Couples all across Canada and the world are changing their wedding plans because of COVID-19. In some cases, it has worked out for the better. (Pixabay file)

Love in the time of COVID

Marriage Commissioner, couples, weigh in on getting married during a pandemic

COVID-19 has changed many things for many people. Whether it’s wearing a mask in a public space, working from home, or not being able to visit loved ones, everyone has been affected in one way or another.

The wedding industry is no exception. Couples across the globe have been forced to change plans, reduce the amount of guests they have, or cancel their celebration all together.

Marriage Commissioners have also had to adjust to the changes, and being flexible is a big factor for everyone involved.

One local Marriage Commissioner (MC), whose name cannot be published due to Vital Statistic Agency regulations, says couples should prepare to be flexible and creative.

“Be prepared to change or modify your vision. Be open to thinking outside ‘traditional’ wedding parameters,” said the MC. “There is much potential for a COVID ceremony to be very unique and personal and amazing. Even in non-COVID times, many couples choose to do a low-key legal civil ceremony first then have a large celebration event at a future date. There is something very special about the intimacy of the smaller ceremonies.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountain top

It should be noted that Marriage Commissioners are not wedding planners or consultants. The BC program is a public service that gives couples the option to have a civil marriage in a setting of their choosing. They provide couples with guidance to help couples personalize their marriage service while ensuring all of the legal requirements are met.

“Above all, we want each couple to experience the excitement and enjoyment of this most special occasion – and as officiants, we have the privilege of sharing in that experience,” commented the MC.

According to the BC guidelines set out for Marriage Commissioners, they are able to request changes from the bride and groom, including requiring further restrictions on the number of guests at wedding ceremonies. If social distancing is not being practiced, Marriage Commissioners may refuse to proceed until the ceremony can be managed in an appropriate manner.

“In March 2020, when the ban on mass gatherings was implemented by the Province, MCs received a communiqué permitting marriage ceremonies with the couple, two witnesses and the MC in attendance,” explained the local MC. “With restrictions being loosened, a civil wedding can now take place provided no more than 50 persons are in attendance in total.”

The MC went on to say that many couples had to postpone or outright cancel their 2020 weddings because they were unable to adapt to the current restrictions.

READ MORE: ‘A little different’: Vancouver ‘micro-weddings’ help couples during COVID-19

One couple however, embraced the changes and it ended up reinforcing why they were getting married in the first place.

Cody and Sarah met in the summer of 2016 on a climbing wall. They shared a mutual love for thrill-seeking, adventure, physical activity and nature.

“Both of us independently had a love for climbing; however it was through climbing together that helped us form our bond. Communication, trust, patience, support and kindness are all very important qualities you need in a climbing partner,” Cody explained.

On their three year anniversary, Cody proposed to Sarah on a cross country ski trip underneath a frozen waterfall. They set the date of their wedding for one year later – July 10th 2020 to accommodate Sarah’s family attending from Australia … until COVID-19 changed their plans.

They had originally decided to get married at a family cabin in Tie Lake, where they spend most of their summers. They had hired the Jaffray Hall to hold 160 guests from across Canada, Australia and Austria.

They ended up downsizing the entire event and had 30 people attend. No bridal party, no rental hall and an entirely new plan.

“We decided that we had waited long enough to get married already and we were not going to let this set back stop us. We decided to inform all of our guests that we were still intending to go through with the ceremony, however with only a few witnesses. This was the hardest thing to do. Especially breaking the news to Sarah’s family,” said the couple.

The entire day ended up being held outside, sharing their vows at a climbing crag behind the family cabin. The guests were shuttled there via quad, and the forested area was decorated with family keepsakes.

“The ceremony was perfect; the natural light streaming through the trees, the smell of cedar and cool moisture in the air from the natural habitat, along with the song of the forest birds whilst sharing our vows,” Sarah described.

Outdoor locations, while subject to the whims of weather, are a safer option.

“Here in the East Kootenay we have so many beautiful, diverse natural settings for a ceremony,” said the MC. “Take COVID precautions: have hand sanitizer/hand washing stations available; physically distance guests from the wedding ceremony party; designate someone to take basic guest information for contact tracing.”

Cody and Sarah did just that and despite having to follow these new COVID regulations, found the wedding less stressful than what they had originally planned.

“Recognizing what was actually important to us and creating a day that was truly everything the both of us wanted and agreed upon,” said the couple. “Letting go of the sense of obligation to satisfy other’s requests that sometimes come with planning a wedding. A smaller wedding meant it was more personal, we actually got to visit with all our guests and we saved heaps of money.”

Their advice to other couples getting married during the pandemic, and even thereafter, is to ask yourself why you’re getting married in the first place.

“Remember that the less you expect from the things that don’t matter, the less disappointed you will be when the unexpected happens. Whether it’s COVID related or not,” they said. “One thing [we] learned when wedding planning is everyone will have their opinion about what you choose or want to do. Someone will always be upset or disappointed in your choices, no matter how accommodating you are. So make sure you plan a day that you and your partner want, not what you think other people want you to have.

“More importantly, don’t lose sight of why you are actually getting married. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the minor details, but at the end of the day for us, all that mattered was that we were healthy, and making a life long commitment to each other.”

Another local couple, Skylar and Robson, say getting married during the pandemic only made their bond stronger.

“Getting married during the pandemic really solidified that we can overcome hard times together,” said Skylar. “It was kind of a blessing in disguise as the intimacy of the ceremony we really enjoyed.”

The duo ended up having the ceremony in their dining room.

“Our advice to other couples is that the big extravagant wedding won’t make or break your relationship, and if it does then perhaps the love isn’t strong enough to be married in the first place,” Skylar said.

The MC echoed both of the couples’ statements, saying that ultimately, a marriage should be about the covenant you are making with your chosen life partner.

“As long as it holds meaning and significance for you both, it will be beautiful.” The MC added, “I appreciate the efforts couples are making to be cooperative and responsible in planning their COVID weddings. To all couples who are going ahead with their marriage plans, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your shared joy. I wish you all the best!”

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