For a year, I have been planning my May 23 wedding.

Truthfully, I’ve been planning this wedding my whole life. I always knew that I wanted to get married, and ever since I was a young girl I had ideas of what my wedding would look like.

When I was introduced to Pinterest as a teenager, that idea began to visually take shape as I carefully curated a wedding board full of floral arrangements, wedding dresses, Italian wedding traditions, and color schemes.

Shortly after my fiancé and I got engaged last spring, I began to see my Pinterest board and my lifelong ideals materialize into what seemed like a perfect wedding.

We managed to find the perfect date at the perfect location, and our church just happened to be free as well. It was kismet. It was perfect.

However, when COVID-19 hit my state, our governor acted swiftly, shutting down schools and encouraging those of us who could work from home to do so. Over the following days, the situation worsened, the number of people sick with the virus grew, and our state experienced the beginning of a death toll that continues to climb. Again, acting swiftly, our governor restricted gatherings and implemented a “stay in place” order.

For the first few whirlwind days, my fiancé and I held onto a weak hope that by May, the restrictions would be cleared and life would return to normal. However, it wasn’t long before we realized that this would not be the case. For the safety of our guests and in compliance with the law, we needed to change our plans.

An ever-lengthening wedding aisle

My perfect wedding in mind, I scrambled to find a date in June that would work for both our reception venue and church to reschedule. However, as the predicted duration and scope of the virus continued to expand, June turned into August.

As things continued to push back, I realized that as much as I wanted the whole wedding package, I wanted to be married to my fiancé and best friend even more. So we decided to turn our lavish wedding with more than 200 guests into a small family affair and move our reception to a later date accompanied by a ceremony re-committing our vows, hoping and praying that the virus will have passed by then.

Even with this decision, which we know to be a wise one, we can’t guarantee that these plans will materialize. We don’t know what restrictions will still be in place—will we be able to pick up my dress and his suit? Will our families even be allowed to stand with us or will tight restrictions prevent us from having anyone there?

My fiancé and I, along with countless other couples, have seen our wedding plans completely upturned by the coronavirus, quarantines, and crowd limitations. While these vary from country to country and state to state, the overall reality is our compliance with social distancing is helping to flatten the curve and save lives.

I feel for the brides who are not as lucky as me; I had enough time to reschedule and shift our plans with no additional costs, but some have had to cancel completely and watch the investments of money, time, and dreams all disappear.

I have to confess that our decision to separate our wedding and reception wasn’t so easy at first. My type-A ideas of perfection and even my concepts of the wedding tradition and my desire to “keep up with Joneses” all stood staunchly in my way as I went to war with myself thinking, “Well, you have to have your reception tied to your wedding, and you have to wear your veil and gown . . . it’s how things are done.”

What matters most

Still, during this moment in which my plans have been shifted and I am sitting at home, mourning this loss, I have also been given an opportunity to reconsider what I thought I knew about my wedding and what is essential to my existence.

Throughout the ever-evolving situation with the spread of COVID-19, we continuously have heard that only the most essential people, tasks, and errands may persist. We have been forced to look at our lives, our daily routines and ask: what is essential? What do I need?

The truth is, the only thing that is essential to my wedding is me, my fiancé, and our officiant. While we’ve come to see a wedding as a sum of all its parts—the cake, the flowers, the registry, the something blue—the reality is that while all of these things are lovely and help delineate the beauty and celebration of the day from any other event or celebration, at the end of it all, our ultimate goal is to say our vows of commitment, and the decorations and traditions beyond the ceremony itself are just pleasurable additions.

With our adjusted plans, I still mourn the fact that our remaining grandparents will not be in attendance; I mourn the fact that my bridesmaids—my best friends—will not be there to witness our vows; I even mourn the more superficial aspects such as my dress, my flowers, my plans.

I’ve come to realize it’s okay to mourn what is lost even if, in the grand scheme of things and the grand scheme of loss, a wedding may now seem trivial.

Letting go

In talking to other brides, I have sensed a lingering air of guilt for our sorrow at the loss of our dream weddings especially in light of the lives that are being permanently upended and lost due to this terrible virus. But the grief is real, and I encourage brides to mourn as I myself still am mourning. Accepting our grief is a chance to grow in empathy. While our sorrow may seem like less or different than someone else’s, these moments give us an opportunity to unite our sadness and loss with others.

In addition, letting go of my dream wedding has become a moment to shatter my constant desire for perfection. Perfection is a facade and a dangerous one at that. I can plan and plan down to the tealights, but there is something to be said about letting go. I always told people that I didn’t care if my wedding day was imperfect—if a flower girl sat down in the middle of the aisle and cried, or if my veil ripped, or the dessert never made it to the venue. While I didn’t expect “imperfection” to reach this level, and if I could change the course of events I would, I see the value in having such a big moment in my life not go as planned.

Ultimately, I’ve come to view this whole experience as a small slice of the lack of perfection that my husband and I will face in marriage. The hope is that when life gets tough, when hard times hit, when financial troubles come our way . . . we will at least have each other, thanks to a promise we made on our wedding day.

We will have what is essential.