Engagement photo

When my fiance proposed on top of a waterfall on July 19, 2019, I never thought we’d have to make plans to cancel our wedding due to a global pandemic. But we’ll still get married regardless.

When I was a kid, I wore basketball shorts every day and rarely combed my hair. When I did, it was pulled straight back into a ponytail and contained by a thick headband. And I wore the same fire-red T-shirt that said MadDog on the back. Because of that shirt, a kid with strawberry blonde hair in my Intro to Algebra class named Matt Lemay would smile and bark as I whisked past him. I thought it was cool. It was like he was cheering me on as part of the starting lineup for the Minnesota Timberwolves every time I walked through the door.

Now, I’m two months away from marrying that strawberry blonde kid with braces named Matt Lemay, and he still won’t admit whether he was flirting with me or mocking me for my MadDog nickname. Maybe a little bit of both. But my senior year of high school, he squeezed into my size small basketball jersey — number five — and cheered me on from the stands when I came off the bench to play a total of about six minutes in the state tournament semifinals. He cheered me on like I was part of the starting lineup, and maybe even barked a few times, whenever I’d manage to score. Now, he slips notes of encouragement into my running shoes and lets me watch as many episodes as I want of “19 Kids and Counting” and grills my steak the same shade of pink every single time.

We make each other do things we otherwise wouldn’t do. When I convinced Matt to run a marathon with me, he did — and then ducked forward at the finish line to finish one second faster than me. He convinced me to spend four months alone in New York City, and even though I swore I’d hate it, I booked the one-way ticket — and liked it.

We know how to laugh at the things in life that sting. Likely having to cancel our wedding is one of those things. Of course this would happen to us, we joke with each other over heaping bowls of cookie dough ice cream. It’s a bummer. But it’s not the end of the world.

I don’t really care about the wedding. I don’t care about chair covers or table runners or the picture frames we use to display our engagement photos. I’d rather spend $2,000 on a trip to Glacier National Park than on plate chargers, cloth napkins and shiny silverware.

Of course, wanting those things isn’t a bad thing. It’s just not me. It’s not us.

I bought a $200 wedding dress online as if I was purchasing a couple pairs of jeans. I asked one friend to design our invitations and another friend to be our videographer. We’re having a Famous Dave’s buffet for dinner, because who likes getting served a plate of cold, dry chicken and three buttery green beans? And we planned to get married on a farm by a lake, so we can play cornhole and let the little cousins dip their feet in the water and maybe even bring in a mini doughnut truck (stay tuned — I’m still working on that one).

Now, all of those things are up in the air. If they happen, we’ll be the first to jump for joy. If not, then COVID-19 crashing our wedding has made one thing clear: we want to be married more than we want to have a wedding.

With the ever-impending likelihood that our June 12, 2020 wedding date will not be June 12, 2020, we’ll move forward without our guests if we have to. We still plan to get married, even if it has to be with just our officiant and parents. We might plan a bigger celebration later on, when the world is mostly COVID-free and our guests can enjoy sipping on their Moscow mules while standing two feet apart instead of six.

And I’m glad we’ve approached the wedding this way, with a loose grip on the details. I’m glad I don’t care about chair covers or a disco ball or what the backdrop behind the head table will look like. Because around the world thousands of people are dying, and millions of people lost their jobs, and hospitals don’t have enough ventilators to keep everyone alive. I have my fiance, and although we might not get the wedding we thought we’d have, I still get to marry that strawberry blonde kid I met in sixth grade, and he still gets to marry the tomboy who wore that same red T-shirt every day, and we will be all right.

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.


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