We nixed our wedding to protect our friends and then they surprised us with one

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We were boyfriends for four years. Every anniversary was a party. The engagement was epic, complete with an Instagram-worthy surprise proposal against the Los Angeles skyline. Best of all, Kartik said yes.

Then the April wedding to mark our 5-year anniversary was bulldozed by a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis.

When you have something big planned and it falls apart, it can feel like the universe has you in its crosshairs. It seemed like our wedding had a giant pandemic target on its back.

More than 100 people were expected to rave to infectious beats well within 6 feet of each other. Then we were planning to jet off to Italy to honeymoon in what quickly became a tragic epicenter of sickness and death.

In the weeks ahead of the big day, registry items, guest gifts and apparel for the wedding party piled up on the dining room table in our small Atlanta condo. They were material reminders of the people we wanted to share our day with but also represented the mounting uncertainty over whether we would share it at all.

As each day turned more deadly and stricter guidance came down, we were stunned and somewhat relieved by how few people asked us about our plans. We were relieved mostly because, for a while, we didn’t know what we were going to do. Nobody had answers.

Social distancing is a special kind of slow-burn disaster for us. Scanning Google calendar entries for dinner parties, festivals and travels started to feel like stumbling onto someone else’s account. No event reminders are needed now as we count down the days to the next Zoom happy hour.

Our situation doesn’t compare to the difficulties many face, but it’s a change of pace that forces one to reexamine what’s important.

Before the new normal, the important things included points like whether the frozen Popsicle stand was available to hand out treats at the reception.

Once the virus’ spread became unstoppable in late March, we knew, above all else, that we couldn’t put our people in danger. That crushing reality set in about two weeks before the big day.

My partner and I both believe destiny is deferential. Your future listens to what you tell it. We realized we couldn’t save the wedding, but we could start a marriage.

The city office where we got the marriage license felt like the terminal for the last shuttle off of Earth.

Lines were long. Every cough felt like someone stepped on a landmine. Pens on those metal bead chains were still being shared. We felt an urgency to complete the paperwork as if police would walk in at any moment and tell people to go home.

Days later, a married couple we admire greatly was supposed to officiate our ceremony in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park on a serene lake reflecting the bright, budding spring newness.

Under our new plan, we would drop the marriage certificate on their porch. Our ordained friend would sign it at a safe distance, then we’d pick it back up once he went inside. The idea felt like some shady transaction we’d seen bingeing “Ozark” on Netflix.

We were running a little late on our picturesque day, and the surprise waiting for us was more special than any big wedding we could have planned.

When we walked up to the porch, the officiant couple was standing in a dress and suit, beaming at our reaction as we approached the beautiful scene.

Candles and flowers invited us through a makeshift arbor enshrining the entrance. On a pedestal was a laptop with an overwhelming grid of happy faces from across the country.

Our wedding was ten minutes with just six people and 20 more watching on from a screen.

We exchanged the rings we had worn over our engagement. A champagne bottle popped. Well-wishes from familiar voices on the laptop peppered the ceremony. It was a whirlwind of love, and then it was over.

As we walked away newly wed, the officiants’ child, who was also our signed witness, exclaimed “that was a good wedding.”

It was an incredible wedding.

The next weekend we took the pile of unused wedding trappings out of the condo and into storage east of town — shutting the garage door on a party and starting a very real life together.

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