When the pandemic strips milestones to the bone
Oct. 3rd, 2:30 p.m.: Six people are standing in room 2.17 of Quebec’s courthouse. The first is a court clerk, the second and the third stand before the first, the fourth and fifth are witnesses and the last is a member of the audience. The occasion: my wedding.
I have never really been the type of person to spend time with my head in the clouds about what my wedding would look like, but I certainly never pictured it like this.
If anything, I thought the guest count would be beyond one. Even though I haven’t been bathing in wedding fantasies since my childhood, when my partner proposed to me on New Year’s Eve, we knew we had a big party to plan.
Fast-forward to March. It seemed to us like we already had it all: a large expanse of land in Rimouski lent to us for free, a lake, space to camp and nearby accommodation, many talented artist friends to set the mood with music and decorations, family members to serve as amazing cooks, near limitless access to alcohol, and many, many cherished guests. Set for Aug. 15, 2020, our celebration was going to be a banger.
Then came the big, the bad, the-still-ongoing COVID-19.
April 10: The Legault government announces that all public events are to be cancelled until Aug. 31. On the Facebook event for our wedding, our guests are notified that the celebration is pushed to 2021, or at least until it becomes safe to party again.
We decided that in the meantime, we would still get the legal ceremony done. In response to COVID-19, Quebec’s courthouse allowed for a total of only seven guests in addition to the two mandatory witnesses. This was just enough to accommodate the core of our families, except for my brother and his girlfriend who have been avoiding all human contact since the pandemic hit.
Instead of a proper honeymoon, my partner and I planned for a week of relaxing celebration in Mont-Tremblant with some of the family that had attended the wedding. For the time being, it was the least we could do to underline the milestone.
In late September, as the second wave hit, our nine guests withdrew themselves from the wedding, one by one. Coming from out of town, entering Montreal which was turning into a red zone represented a risk they were not willing to take, even to witness our union before law in-person. Only via Zoom would they join the ceremony.
Sept. 27: Following a difficult phone call with my mother concerning Montreal’s official red zoning, my partner and I decided to forego our stay in Mont-Tremblant for the safety of our family.
Less than a week from our wedding, we were stripped of our guests, our “honeymoon’’ and our witnesses.
Even though we knew a big celebration would eventually come, and that our relationship would survive these relatively soft hardships, a hollow feeling of despair started to creep up on me. Sure, we would find new witnesses fairly easily. Sure we would get married. Sure, we would still have a good time drinking champagne. But, there was a but.
Thursday, Oct. 1: My phone buzzes. Bota Bota, the famous travelling ferry spa in the Old Port of Montreal, is on the line: they are informing me that my reservation for Saturday will be refunded due to their baths needing to be closed, following Legault’s latest announcements. As such, my latest attempt at making a celebration out of my marriage got thrown out the window. Out on a long walk to breathe it out, I took a break to sit on the sidewalk and let my tears flow.
But, at least we have each other. That is what weddings are about, right?
Friday, Oct. 2, 10 p.m.: My partner and I are writing our Goldschläger-induced vows when, all of a sudden, his computer screen lights up. Familiar faces are all over it. Confused but only for a short time, I soon recognize that what I have before me is a surprise bachelor/bachelorette Zoom party — and what will become a nasty hangover on my wedding day.
Saturday, Oct. 3: My husband and I are on the rooftop of the hotel, spending the night drinking prosecco with the witnesses and an extra friend.
Although I could count the number of people present on one hand, I was tremendously grateful for all the little things we had been able to do to celebrate. It was as though the Draconian diet on which our celebration was put on made for every little bit of time spent in good company the most savoury bite of my existence.
I can only imagine the blast of flavours that will bring the big wedding celebration, whenever that may be.
Photo by Christine Beaudoin