When ‘we do’ becomes ‘we wait’

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 24th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we are so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.

Well, as you’ve no doubt experienced the coronavirus has led to cancellations and postponements of events, big and small. There’s talk of the Olympics being postponed. Last week’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities got canceled.

REICHARD: Athletic events and parades are one thing. But what about the sacred? Like weddings. 

For Christians, a wedding is an example of the anticipation we feel waiting for Christ’s return. And it marks the beginning of the oneness described throughout the Bible: “The two shall become one flesh.”  Our own Sophia Lee wrote a column for WORLD Magazine about postponing her own wedding. 

WORLD’s Katie Gaultney caught up with another couple facing disappointment, with hope.

SHELNUTT: It’s okay, I’ll just wear it twice! 

KATIE GAULTNEY, REPORTER: Standing in front of a wall-sized mirror during her dress fitting, Taylor Shelnutt looks every part the cake-topper bride. Her blonde locks cascade in waves over her shoulders and lacy white gown. She looks ready for her mid-April wedding, but she doesn’t feel it. 

SHELNUTT: Really just it’s heartbreaking that we would be at this three, three and a half weeks out from our wedding and not be hopeful for it, and not be filled with joy or excitement. And we’re excited to get married, but at this point, kind of the happiness from the season is stolen…

Shelnutt and her fiancé, Cole Mund, had planned their Dallas wedding for Easter weekend. The symbolism was intentional: 

SHELNUTT: I wanted it to be a representation of the gospel and that’s what marriage is. And so I really wanted that just proclaimed loud and clear right before Easter.

But a couple weeks ago, COVID-19 concerns began snowballing. Out-of-town relatives—which make up most of Taylor’s family—expressed concerns about traveling. Her elderly grandparents certainly wouldn’t be able to attend. And then, the federal government began discouraging gatherings of people—first 500, then 50, then anything over 10. Dr. Deborah Birx is on President Trump’s coronavirus task force.

BIRX: We’re asking all of them to hold their gatherings to under 10 people, not just in bars and restaurants, but in homes. We really want people to be separated at this time… 

But Taylor and Cole are still holding out hope that maybe… maybe?… April 11 can still be “their day.” 

SHELNUTT: …continuing day by day to just watch the news and hear the updates. And I’m really not making any decisions because one day changes from the next. 

Every day brings new information at breakneck speed. A new hurdle to clear. Mund said just a few days ago, postponing their wedding wasn’t even on their radar.

MUND: Even then, we didn’t even think in this short span of three, four days that that would even be a possibility that this wedding couldn’t happen.

But weddings are so interactive. There are hugs, kisses, handshakes, dancing, not to mention finger-foods. If ever there were a hotspot for the spread of contagious disease, a wedding is it. Plenty of their friends have insisted they’ll come, no matter what. But Taylor and Cole don’t want to gamble with their guests’ health.

SHELNUTT: My sister-in-law is pregnant, and my cousins have little, tiny babies. You know, my grandmas are older, and Cole has a lot of older people in his family. And so it’s a lot of responsibility to be making this decision on behalf of 200 people who could be there. 

So what’s an engaged couple to do? Elope? Make a quick trip to the justice of the peace? In some counties, even courts are closed, making that prospect a difficult one. Taylor thought about making their wedding very small and carrying on with the April 11th date. But there are hang-ups with that idea too. 

SHELNUTT: It’s hard for me thinking through the backup options too, because I do feel like you lose the specialness, and I feel like even if we were to do a small ceremony now and have the actual big wedding later, I would be kind of faking it at that point. 

If they cancel, they’ll face a long to-do list: notify guests, negotiate with vendors for refunds, cancel hotel blocks, and so on. 

Wedding industry professionals are feeling the effects of these cancellations already. So many vendors—like florists and caterers—already operate on razor-thin margins. 

Caroline Fair is a high-end wedding planner in Dallas. She and her colleagues are planning to push for postponements rather than outright cancellations; and then waive the normal change fees associated with something like that. 

FAIR: The first thing that people might do is go to social media and say, I can’t believe my florist just charged me a fee to move the date when it’s out of my control. My personal thoughts on that are just showing people compassion and grace in this uncertain time. And um, I think we’ll all make it back in the end.

For now, Shelnutt and Mund are loosening their grip on April 11. They picked up their marriage license, just in case the Dallas courts close. The unknown is hard, but they’re hanging on to hope. 

SHELNUTT: In all the uncertainty and all the unknowns, we have to keep telling ourselves the things we do know. And that is, we know that the Lord is our good. We know he is sovereign. We know he’s in control and we know he’s not surprised by this.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Katie Gaultney in Dallas, Texas.

(Photo/Shellnut, Mund)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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