COVID-19 has taken its full course in shutting down just about everything. Social distancing is the norm instead of a rare occurrence. I personally know friends and family members who are being affected by COVID-19, many of their health conditions taking a turn for the worse. My own exposure to the virus is increasing at an alarming rate since I’m a registered nurse. As such, I am high-risk for exposing my husband and others on my commute or at work to the virus.
Yet in all of the chaos, I was planning a wedding for this summer, and my husband, Farzan, and I knew we had to make quick, important decisions about our future together.
Our vendors had been paid their deposits, flights were booked for overseas individuals and my wedding dress was in the process of being made. We were faced with a difficult decision to assess the harrowing situation of COVID-19 and on March 10, we mutually decided to postpone the wedding until further notice. This potentially seemed stress-free at the time, giving us more time to save money for the wedding and plan more intricate details for our special day. In reality, this posed another difficult conundrum. Farzan and I come from two fairly traditional Muslim families. Postponing our wedding ceremony further meant postponing the start of our lives together in terms of cohabitating with each other.
With hourly changes on the news, state curfews and shelter-in-place rules, we knew we had to make a decision quickly before potentially being banned form seeing each other for what could be months, since I am from New York, and Farzan is from New Jersey.
One day as we were making the painstaking phone calls of contacting each vendor about our decisions to postpone, I posed a question to Farzan. “Hey, why don’t we just have a nikkah over Zoom?” A nikkah, the Islamic marriage, would solidify our partnership within the realms of our shared Islamic faith and to both our families. Traditionally, it would take place in a mosque and would require an Imam or Muslim officiant.
Postponing our wedding seemed stress-free at the time, giving us more time to save money for the wedding and plan more intricate details for our special day. In reality, this posed another difficult conundrum.
Imagining the possibility that our wedding would be reduced to Zoom, I broke down into tears. I began to have vivid visions of what I would be missing out on by not proceeding with the ceremony we planned for the summer. Having dreamt of this day as a little girl, I couldn’t believe my elaborate plans would be limited to a video conference. I knew that we were postponing and this wasn’t the final ceremony. Even so, my heart still felt shattered.
After waiting what felt like a lifetime to meet the person whose soul was connected to mine, postponing the main events truly felt devastating. I felt as though the world was playing a trick on me. I could not wrap my head around how battling numerous obstacles and roadblocks could yet lead to another challenge. I could not imagine my special day without my family, best friends and loved ones we grew up with, next to me in person. Despite acknowledging that we were indeed postponing, not having a clear date in mind and not knowing that it could even happen this year made me feel anxious and deeply saddened me.
The unconventional, technological-based route, and doing things seemingly out of order, stirred panic in me. I knew that planning a wedding and being married would include its obstacles but nothing seemed to have prepared us for this.
However, at the same time, I was witnessing the heartaches that people close to me were going through in barely making ends meet, being laid off, not being able to afford mortgages and witnessing lifelong businesses being shut down. At work, I was seeing an increase in people having to discuss end-of-life care forms with seemingly prior healthy family members. I quickly realized the reality of my situation wasn’t going to change anytime soon and I recognized that my heartache was a privileged one that I could quickly remedy.
After the loss of my brother, I couldn’t fathom the idea that my future wedding would be missing any more of my family members or loved ones.
I embraced that change was occurring and ultimately realized that even before COVID-19 had existed, the health and happiness of my loved ones were most significant to me. In 2017, I had lost my only brother, Rashad, to spinal muscular atrophy. After the loss of my brother, I couldn’t fathom the idea that my future wedding would be missing any more of my family members or loved ones.
And so we discussed our ideas to proceed over Zoom with our officiant on the legality of it, and we found that it was completely allowed and acceptable as long as we still had two witnesses. So Farzan and I would be on one screen together, our officiant would call in from his own to abide by social distancing rules, and then all of our loved ones would be witnesses.
Planning for our Zoom wedding was very different than what I was previously planning. Firstly, we had to break it to our traditional Bengali and Pakistani parents. We had to explain the full concept of a video conferencing ceremony, essentially explaining not being able to invite anyone in person, even if they lived next door. This was an extremely difficult conversation to have as our parents didn’t fully grasp the importance of social distancing yet and didn’t want to personally offend anyone by not inviting them in person.
Although it was a challenging conversation, we ultimately decided it was the best decision to include everyone from a virtual standpoint and not risk their safety for the sake of our wedding day. In addition, everyone kept on asking us if we would be regretful of this decision when looking back on this moment in the future. We faithfully and confidently knew, the only regret we would ever have is to not be together when given the opportunity to do so, especially during a global pandemic and both being essential workers.
On March 28, we made sure our technical issues were taken care of. We had our Wi-Fi and data networks triple-checked to ensure everything would go smoothly. Ultimately, everyone had successfully logged on and many people had even dressed up (from the bottom up, of course) in traditional clothing and in wedding attire. An emotional reunion across all generations unfolded, as Farzan and I exchanged our vows and became one. We had about 70 screens filled with two or more people each logged on to witness our wedding.
We faithfully and confidently knew, the only regret we would ever have is to not be together when given the opportunity to do so, especially during a global pandemic and both being essential workers.
What we thought would be a short 30-minute event turned into an hour and a half celebration with our loved ones. Everyone stayed long after the officiant proclaimed us husband and wife and we exchanged many loving conversations with those we hold close. Not wanting to let anything get in the way of our love made it that much easier to have an unconventional wedding. Of course I wish I could have hugged my family members, or taken traditional photos of the big day, but we’ll still celebrate in person with everyone after the pandemic.
After Farzan moved in with me unexpectedly quickly — on the same day as the nikkah, so we could start our lives while still being socially responsible because of the coronavirus — I quickly realized I would’ve regretted waiting many more months to start this journey with him. Having him there as my day starts and as my day ends has made me feel blissfully carefree especially in such trying times. I thought it would have been difficult to have this change because I have lived alone for the past year, and I never lived with anyone besides my parents, but our support and love for each other have been keeping us afloat.
In hindsight, all of the changes and concerns that occurred prior to the Zoom nikkah seems like a blessing in disguise now. Although planning glamorous details and extravagance can be extremely time consuming, personalized and special, the essence of what ultimately mattered to us was being together. As things still unfold drastically in the world, I am reminded that life is way too short to be apart from someone and live without them in the midst of a pandemic.
Our nikkah remains as one of the most precious moments in my life and serves as a gentle reminder of how individuals can still remain connected at a time like this. We were lucky and grateful to share the opportunity to focus on something beautiful, joyous and positive even if it was just for two hours during such chaotic and uncertain times. Despite all of the obstacles we faced, a dreamy and magical wedding day still occurred and our beautiful union was celebrated. We can’t wait to finalize a new date for our events and celebrate with everyone in person, and I know it will be even more meaningful and special than the initial plans we had.
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