As the mother of three daughters, two of whom had been planning their weddings before the pandemic started, I never imagined we’d see the first ceremony staged on our back porch. We come from a family that loves big parties and a tradition where weddings can go for days with as many as 300 guests. My own wedding boasted around 200 guests. So how could I guess that we’d have to whittle down my eldest daughter’s guest list from 130 to only seven people in attendance, a number that included the bride and groom.
Clearly, the pandemic has turned our lives inside out, challenging expectations and putting plans on hold. When life demands a compromise that’s what you have to do. Or, as the Chinese proverb puts it: “The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.”
My eldest daughter’s wedding was to be in mid-October but she postponed it to next year as many of the guests would have been traveling from overseas and from across the country. She and her fiancé didn’t want to compromise anyone’s safety. Their big wedding might be delayed until the pandemic was over but they decided not to delay moving on with their lives. A ‘minimony,’ or a mini ceremony, was what they chose to do. It would be a special day no matter what!
My daughter wanted to keep her original wedding dress for the big celebration next year so we scrambled to find something suitable for this event. The search began online and we were soon inundated with boxes arriving and being returned. Finally in desperation, she and I donned our masks, and made the one and only visit to the mall. It was as if the dress was just waiting for her – a simple but elegant dress in a delicate opal grey. To me the dress was my daughter personified – understated but beautiful.
Their wedding florist arranged flowers, in soft hues of white and champagne interspersed with eucalyptus, for this much-abridged event. My youngest daughter who has turned into a baker-extraordinaire through the pandemic, announced she would make an elderflower and lemon wedding cake – inspired by Megan Markle and Prince Harry’s cake – a responsibility I would have balked at, but she jumped at the chance.
On the day of the minimony the house was filled with the seven of us. The bride and groom were present – check. The florist arrived with gorgeous flowers to deck the porch – check. The cake was finished and decorated – check. The table was beautifully set for the wedding dinner – check. And all completed before heading over to the mosque for the imam to officiate the mini ceremony.
Back at home we had some lovely photographs taken of our tiny wedding party and then we cozied up for dinner on the porch and cake cutting. A Zoom call with the grandparents and the extended family would further mark this celebration, even if a few relatives were muted as they talked over each other. Surprisingly, we were having a good time. The intimacy of the minimony allowed us to relax and have fun in the comfort of our home. I watched my daughter and my new son-in-law as we all lingered at the dinner table. Despite the chill in the air and the darkness descending, their faces shone with love for each other and sheer happiness. The joy around the table was palpable. It was a day we’d all cherish forever.
As the first of my daughters got married I wondered how she would tell the story of her special day. How would all the countless couples who have postponed 2020 weddings to then concoct mini ceremonies and impromptu events record their wedding-day memories? My thoughts turned to reflections of my own wedding, looking back after thirty years of happy marriage. Most of us remember vividly what happened on our big day, but to describe our feelings from that moment takes more effort. I know from my work at The Story Project that even young couples, eager to describe their courtship, need gentle guidance to help them fully capture their story. As I think about my wedding and my daughter’s mini ceremony, I’m reminded that it’s worth the effort to remember, to piece together the memories and emotions of one of the most precious moments in our lives and record our stories as they should be told now and for the future.