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What do most couples and their families prepare for while planning their weddings? The wedding trousseau, the venue and most importantly, the food menu? These are the normal concerns at any wedding, right? But have you heard of people shopping for sanitisers and masks for their wedding? Well, that will also soon become a normal concern, as we realised during our ‘Pandemic Wedding’.
When our families decided our wedding date to be April 25, we had a good six months to prepare. In no time we had decided our wedding venue, our outfits and even got our wedding cards printed. Our friends and relatives even began dance practises for our pre-wedding function. We were in the midst of all this excitement, when the news of a novel Coronavirus-induced pandemic broke in. With just a month left for the wedding, the nation-wide lockdown came as a complete bolt from the blue.
With every extension of the lockdown, our excitement for the wedding became inversely proportional to the case count in the country. While I lived in Bengaluru, my groom lived in Ahmedabad and the wedding was to be conducted there. So even after the government began relaxing the lockdown, we could decide a new date only after the flight operations resumed. The fear of another lockdown coupled with anxiety for the safety of our guests kept us from announcing a new date. We finally took the plunge in July and decided to get married on August 10. However, we had to scale down our three-function plan to just a simple church wedding and bring down the guest list from 1000 people to a mere 50 (and this includes the priests and the photographers).
We soon realised what a herculean task we had at hand. For the safety of all our guests and also to avoid any trouble with the law, we had to strictly follow government guidelines. So now, apart from having our family’s consent to the wedding, we also had to seek permissions from different government bodies.
Now if you have attended a decent number of Indian weddings you would know how important it is to invite every acquaintance you have made in your lifetime. I’m sure nobody wants to offend their grandfather’s second cousin’s sister-in-law by not inviting them right? So how do you invite them and still make it amply clear that they should not turn up at the wedding?
To be honest, it helped that the government mandated that people above 65 and children below 10 years were not allowed. And of course, many guests were themselves afraid to attend. We had only three guests attending from my side. Apart from some careful wordplay in the invitation card, we could only hope that people understood the nuances of the new normal.
The ban on the international flights also prevented many friends and family from joining. Among them was my sister and her family, who live in Australia. Going through an aunt’s wedding album as a child, I remember asking my mother why she was absent at her sister’s wedding. I just could not comprehend how some unforeseen circumstances could keep her away. I wondered if my child also would ask me such questions someday.
The only way we could have our near and dear ones participating was through live streaming, and we added its YouTube ink to our newly designed wedding card. On the wedding day we had our family members dressing up to shower their virtual blessings.
In the old normal we would only shop for matching footwear and jewellery for our wedding trousseau. Now we had another addition, ‘The Mask’. My friend, who’s wedding also got postponed due to the lockdown, joked, “We will have to wear Sabyasachi masks for our wedding.” To my relief, my tailor was quite excited to step into the celebrity designer’s shoes and she embroidered and stitched a lace mask to match my blouse.
All families desire that the wedding functions go smoothly without any hiccups. For us that meant keeping up with the norms of the time. Most guests were attending a social gathering for the first time in six months and they were quite excited to see each other. But we had to make sure that they do not forget that we were still in the midst of a pandemic. Bringing down the mask to have a conversation or shaking hands and hugging old friends was a complete no-no. And as a wedding favour, or return gift as it is commonly called, we gave our guests a symbol of the times (and also something that would come extremely handy)- masks with our logo embossed on them.
While this may all sound like a dampener, let me tell you that this ‘pandemic wedding’ turned out far more beautiful than what we had planned. An intimate wedding meant that our families had to be less worried about formalities and could participate more meaningfully in the wedding, we could give more time and attention to our guests and most importantly the focus of the wedding remained only on us- the bride and the bridegroom. Not having a reception meant we could avoid a lot of awkward moments on the stage and most importantly did not have to stand posing for long hours with a fake smile plastered on our faces. We always wanted our wedding to be unique and memorable for all. Our desire was fulfilled by us becoming one of the few couples to get married during the pandemic.