Here’s our Debate and Why You Should Do the Same
My fiancée and I were so ready to get married in May 2020. We’re in love, after all. After several prior relationships crumbled when they turned long-distance, somehow my fiancée and I began our relationship in different parts of the country. She made our love entirely possible by flying out to visit me monthly when my job didn’t permit frequent travel. We dated long-distance for a year and a half before she could move. I was elated when she finally moved in! We got engaged on a rainy summer evening nearly two years ago, on a beautiful bridge in Boston overlooking the Charles River as the rain clouds parted at sunset. It was breathtaking.
We’re both physicians and both currently training to become surgeons. As part of our jobs caring for surgical patients in the hospital, we frequently work the maximum number of hours per week allowable by law. Needless to say, we have extremely limited free time, let alone time to plan a wedding. Our engagement of two years was not by choice but by reality of trying to organize a celebratory event with our families and friends while working 80 hours per week. Although we would have loved to have our wedding soon after the engagement, we needed that time to buffer our unforgiving work schedules.
My fiancée and I each have multiple siblings and come from working-class families. Financially, we’re fully responsible for our own wedding. Again, though we would’ve loved to get married in a heartbeat, we also needed those two years to save for the gouging price tags on weddings. After 24 months of intense savings, we were finally ready.
On January 14, 2020, the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States. It’s on my radar from the news, but I’m not worried for us, I thought. One month later, the number of U.S. cases began to grow exponentially. But it isn’t near the state our wedding is in. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended its season indefinitely later that day. I love the NBA — how real is this pandemic for my fiancée and me? Meanwhile, public health experts began calling for social distancing to limit the person-to-person spread of the virus. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its travel recommendations daily for the U.S. public, our sense of dread grew.
On March 15, 2020, the CDC issued its recommendation to cancel mass gatherings, such as weddings, funerals, or conferences, for at least the next eight weeks. But, surely, not our wedding, right? For the past two years, we poured in hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars for wedding preparations. My fiancée and I felt sick to our stomachs over the debate about whether we should postpone our May 2020 wedding. Our initial reaction was that the show must go on, since we still feel well, right?
Side 1: We Should Keep the Wedding as Scheduled
Wanting to avoid heartbreak, we had several reasons to keep the wedding on as scheduled, despite the warnings from the CDC and public health experts:
· We’ve put too much time and money into this wedding to postpone it. How could we recover financially?
· We still feel healthy and well. So do all of our friends and family. We don’t personally know anyone ill from COVID-19.
· We can follow the CDC’s recommendations for personal hygiene at the wedding — encourage hand-washing, discourage high-fives and hand-shakes, provide hand sanitizer as party favors, encourage people to maintain six feet between others on the dance floor… wait, really?
· We can kindly ask grandparents and other high-risk attendees not to come to lower their risk of contracting the virus.
· We’ve seen so many friends get married before us. We’ve waited long enough!
· Rescheduling the wedding would be a nightmare.
· What about our friends? They had to ask for vacations a year ago just to consider attending our wedding! We can’t ask them to do that again.
· We already know of other major events for family and friends scheduled for the next year… We can’t let our postponement disrupt those events.
· We had planned to start our family after getting married. Now we have to wait for how much longer? Time is ticking…
Side 2: We Should Postpone
Our reasons for continuing the wedding were heartfelt and anything but negligent. But the reasons to postpone our wedding due to COVID-19 were strong and tough to swallow:
· The CDC recommended against having more than 50 people at an event, to lower the risk of spreading the virus among individuals who otherwise would not have been in contact with each other.
· The President of the United States issued a statement further lowering that threshold to 10 people.
· Public health experts have emphasized social distancing as an effective containment strategy.
· Although we are young and healthy and unlikely to get seriously ill due to COVID-19, we could be vectors for virus transmission to elderly family members or other higher-risk individuals.
· How would we feel if grandma got sick or died because of contracting COVID-19 at our wedding? Would it be our fault?
· As physicians, we have a professional responsibility to act in the interest of the public’s health. That responsibility means postponing the wedding.
· As U.S. citizens, we have a personal responsibility to act in the interest of the public’s health, especially in a time of crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. That responsibility means postponing the wedding.
· As healthy millennials, we have a social responsibility to lead by example in the interest of the public’s health. That responsibility means postponing the wedding.
The Final Ruling
This was a heartbreaking couple weeks for my fiancée and me. We lost sleep. We fought. We cried. We questioned whether this was an omen suggesting that we shouldn’t get married at all…
After several exhausting reflections, we came to the realization that we do truly love each other, and we are supposed to get married, but we are in an exceptional moment in world history. We are pulling the trigger and postponing our wedding to an undetermined future date. Fortunately, our wedding venue and vendors have been graciously understanding of this unpredictable situation, and we expect to experience minimal financial effects because of rescheduling the wedding. Airlines are offering travel credits, so our family and friends should be protected, too. Anything less than this would be cruel.
We decided to postpone our wedding, and you should do the same. Encourage family and friends to avoid travel, follow the CDC guidelines, and practice social distancing. Whether you are a millennial like me or not, we all need to bite the bullet for the sake of our neighbors across the country. You won’t ever be able to count the number of lives you may save by doing so, but it’ll be worth it when you finally get to say, “I do.”
Jason Pradarelli, MD, MS, is a General Surgery Resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, and a Safe Surgery Fellow at Ariadne Labs, a center for health systems innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Jason’s fiancée, Alyssa, granted permission for him to write about their love story. This post reflects Jason’s views and not necessarily those of his affiliations.