- A picture-perfect, fully-paid-for April wedding canceled
- A round-the-world month-long honeymoon scrapped
- A Vegas bachelorette rescheduled -- shakily -- for June
- A May 9 wedding rebooked for a random Sunday afternoon in November.
It's all so sad. So disappointing. So painful.
It's also so infuriating. Financially devastating. Unfair.
Crappy, cobbled-together, consolation-prize events are replacing the planned-for, dreamt-of, paid-for weddings
I've also witness some brides get to a place of being less caught up in the unfairness, despair and anger, and become able to deal head-on with the hard facts of this pandemic.
I've seen brides, after going through an emotional process, be able to make difficult and painful decisions to reschedule weddings, honeymoons, and events. And feel a bit better about the whole thing.
Yet some brides I've worked with have gotten to a place where they feel good and a bit of growing excitement about their re-conceived weddings.
We grieved together in our sessions. And they grieved at home in quarantine, by talking with trusted friends, writing in their journals, and actually completing some of their wedding tasks and crafts.
I'm hesitant to streamline the wedding-grieving process into the classic Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief. But it offers a road map.
Denial: As coronavirus grew in public awareness, Kate became more fully committed to her May 9 date.
She kept checking in with her vendors, who were also still on board. She scoffed at anyone who floated the idea of rescheduling, and got angry at anyone who hinted they might not attend due to the virus.
She downplayed -- to herself and all others -- any info on how long or how severely coronavirus was going to impact daily life. (In fact, with the information we received from our government leadership, Kate was much like most of us, unable to conceive the full reality.)
Anger: As the number of cases nationally began to increase, Kate started receiving calls from her mother-in-law-to-be, who lived on the opposite coast.
When Kate's bridesmaids started hedging about whether they could attend, Kate lashed out on text, hurt that they'd even consider not showing up -- because Kate showed up for them at their weddings.
Kate was prickly, angry, reactive, argumentative, getting in fights with anyone who wavered about attending her wedding.
Bargaining: Kate spent the most time in this phase -- trying to figure out what compromises she could make to ensure her May 9 wedding would go on.
She decided she'd be semi-OK if her elderly grandma didn't attend.
She played with scaling the wedding way down to just 10 of her family members -- all other 110 guests could Zoom in -- so that she could abide by the "no more than 10 people" gathering rule.
She drove herself a bit batty, doing creative and intellectual backflips trying to make it work.
Her May 9 wedding was becoming a ghostly version of her initial vision that she'd planned for over one year.
Depression. After her repeated failures to keep her May 9 wedding on life-support, Kate's exhaustion helped her face the harsh facts.
She just couldn't have her May 9 date. This was her brutal truth.
This was when our work -- Kate's and mine -- became really active and alive. Before Kate could get OK with whatever plan she would eventually make -- she called it "my half-assed, consolation-prize wedding" -- she had to grieve her May 9 wedding.
How did she do that? Kate and I met on video 3 times in 3 weeks. With me, she had the space and time to devote to her Wedding That Wouldn't Be.
I asked her to tell me everything -- everything -- that she was sad to not see come to fruition. Her hairstyle and makeup. The taste of her signature cocktail. The first look with her about-to-be husband. Walking down the aisle with her parents, in the late afternoon May sun, at her venue.
Kate's heart was broken that these things weren't going to happen as she'd been envisioning for a year. With me, Kate cried and cried, as I asked her to go deeper, to share with me the fantasies she'd had, the hours, days, and weeks of work she'd put into her wedding, the special surprises and joys she'd had along the way, and the pain of not seeing them realized.
I gave her homework of laying out the seating chart for her May 9 wedding. Maybe that sounds crazy, making a seating chart for a wedding that wasn't going to happen. But for Kate, it was a way of helping her wedding become more real -- and thereby more real to mourn.
I asked her to complete some of her wedding crafts, and in the hours of tying bows and doing crafts, really sit in the sadness and the pain and the loss. I had Kate wear her wedding shoes to a session.
My goal was to help bring Kate's wedding more alive, so that she could feel more intensely the pain of losing that May 9 date.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but by directly acknowledging all those tiny details that would not occur on May 9, by describing them to me, Kate could feel the pain of the loss and, in time, say goodbye to the May 9 date.
This time of grieving, loss and deep pain lasted for about three weeks for Kate. It was a time of lots of tears and time writing in her journal. It wasn't easy, it was highly emotional, but it worked for Kate.
Acceptance. Slowly, after about 3 weeks, the grief moved off, became less central, and Kate began to see new possibilities.
But having slowly, over the course of 3 weeks, actively mourned the May wedding, Kate began to see possibilities for her November wedding.
Directly confronting the loss of her dream wedding date, she was able to get her mind and heart around her new wedding date.
And she began to re-vision her November wedding, scaling back in some ways (she cut the guest list of anybody she didn't truly care about), and magnifying in others.
The ceremony and the band became even more important, in her priorities. (Bonus: Her dream band was available and much cheaper in November.)
She began to have fun on Pinterest, playing around with autumn-themed favors, and in the quiet of quarantine, experimented with some prototypes.
It's not perfect, by any means. This was never her dream date or dream wedding plan.
She's now able to look forward to her wedding -- her edited wedding, emphasizing those things that are truly important to her -- with a calmer heart.
I encouraged Kate to not expect herself to be jumping up and down about her November wedding for a while. We're in the scary unknown of coronavirus.
In this time of anxiety, it's unrealistic to be full-throttle enthusiastic. That's a bit too much to ask of yourself, or of anyone at this time.