Coronamoons give newlyweds early marriage stress test

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, June 30th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Earlier this year we told you the story of how the shut-down responses to COVID-19 forced brides and grooms to change their wedding plans. Some elected online ceremonies. Others opted for very small, intimate celebrations without guests.

EICHER: The hectic and often tearful change of plans taught some couples to rest in God’s grace. That lesson has served them well as the newlyweds learn to navigate life together 24/7.

Two couples shared their stories with WORLD Journalism Institute graduate Joshua Schumacher and WORLD correspondent Bonnie Pritchett.

OFFICIANT: Now Spencer and Sarah have given themselves to each other by solemn vow…
REEVES: People have sort of joked about the whole idea of Corona vacation, but we sort of had a Coronamoon in its own sort of way… 

BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER: Government closures sent Spencer and Sarah Reeves’ April 17th wedding from their home state of Virginia to Spencer’s parents’ house in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their honeymoon in Boston will have to wait.

AUDIO: [Piano music from wedding]

Mariko and Nile Engelhardt traded island hopping in Hawaii for an Airbnb in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They exchanged vows March 21 at Mariko’s parents’ house in Boise, Idaho.

Their pastor, fearing he had been exposed to the coronavirus, officiated via Zoom.

PASTOR’S VOICE: So many months spent planning the wedding that you had in mind and then God said, “Nope, that’s not what I had planned for you…

Looking back, the Engelhardts and Reeves wouldn’t have it any other way. Sarah Reeves explains.

SARAH: Because we didn’t have all the other kind of fancy trappings of a wedding, it really allowed me to focus on what was really going on and what really mattered…

Mariko Engelhardt shares that perspective.

MARIKO ENGELHARDT: We say that we got the wedding that we prayed for but didn’t ask for…

Stripping down the wedding ceremony and celebration to the bare minimum allowed Sarah and Spencer to focus on their marriage more than the wedding.

SPENCER: It allowed me to see things about myself and to understand, in my own heart, the commitment I was making to Sarah in a way that I don’t think I would have if everything had gone about in the way that we had planned it…

The Reeves settled into an apartment in Virginia where Spencer interns—from home. Sarah is looking for a job while nursing sourdough starter to life. The couple graduated in May from Patrick Henry College.

The transition to married life amidst shelter-in-place orders has its challenges. Instead of connecting with a new church and finding favorite hang-outs in their neighborhood, the Reeves spend most of their time in their apartment—some days, not leaving at all.

That’s starting to take its toll on Sarah.

SARAH REEVES: I will eventually get stir crazy if we don’t have anything to do. I am enjoying getting to rest after senior year. So, just sitting around doing nothing for me at least. I’m feeling the stir craziness coming.

Mariko and Nile are appreciating life’s slower pace imposed by Idaho’s stay-at-home orders. Nile, a computer programmer, had already begun working from their Boise townhome before the wedding. He set up his desk in a small open area just outside the upstairs bedroom. It seemed a reasonable location when he lived alone. 

NILE ENGELHARDT: So, when I’m on Zoom with my teammates, Mariko has to wait for a super long time or crawl underneath the chair out of the view of the Zoom call in order to get past…

It’s a small trade-off for Mariko. She’s an educational therapist and had to complete the semester teaching online.

MARIKO ENGELHARDT: Being married to a tech dude has its perks. Because when I have technical difficulties on Zoom I just march right over and get my help ticket [laughter] Much to his dismay. Right? He has to stop his work. But it works great for me…

Nile said the help tickets and random conversations distract from his work. But Mariko makes up for it.

NILE ENGELHARDT: So, one good thing is she’ll bring me up snacks, repeatedly throughout the day. It’s pretty nice.

Without the so-called “normal” cycle of home, work, church, and social life to distract from their time together, the Reeves and Engelhardts have filled their evenings with other pursuits: Reading, listening to classical music, learning to Salsa dance and moonwalk.

MUSIC: [Salsa dance lesson]

Work—and its commutes—school, and other obligations will eventually compete for their time. But their “corona-moons” have taught these newlyweds that time alone with each other is a precious commodity that they will guard closely throughout their marriage.

Spencer Reeves anticipates struggles on that front when he begins law school in August. 

SPENCER REEVES: I’m going to feel a lot more pressure to make sure that I’m not falling prey to toxic student tendencies to making sure that I’m there for Sarah in the way that she needs me to be there….

Mariko and Nile are grateful for this unique time.

MARIKO ENGELHARDT: I kind of feel like, in a way there’s almost a hedge of protection because we don’t have some of the outside, um, outside sources that are normally influencing your marriage, you know…

Nile Engelhart suggested returning to the office each day may have a silver lining.

NILE ENGELHARDT: It might be good because when I’m off to work for the day it’ll be fun coming home and spending time together again because we’ve been away from each other for a little bit…

MUSIC: [God Gave Me You — Blake Shelton]

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett.

(Photo/Mariko and Nile Engelhardt)

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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