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Should you get married during the pandemic? Two perspectives

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To say “I do” or not to say “I do"?

That is the question for scores of couples planning to wed in the next few months.

Following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the governor of Virginia prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people in an effort to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

That leaves most couples in a bind, as the coronavirus has become the latest antagonist in their love stories.

Though public Masses in the diocese have been suspended for the foreseeable future, weddings and funerals are allowed to continue — but with the same headcount, which in most cases means immediate family only.

For one couple at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna, that meant patching in bridesmaids through Zoom and livestreaming the ceremony to YouTube.

"It definitely was a little bittersweet not having everybody there we would have wanted to," said Amy Winkler, who married Jonathan de Bernardo at the church April 18. "It was still a beautiful day even in its smallness and intimacy. I wouldn't have changed a thing."

But some couples are hoping to wait out the virus and are scrambling to postpone spring weddings to later in the year.

Changing the date

Melanie Houston, a middle-school social studies teacher in Chesterfield County, was scheduled to get married April 25 at Holy Family Church in Dale City.

She and her fiance, Patrick Howard, first postponed their wedding until June — then decided on a "Plan C" date, Oct. 24.

There will be no "Plan D."

"Patrick and I have decided we are going to get married (in October) no matter what," Houston said. "Worst-case scenario we will have a private ceremony at Holy Family, livestream it, and have a big party in May of 2021."

For Houston, who comes from "a big, Italian, Catholic family," having family and friends physically present to witness the wedding is important.

"Nothing beats face-to-face," she said. "My fiance and I have worked incredibly hard to plan and prep for this day, and we want to be there with our friends and family."

Postponing the wedding didn't come without heartbreak.

April 25 was especially hard, the couple said.

"Today is the day I should be watching Melanie walk down the aisle at our wedding," Howard wrote on Facebook. "We should be celebrating our love and commitment in front of our friends, family, and God. ... But 2020 had other plans."

"Everyone says a wedding’s only one day, but it’s an important day," Houston said. "If you’ve worked so hard to prepare and just cancel it for a reason beyond your control, I think in life you’re going to regret it.”


Melanie Houston, a social-studies teacher in Chesterfield County, poses for a photo with her fiance, Patrick Howard, They have postponed their wedding twice as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and have decided on an October date at Holy Family Church in Dale City.  ABIGAYLE MARKS | COURTESY

Ready to get married

Allison Lattie and Daniel Paris were planning “a big, Catholic wedding” in New Orleans April 18.

That meant having nine priests concelebrating Mass, a choral octet singing, 250 to 300 guests and no shortage of incense.

Until mid-March, the couple still fully intended to have the full wedding at a later date in Louisiana, where family members live.

Then they realized they were “pretty much just ready to get married and start our vocation.”

The two decided to wed in a private ceremony at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester on their originally scheduled date.

“From the beginning, it’s always been about the sacrament for us,” said Lattie, a religion teacher at Bishop O’Connell Catholic High School in Arlington. “In New Orleans, they can throw great parties, so there was kind of an expectation to have something bigger with the reception. Even with the original plans, we just kept focusing back on the sacrament and making our marriage this witness to the faith. We wanted a beautiful liturgy because we wanted the focus to be on the sacrament.”

Their wedding, which was livestreamed on Facebook, was viewed by far more people than were originally on the guest list — including relatives overseas who otherwise would not have been able to attend.

Some of their friends came to the church parking lot to wave signs at the happy couple.

"Everything was wonderful and amazing," Lattie said. "We had so many friends who just turned up — of course within increments of 10 — and they just pulled out all the stops, as much as you can when you're trying to put a wedding together during a pandemic."


Allison Lattie, a religion teacher at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, married Daniel Paris at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester April 18. The two livestreamed their ceremony to Facebook, where friends and family from around the globe tuned in.  DANIELLE LUSSIER | COURTESY

Not one answer

Both choices have pros and cons — "there's not one answer out there for every couple," Winkler said.

"A lot of couples are facing some really tough decisions. Just take it to prayer and see what's best for you and your future spouse."

No one dreams of having their wedding day during a global pandemic. But, isn't flexibility one of the cornerstones of any good marriage?

"You have to have the patience and the grace to understand there's things outside of our control here," de Bernardo said. "You just have to accept it, move forward and make the best of it."

Riedl can be reached at matthew.riedl@arlingtondiocese.org or on Twitter @RiedlMatt.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020