The coronavirus pandemic has thrown countless nuptials off-course, with the 2020 Real Weddings study from wedding planning website the Knot finding that 15 percent of the 7,600 couples surveyed had pushed their ceremonies to 2021, while 32 percent delayed their receptions out of an abundance of caution and in deference to restrictions on social gatherings.
But for some couples, lockdown life has only accelerated the impulse to say “I do” — even when they previously had no firm plans to do so. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but being thrust together amid stay-at-home orders can, in some instances, work its own magic. Here, Yahoo Life speaks to three sets of newlyweds who essentially found love in a hopeless place, getting engaged, and married, mid-pandemic.
On Jan. 30, Imani Francies, a content writer for QuickQuote.com, married her high school sweetheart and on-off boyfriend of six years in a small ceremony at their home on the outskirts of Atlanta. But at the start of the pandemic, the pair weren’t even living together, and had only recently reconciled following the death of Francies’s mother from cancer shortly before the pandemic. Still, sharing a home made sense, as they formed a co-parenting pod with their 3-year-old daughter, even though the close contact initially gave rise to conflicts.
“We were in a really rotten place at the beginning of the pandemic,” Francies tells Yahoo Life of her relationship with Natrone Brown, who moved in with her and their daughter during lockdown. The couple had previously lived together when their daughter was born, but had separated due to “relationship problems.” Those issues resurfaced during their new cohabitation.
“We were arguing really often, just fighting over things that we hadn’t dealt with,” Francies says of their early lockdown experience. “We’re high school sweethearts, so we came from a very immature place in our relationship. ... We were just having heated arguments all the time, and just wanted to say, ‘OK, this isn’t working.’ We needed to figure out how to communicate with each other.”
But like a diamond forming under pressure, their pandemic-enforced close quarters eventually started to create something beautiful. By summer, things “turned in a positive direction,” Francies says — something she credits to the board games and deeper conversations she and Brown began to turn to as a way to fill their time together.
“We were just with each other all the time,” Francies says. “He was teaching us how to play card games. We were talking and just learning more about each other that we never really took the time [to share]. Between college and working, we didn’t have that time to really interact in that type of way.”
Encouraged by this tighter bond, the pair decided to buy a house together at the end of the summer. Two weeks after closing on the new home, Brown proposed, and two weeks after that, they learned that they would be having a second child together. The baby is due in June.
New York City-based newlyweds Caroline McAuliffe and Karen Mancuso are also expecting a baby soon, a development they hadn’t quite anticipated, given they also were not even living together when the pandemic hit. Though the couple of two years had discussed the prospect of one day having a baby together — and knew that, as a same-sex couple, getting married before the birth would make the process smoother from a legal standpoint — they each cherished the independence that came with living in separate residences.
Then the pandemic hit, and McAuliffe, an artist and art teacher who could work remotely, started staying at her girlfriend Mancuso’s Brooklyn apartment, all while keeping her own lease. During that time, the couple battled illness, though they aren’t certain if COVID-19 was to blame.
“In the beginning we were kind of on lockdown, and we decided to do that together,” Mancuso, a food co-op coordinator, tells Yahoo Life. “It was almost like we were moving in together — I mean, technically, we weren’t — but Caroline was at my place all the time, for weeks on end. ... I think we realized then that, oh, we’re pretty compatible in terms of cohabitating.”
Adds McAuliffe, “I feel like we were both coming from a place of being completely set up, independent people before meeting each other. I do think [living together in lockdown] helped break down that personal barrier of ‘I don’t want to give that up.’”
Though the pandemic had initially “uprooted” their plans to start a family thanks to fertility clinics pausing their procedures amid stay-at-home orders, McAuliffe got the green light to undergo an insemination in the summer.
“It just so happened that we got pregnant on the first try,” says the artist, who will give birth in March.
The baby news was the final nudge they needed to plan a wedding, albeit one that involved getting a marriage license over Zoom and hosting a socially distanced gathering for about 20 masked guests at a park in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on Sept. 13 — exactly six months before their baby’s due date. Friends were invited to “BYOP” (Bring Your Own Picnic) and feasted on doughnuts that were individually wrapped for safety’s sake. Mancuso says that, despite all the pandemic precautions, the low-key affair suited the couple’s style.
“In a way, COVID allowed us to limit the festivities,” she says. “It gave us a reason to say, ‘Listen, we’re not having a big wedding; we can’t, we’re just going to have a small gathering.’ It allowed us to kind of weasel out of having a big wedding that neither of us really wanted.”
She and McAuliffe have also just officially moved in together after recently buying their own home. It’s another milestone that Mancuso — who is divorced and was initially wary about jumping into a serious commitment — credits to lockdown life.
“I wanted to take it slowly,” she says. “But then because we did spend all this time together during COVID, it was nice. Like, OK, I actually can do this again. I want to do this again.”
Holly-Jade and Fernando Landeros were also married in September — but weren’t living in the same country until the pandemic and travel restrictions prompted them to reconsider their long-distance situation.
While native Brit Holly-Jade tells Yahoo Life that she and Fernando, who is Mexican, had talked about marriage early on in their relationship, they were “never really thinking a year later we would be getting married.” The couple had only become official in October 2019, a few months after meeting at an event in Hollywood that summer.
“The pandemic definitely cemented our feelings and sped up the process,” says Holly-Jade, a PR and influencer marketing agency founder.
A year ago, Fernando was based in Mexico City while she lived in Los Angeles. Because he was able to work remotely for a company based in L.A., he opted to ride out lockdown at her home — a decision that ultimately helped hasten their commitment.
“After three months of lockdown, it felt like we’d been together three years,” Holly-Jade says. “We learned a lot about each other in such a short time — the good and the bad. It definitely brought us closer together. Even though at times we could tear our hair out over the smallest of things, we knew we didn’t want to be apart.”
But there were practical considerations too, given their different nationalities and addresses.
“When the pandemic hit and I thought about going back to the U.K. and Fernando going to Mexico, we thought we may not be able to see each other for a long time with travel restrictions,” Holly-Jade notes. “So we thought, ‘Why don't we just get married now, and then when the time comes to move, we can do it together?’ We knew we wanted to in a few years anyway, so we didn’t really hesitate to make the call.”
After firming up plans to wed over the summer, the pair tied the knot on Sept. 12 in a small but “magical” ceremony near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where they are now based.
Says Holly-Jade: “We couldn’t picture life without each other, and we weren’t going to let a pandemic get in the way.”
There’s a bittersweet footnote, however. Fernando lost his mother and grandmother to COVID a couple of months after the wedding; he and Holly-Jade take comfort that their decision to seize the day meant that his mom could see him marry.
Likewise, Francies and her new husband are grieving family members lost to COVID-19; she says this “very stressful” time has made her value her love story even more.
“For my family, the three of us, [the pandemic] was a growing process, but it was still really challenging,” she says. “We just found the good in it.”
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