Waking up on the morning of my December 2020 wedding felt surreal. Not only was I on the exotic island of Key West in Florida, USA — a place I’d never been to before — but I was also in the same bed as my fiancé, which isn’t exactly considered conventional.
As I yawned and stretched and tried to come to life (shoutout to my fellow Dolly Parton fans), I contemplated the day ahead. It would consist of marrying my best friend on a beach thousands of miles away from our friends and family, just me and him, whilst a deadly pandemic raged around the world.
Restrictions Left Us Feeling Trapped
It had crossed my mind a few times in the run-up to the big day if we were doing the right thing by eloping. Gone were our initial dreams of having a fancy wedding in Hawaii surrounded by our close family and friends after strict travel restrictions came into play. This was never plan A, it was a scramble-it-all-together-at-the-last-minute plan B. A plan B where we couldn’t share our special day with the people we love. A plan B where a mask mandate meant that we’d have to wear them to and from our ceremony site. And a plan B where my Dad couldn’t even walk his youngest daughter down the aisle.
Was this ideal? No. But, what was the alternative? Waiting months on end until we could finally be married according to plan A? Well, we had no idea when that would be. With COVID cases and death rates rising every day globally, it wasn’t looking like it would be anytime soon.
We’d Already Tried to Get Married Once
The truth is, this was the second elopement date we’d set. The first one was supposed to be in lockdown 2.0, but then that happened and I got stuck in the UK whilst he worked in America. Therefore, when this brief travel window came up before lockdown 3.0, we jumped at it. After all, being apart as a long-distance couple that transcends oceans is tough anyway, but during a pandemic, every day feels like your heart has just been ripped out of your chest.
We Didn’t Want To Live Apart Anymore
Yep. There was just that one little problem, which was actually not-so-little at all: the fact that my fiancé and I are from different countries.
It’s been four years since we met and we’ve only lived together 18 months out of 48 of those. Sure, we feel lucky that we could cement our relationship by living in New Zealand together for a year on the working holiday visa and spending the first lockdown together before his UK tourist visa ran out. Even so, we were tired of living apart when we knew we were destined to be together. In fact, it became so unbearable to look around and see couples we know being able to share their lives together when we were living life on FaceTime and through WhatsApp voice notes. There’s only so much that you can connect through a phone.
We Wanted to Start Our Lives Together
Given that most couples tend to buy a house before they get married these days, we had barely begun to build our lives together. We were actually a step behind everyone else by living in different countries even though we were planning the step ahead — and enough was enough. At 30 and 33, we longed to intertwine our lives instead of just having to live life separately from each other and occasionally do the whole relationship thing every two to three months.
Unless you’ve ever been in an international long-distance relationship before, you have no idea how much it messes with your emotions. Having to get used to the idea of being together before you’re swiftly separated by an ocean again is like pulling off a plaster only to put it back on again and pull it off again, rinse and repeat. You develop separation anxiety, intense survival mode, and nightmares and flashbacks from having to leave each other. (Airport goodbyes are the worst!)
In other words, we just weren’t prepared to do that to ourselves anymore. I’ve learned to love myself more in the last two years than I’ve ever done before. And I deserve to be physically with the love of my life and the person who makes me happier than I didn’t even know I could be.
My soon-to-be husband watched me with an intense, loved-up gaze as I rolled over in bed to meet him face-to-face. “Today’s the day!” He exclaimed with the excitement of an eight-year-old child on Christmas Day once they’ve realised that Santa has been. I smiled. Yep. I was quite ready to wake up to that face every morning for the rest of my life — and it would be worth having a plan B wedding.