Everyone remembers their wedding disasters. Ours was worldwide.
Tiffany and I were supposed to be married on May 9, 2020. Then the virus struck.
In early March the world transformed in a matter of days. We quickly acknowledged our wedding was not going to happen. Fear and panic were already widespread. The country was locking down.
We’d already passed through a series of challenges getting here, what else would fate have in store for us?
Setting the Stage
Tiffany and I met online through Bumble nearly two years earlier. Fate and serendipity were smiling on us from our first conversation. Random strangers, we both just attended different sessions at the same church.
A week after that first conversation, we had our first date March 28, 2018. The conversation lasted more than three hours. I'd like to say everything afterward was roses and butterflies, but our relationship was not without the challenges of real life. I shouldn’t have expected the road to marriage to be any different.
There were peaks like our first road trip to Nashville, Tennessee where we experienced the intimacy of the BlueBird Cafe, listening to a circle of four songwriters as they bared their souls a few feet away. Then there were valleys, like the drive home that may have ended all future road trips together. I was determined not to stop until we passed through Atlanta. To Tiffany, the experience more closely resembled captivity. In my defense, we had snacks.
Riding the roller-coaster, we had highs like our trip to Costa Rica. We had lows like our individual surgeries and fear of what life might look like afterward. (Besides my running struggles, we’ve recovered well.)
The biggest dip came as a result of my year-long job struggle after I resigned from working in public education. During this time, our relationship continued to develop. We both felt like this was the one. We attended marriage preparation classes through our church -- I even had the ring. But all was not well.
Tiffany had come too far in life and her career to marry a partner who did not have his act together. Along with her own experiences, she'd seen friends go through similar situations that ended poorly. She was afraid of disappointment. Despite my previous successes and my own home, the person she’d seen most of our relationship was the unemployed partner who appeared too comfortable at home. As my job search continued poorly, Tiffany worried she had wasted all this time for a partner who put himself before the relationship.
Maybe I did. But I was afraid. I feared to admit I reached too high. I feared the rejections would break me. Most of all, I feared to retreat back where each day started and ended in dread. I always knew I could go back, but I’d nearly quit a year earlier, instead opting to chase happiness on the Appalachian Trail. I felt to be the person and partner I needed to be, I needed a career that inspired me to be alive.
As tensions continued to mount, we cruised to Alaska where Tiffany was so overwhelmed and overjoyed, she was momentarily brought to tears on the Mendenhall Glacier.
An epic trip, lacking the proposal that both of us were hoping for.
Returning from Alaska was tough. It was a mix of euphoria and disappointment.
Humbling myself, I applied for a teaching position and knew I had it walking out of the interview, but it still meant waiting, unemployed, through the 4th of July holiday week. The daily pressure felt near bursting. It felt like defeat, but I was desperate. To keep Tiffany in my life and move forward in my career, I needed to restart somewhere.
As the school year began, I was again humbled to realize it was not the binary this OR that situation I’d created in my mind. I shifted my after-hours focus to working on a learning and development certification.
A month into the job and meeting the world where I was at, I was rewarded with a job offer from what I thought was another blown interview months earlier. This time, I couldn’t be more excited to start. I began a career as an organizational development and training advisor in late October.
After four days in the new position, Tiffany and I flew to Washington, D.C, where I was going to run the Marine Corps Marathon, my first long race since surgery a year earlier.
I knew this was the time. Our relationship was on solid ground, the career had fallen in place, and I'd had the engagement ring for more than six months which made the previous tensions all the more unbearable. I knew Tiffany wanted an epic proposal. I was confident D.C. could provide the aesthetic. It was time.
As if I needed any more signs, Tiffany’s sister and her family were coincidentally in D.C. for a conference and she’d brought their mother along for the experience.
Arriving late in the evening, we started the next morning with a White House tour before linking up with her family. The only issue was security. I hadn’t fully considered that every different site or museum would have security and x-rays scans. I had to pass through security with the ring not once or twice, but four times before the proposal.
As we walked through level after level in the African American History Museum, I wondered if this proposal would ever happen. Her sister knew I had the ring. I thought to myself, let’s get this show on the road. Time was becoming interminable.
Leaving the museum, our group was walking towards the Lincoln Memorial where I thought the proposal would occur. Then fate smiled on me.
Tiffany stopped our group to tour the World War Two Memorial. As soon as we walked towards the pool of water inside, I knew in my gut this was the moment. The scene was just right, there were few enough people for it to feel intimate, and it would catch Tiffany totally unprepared.
I ran over to her sister and tipped her off. With the Washington Monument directly in front of us, I took a knee. She said "yes," shocked and giggling.
We Didn't Plan for the Coronavirus
We started planning the wedding immediately upon returning home. Starting the last week of October, we actually thought we might have the whole wedding planned by Thanksgiving.
She found a country club and golf course within an hour's drive from home where the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception would be in one location. The first venue we toured, it was perfect.
Then our first tasting was an absolute disaster. New cook, new menu, a total lack of communication, and the restaurant's food shipment at the same time. Fortunately, the second time was a charm.
The second photographer we spoke with filled us with confidence. We chose the second DJ and second dessert maker.
We were making rapid progress, but the theme of accepting our second choice would become more significant than we realized.
By mid-February, planning was complete and we were checking off RSVPs. Now, the Coronavirus reality show was becoming primetime with regular updates from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Tiffany took her bachelorette cruise the final weekend of February. The guys' cruise would never happen.
Thinking of the wedding, our immediate concerns were our parents and out of town travelers. As if on cue, the next domino fell. Anyone entering the country would be required to quarantine for 14 days. My best man, my brother, and his family live abroad. Then the military forbade travel more than 100 miles prior to May 11. Our wedding was on May 9th. My other brother and brother-in-law were out.
The writing was on the wall. There would be no wedding.
Sticking with the Second Choice
It was mid-March and Tiffany’s dream wedding had disappeared into smoke. Do we wait until things are clear to get married? When, if ever, will that be? Should we do something smaller, sooner?
Until this point in our relationship, we continued to live separately as we tried to honor the traditional value of waiting until marriage to live together.
We were discussing the idea of doing a small ceremony on March 28th, the two-year anniversary of our first date. If we did this without the pomp, ceremony, and celebration, would it be a disappointment?
We reached out to Garry, our church pastor, and our photographer to see whether they’d be available. Garry could do it. Our photographer still had a previous wedding obligation with no signs of changing. Our venue was willing and able to accommodate our group of seven for the ceremony; we could still be married on the same spot as we’d planned.
Then we got a little extra motivation: my brother and his family were being sent home from abroad. Where would they quarantine? Definitely away from our parents. The closest and most readily available location? My house.
With a day and a half notice and my Dad’s truck breaking down during transport, we moved my clothes and essential items to Tiffany’s home, a house we had chosen together. I needed to live, work, and likely get married in the next two weeks with my house transformed into a quarantine site.
Tiffany and I were together, hopefully, just a few days earlier than planned.
As a sign of good fortune, Tiffany's dress shop ordered the dress early as they mistakenly thought the wedding was in March. Our photographer would be available as the wedding she was scheduled to do was canceled due to a logistics issue (and ironically, was trying to reschedule to May 9 -- good luck!).
Saturday, March 28 was looking good. Just a week to go.
Just ONE Week
Four days before the wedding, our county declared lockdown would begin two days later. SERIOUSLY?! How screwed are we?
Waiting for the hammer to drop, Wednesday morning and afternoon passed calmly. No news was good news. The email arrived at 6 pm. The neighboring county, including our venue, would be locking down.
Three days to go and our location was gone.
Throughout our relationship, I always joked with Tiffany about having a backyard barbecue wedding. Suddenly, the reality of the backyard was serious. However, Tiffany was adamant there would be no barbecue. That line, she would not cross.
Scrambling, the best location we found for the ceremony was around the corner from our home. The location was beautiful, especially with the sun setting behind us.
The Hail Mary
Unfortunately, the location was also inside a traffic circle with the water at seemingly record lows. Would this makeshift wedding be the moment Tiffany would want to remember every time she walked in the neighborhood?
The day before the wedding. Tiffany broke down. I give her a lot of credit, she had done a good job holding together this far.
That spot would not work.
Luckily, I’d started working from home two days earlier. Soliciting ideas from coworkers via text, we went on the hunt. The neighboring county was still open for business.
Our first stop was a boat ramp. It was natural. It was pretty. If only there wasn’t a ramp packed full of boats likely to be leaving the water at the time of the ceremony. Onward!
Our next location was the Riverwalk in Sanford, FL. As soon as we arrived, we knew this was it. Finding the perfect spot only took a few more minutes. We verified the photographer and Garry were still able to make it! Yes!
The only thing left to do was monitor the news and pray for 24 hours without any more surprises. Even better, that county put out a statement emphasizing social distancing the following Monday!
We still have a venue.
The Wedding Day
The day of the wedding was strangely ordinary.
Tiffany went to her parents' house the night before the wedding, but all else was normal. I woke up, joined my writing group for the Saturday session, and ran a few miles. There was no fanfare. There were no friends, family, or photographer hyping the moment. I was utterly alone. It was surreal.
After running, I drove to my parents' house so Tiffany could return to the house and finish her wedding preparations. On the way, I picked up my last meal as a single man, McDonald's drive-thru.
I arrived at the bustling Riverwalk around 5:45 pm. People were taking advantage of their final opportunities for freedom.
Garry was already there. We were extremely grateful for his support. For the May 9th ceremony, Tiffany’s relative was coming from North Carolina to conduct the ceremony. With the quick change of plans, we reached out to Garry for help. Despite the evolving location up through the last 24 hours, he was unwavering in his promise to meet us anywhere.
Tiffany was running late as she’s prone to do, but she was also doing her own hair and make-up.
The previous day, we decided to do the ceremony on an elevated stage-like area in front of a large pillar memorial. There was a small group already there and recording something from that area. Just like everything else, it was not meant to be. Well, we’ve made it here. What’s one more adjustment?
I received a text from Tiffany. She was finally here!
The photographer sent me to stand with my back to the sidewalk waiting to be surprised for the first look. I'm not sure if Tiffany was taking forever or time slowed down, but I soaked in the moment.
I let my mind wander. I thought about the commitment in front of me and the journey that led me to this spot. My eyes slowly skimmed across the water and the people walking by. I saw Garry and my parents with their heads bowed in prayer. I wondered what they were praying for. I assumed for Tiffany and me, but I didn’t want to be selfish at this moment when the world was in such need, having a small moment of worry over the health of my high-risk parents.
I closed my eyes and prayed.
Tiffany came up behind me and told me I could turn around.
She looked stunning. Absolutely stunning. We hope she will have an opportunity to wear her wedding dress again when we do the big show for friends and family (which also means dress pictures have been suppressed -- for now).
After a few minutes of photos, we walked to the left edge of the park with Garry standing between us and the water as the sun was slowly setting behind him.
As Garry started through the marriage ceremony, I thought back to our video meeting a few days prior. He told us to make sure we took a second and remembered the moment. Observe the details and paint the image into our memory. I tried.
The sun slowly continued its descent, the colors of the sky slowly shifting, and a crowd of on-lookers all around us. In a moment that epitomizes 2020, we even had a young woman filming the wedding on her phone (which strangely enough, a friend unknowingly found the next morning).
We asked Garry to keep the ceremony short, but it was meaningful being reminded of the Biblical meaning of marriage. As one of our pastors likes to say, love is a commitment word, and I look forward to the promises Tiffany and I made to each other. With God’s help, I'm confident, we’ll live out those values.
Despite our small band of seven, the ceremony was not without a small bit of humor and drama. Tiffany's father was taking pictures during the ceremony and, being distracted, was briefly corrected by Tiffany’s mother. A few feet away, Garry continued on, undisturbed.
The ceremony ended and applause erupted all around us with an occasional honk from the street. We were husband and wife.
After the ceremony, our photographer tried to take advantage of the final minutes of the “golden hour.” Standing on the riverwalk with the marina at our backs, I heard "KROUSE! Krouse, what ya doing man?"
One of my former coworkers was tying off a boat. Not that I really needed to clarify with my bride standing next to me, but we had a quick exchange yelling across the water. He offered me a beer. Turning back to continue posing for pictures, the beer never did arrive.
Pictures complete, Tiffany and I said our goodbyes and got into my little blue car. I had to help stuff the bottom of Tiffany's dress in to make sure she fit.
Then we made the quiet and otherwise ordinary drive back to the house.
The Back-Up Dinner
We arrived back home, OUR home, and it was nearly 9 pm. Being a low priority, neither of us considered dinner. As the lockdown had started, we were limited to delivery. The classiest, dependable option was Italian.
Again, our first choice fell through. It was too close to their closing time to order delivery online and their phone line was busy every time we tried. Becoming accustomed to compromise early in our marriage, we ordered from a smaller place closer to home. The delivery time was estimated between 75-100 minutes -- and this was after 9 pm! Still, what choice did we have?
While waiting, the two of us conducted the traditional cutting of the cake. Tiffany’s mom had gotten us a chocolate cake with buttercream icing from Publix. It was delicious (and provided about half of my meals for the next three days).
We were surprised shortly after by the arrival of our dinner. In a show of class, both of our meals were delivered inside of a pizza box. I do love pizza, but it highlighted the absurdity of this whole situation. It was hilarious and tasty.
We finished dinner with a champagne toast to our future. “To the Krouse’s!”
The marriage ceremony is often a peak within relationships that is never equaled. We do not have that handicap. Our ceremony was a demonstration of our commitment to creating perfect moments in imperfect times.
Prior to the pandemic, Tiffany joked all she needed at the ceremony was me. For this one thing, she got her first choice. She's taken this as a lesson to practice caution in her verbal declarations to the world. They just might come true.
It's been nearly a month since we were married. It’s still odd as we haven’t had the opportunity to formally stand together and present ourselves to the world, but we look forward to a repeat attempt at the big formal wedding in the fall.
But, this is life and love in the time of Corona.