs 16:9 New Century Version]
Brother Felmar: The Bible teaches us, “We may make our plans, but God has the last word.” Therefore, it is a truth, it is a given, that how we plan things out will not always play out the same way. Why? Because in all things, “God has the last word.” What is the equivalent of this? It is God’s will or God’s plans that will prevail above all. God may allow certain plans we make to be fulfilled, or He may have something else planned for us. Nevertheless, it is always for our own good.
Now, just in case you’re wondering, why are we so sure that God has good plans for us? For example, someone might say if God has good plans in store for us, then why did those unexpected and difficult changes happen to Kara and Alvin, like what they shared with us earlier? And maybe some of our listeners are going through something similar. Shouldn’t those moments be seen as something negative rather than good? So, in response to that, let’s ask the Bible this: how do God’s faithful servants regard what happens in their life, even if it is very different from what was originally planned? Let’s turn to the book of Romans, chapter eight, verse 28, in the Christian Community Bible:
We know that in everything, God works for the good of those who love him, whom he has called, according to his plan.
[Romans 8:28 Christian Community Bible]
Brother Felmar: According to the Bible, not just some but all of the things that happen—all of the things that happen—in the life of those whom God called and truly love Him, even if they are severe, these things are not detrimental to them. Who are those whom God has called? According to Colossians, chapter 3, verse 15, those whom God has called are in the one body of Christ. The one body is the true Church, Colossians 1:18. And what is the name of the true Church? Church Of Christ—that is based on Acts, chapter 20, verse 28 in the Lamsa Translation.
So, for us members of the Church Of Christ that truly love God, in everything that happens in our life we see it in a positive way. Although, yes, when you’re in the moment, something unexpected and unfortunate may seem to be disadvantageous for you. I remember with what Kara mentioned earlier how she was concerned and sad that it seemed as if her loved ones would not be able to witness the marriage ceremony. Did I get that correctly, Kara?
Kara: Yes, yes.
Brother Felmar: And especially because, you know, with how you value your membership in the Church Of Christ, you were hoping that they could witness the solemnity of the marriage ceremony as done in the Church Of Christ. So, what has been mentioned to us through the Holy Scriptures and going through our experiences, definitely when you’re in the moment, things that are unexpected seem disadvantageous. However it is our faith, and it’s taught by the Bible, that God can turn things around so that even unpleasant experiences will be for our own good or it will work toward our benefit in the end.
In fact, what is one example in the Bible that we can learn from where in hindsight, God’s servants understood that the catastrophe they went through turned out to be for their own good in the end? Let’s cite the experience of the apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 8 to 10 in The Message:
We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.
[2 Corinthians 1:8-10 The Message]
Brother Felmar: In spite of the severe trials Apostle Paul experienced, in hindsight he understood that “it was the best thing that could have happened.” That’s what he said, right? Well, why did he say that? Because the experience produced something in him. What positive and important result came out of the unpleasant experience Apostle Paul went through? He witnessed how God rescued Him from certain doom and he learned to trust God totally.
Therefore, to the newlyweds and even to the engaged couples who are listening to this podcast, no matter how incredibly different a circumstance may be from your original plan, there is no reason for us to be overcome by frustration or disappointment. Instead, let us put our unwavering trust in God. Trust in His promise that He has good plans for us. Trust also in the fact that in everything, God works for the good of those who love Him.
Myrtle: Thank you once again, Brother Felmar, for teaching us these words of wisdom from the Bible, and for reminding us to always trust in God.
Brother Felmar: Thank you again to the Happy Life team for having me. Thank you to you, Myrtle. Thank you to our guests, Kara and Alvin. You’ve been great, although I think you mentioned before that this may have been your first time, you know, appearing on a podcast like this but we definitely appreciate the experiences you shared from the heart and openly, and I’m sure all the newlyweds, who are listening in, appreciate it as well. God bless to us all.
Myrtle: So based on the Bible advice that we just received, how important has it been for you to trust in God?
Alvin: Through technology, so we had video calls, we were able to hold daily devotional prayers. Because of our daily devotional prayers, we felt more confident because we put our complete hope to our Almighty God and what He can do for us.
Kara: And actually, Myrtle, my prayers were answered by doing constant devotional prayers. I told you earlier that the stores were closed here in St. John during my wedding gown search, and a few weeks before my flight, one store got open. And I had a hard time to find a gown, because I wanted it to be very conservative, but then I am so happy that I found the gown that I’ve been looking for. And that’s one prayer answered.
And next, the St. John airport was closed for a while, I think for three to four months.
Myrtle: That’s a long time.
Kara: Yes, I kept on praying—I kept on praying—that it will open for our wedding day. And I am so glad that it opened [in] July, 2020 and my wedding is [in] August, and my flight is on the 25th of July. So I’m so happy that it opened, because I am really nervous if it’s still closed if the wedding will be postponed again. And also, we prayed a lot that I will be kept safe and away from the disease because I am flying, right, so I’ll be encountering many passengers on the flight.
And thankfully—I’m really thankful to our Almighty Father—that I got through all that. I am safe, nothing happened to me, I did not get any sicknesses from the COVID-19. And we still got married on our desired date, which is amazing! Looking back, we got very anxious, we got very worried if this wedding will happen. We entrusted everything to God. We didn’t doubt, and we put our complete hope in Him. Everything just went very smoothly. I know there were obstacles. but then we treat those obstacles as a challenge for us to trust in Him more. And the end result is we got married. Yay!
Myrtle: Yay! So many answered prayers, so what would you tell, you know, couples right now who are engaged and about to get married in this pandemic? What would some of your advice be?
Kara: First advice. I know we have friends and families that pressure us to get married because of our age, you know, or if you have a circle of friends and you’re the only ones who are single, they always keep on telling you, “When are you getting married? You’re getting old,” something like that. So don’t get pressured on that, because marriage is not a joke. Marriage is sacred and it comes with a huge responsibility, because you will eventually create a family of your own, and you need to be very responsible for that.
I know there will be struggles, and a lot of frustrations with the wedding planning. It’s normal because, as what was stated earlier, wedding planning is really stressful. So you just have to work together with your partner. It involves teamwork and without teamwork, like what happened to us before, our initial wedding didn’t push through because of a lot of differences and things didn’t work out as planned. But then, if you include God during your wedding planning, everything will be worthwhile—everything will happen smoothly just like what happened to us. And you just want to get married, right? So, you have to just complete the process. Just believe that you will go to your end goal which is getting married.
Myrtle: So Alvin, what are your two cents on the topic of advice for engaged-to be-wed couples right now?
Alvin: So, like what Kara said, everything happens in God’s perfect time. You might make plans, you might make different kinds of plans, but in the end God will allow His plan to happen. And for us, that’s exactly what happened. So everything went smoothly, when even though it was just a short while that we planned the wedding, it went very smoothly, despite all the obstacles that have happened. We were able to get married as a result. That brings us a lot of joy, brings the newlyweds a lot of joy, once that process is complete.
Myrtle: The long wait is over and you’re finally husband and wife. So I can imagine, you know, how happy you both felt.
Kara: Yes, actually, we planned this wedding for less than a month.
Myrtle: Oh, wow.
Kara: Yeah, less than a month. We didn’t expect everything will push through. Initially, 2018, we planned for a whole year. It didn’t happen. But God’s time is really perfect. Even though it’s during the pandemic, it’s perfect for us.
Myrtle: So thank you, Kara and Alvin, so much for sharing what you both went through with all your wedding planning and all the hurdles that you had to jump over, but we hope you had as much fun talking about it as we did.
Kara: Thank you so much, Myrtle, for having us. It is such a good experience, and we had a fun time talking about our wedding planning, like it’s a reminiscing moment for us.
Alvin: I was definitely nervous when we first started, but as we were discussing this, I felt more comfortable. And hopefully our experiences while we were planning our wedding, especially during this pandemic, was of some benefit for everyone else that’s listening.
Myrtle: We hope our discussion today was able to show all of the engaged couples out there that having a wedding during the pandemic is definitely doable. The important thing to remember is to trust God with your plans.
And that’s all we have for you today. To learn more about Christian relationships, please visit incmedia.org. And if you’d like to say hi or send us a question, please email us at email@example.com with the subject Happy Life. Please also remember to share our podcast with your family and friends and all the newlyweds that you know.
Thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team. We’re so glad you joined us today and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessing of marriage.