In My Life
If anyone told me on a Saturday afternoon in September, I would walk through Central Park wearing a mask, bouquet in hand, while a couple of friends held the train of my wedding gown and my parents made a FaceTime call from Texas to watch my wedding…
(Not to be cliche, but since this year has been anything but cliche, I think it is fitting.)
...I would not have believed them.
Four years ago, I had just met my now husband. We met after I was invited to a party one of his roommates was hosting at their apartment. I did not know many people there, but it was the beginning of college in a new city and state, so showing up was not out of the ordinary. I ended up in the corner of the living room and noticed a set of vinyl records, one being Abbey Road by The Beatles. I adore the Beatles so much that their music has been the soundtrack to many major events of my life. Who knew that four short years later, “In My Life” would be our wedding exit song?
Naturally, upon seeing the record, I had to know whose it was. Discovering it was Ryan’s did not lead to one of those rom-com moments, but to Ryan casually commenting, “oh yeah, that is mine.” Also, unlike a rom-com, we didn’t immediately start dating. That step came the next year. Between our mutual love of Abbey Road, seeing a plethora of movies at Regal Cinema Battery Park, winning free Chick-fil-a for a year and having tons of classes together, we became best friends. He even came to Texarkana for my Debutante Ball. That incredible friendship is one of the best things about our relationship and is something we attribute to that time. I could not have survived this pandemic without him.
Before March 2020 hit and wearing masks with gloves wasn’t part of my grocery store routine, we were excited to finish our senior year of college. We had just returned to New York City after Christmas break ended and couldn’t wait to start our last semester. We both had internships lined up that we were thrilled about and were looking forward to everything past May, even the uncertainty.
It was Saturday, January 18, a couple of days before the semester started, and snow was in the forecast. It was coming down in flurries and the city instantaneously became a snow globe. Ryan texted me and asked if I wanted to go up to Central Park to see the snow and get dinner afterward. As we were heading up on the A train from Brooklyn to the Park, I knew something was up. Ryan, who could sit in silence for hours, would not stop talking. We got off the train at Columbus Circle and he started guiding me in the most particular and peculiar way through the park. Suddenly we stopped and Ryan began a really sweet proposal while getting on his knee.
After saying yes, a crowd I did not even realize had accumulated, started cheering, and our good photographer friend Elli appeared from hiding with her camera. Another cliche, but it was seriously the best day. It was one of those days I would think about in March and April, even while I was stuck in my tiny apartment in quarantine, that still made me happy to be in the city. Ryan stood up; his knee was soaked (a con of proposing in the snow). We headed to Bouchon Bakery for hot chocolate and a croissant to thaw and excitedly FaceTime our families to reveal I knew the “secret” they had all been keeping for weeks.
After pastries and parents, Ryan had our friends and even my sister Kathryn ready to surprise me at a karaoke bar in Chinatown. We sang every hit song for the entire block to enjoy. The rest of January and February flew by. We went to a wedding-planning pop up in Manhattan, toured a couple of venues, and my best friend Sydney stood in line with me at Kleinfeld for over eight hours so I could say yes to my dress on sample sale day.
As March arrived, everything seemed to freeze and go at warp speed at the same time. New York City became ground zero for COVID-19. School went online. Places were shut down. Internships ended. Hospital ships were pulling up at the harbor because our hospitals were at full capacity. Friends were leaving the city by the dozens. Graduation was cancelled. Morgue trucks were down the street. Positions I was applying for no longer existed. My lease was ending with no plans about where I should go. Wedding vendors stopped answering, and we got automatic emails saying, “out of the office until further notice”. Any type of honeymoon became a question mark. New York City was nearly silent, except at 7:00 pm when we all leaned out of our windows and cheered for the health care workers. Life seemed unreal. I don’t mean to be so intense, but this is how it was. March, April and May were beyond hard. Everything I had known became uprooted. Most of this is a blur because I try not to dwell too much on the bad, but all the good that has come of it instead. I leaned on God, Ryan, my family and friends more than I ever had in my life. I had to.
Despite prayers and affirmations of “don’t worry, this will all be over by September,” it was not over. A month before our wedding, Ryan and I had to accept that our family would not be able to make it because of New York State’s travel restrictions regarding out-of-state visitors. We decided to have two weddings. One would be in New York and the other in Texas. My Mom and my Gran would have to plan that one in only four weeks.
These dark days and all of this uncertainty made both weddings the most beautiful days. The unexpected became the perfect thing. My Papa, who could not make it to the New York wedding, could speak at the one in Texarkana which we now call “the second wedding.” It was held in my grandparent’s beautiful backyard. My uncle from Florida got to officiate it while my cousins from Chicago and Texarkana got to participate. Meanwhile, in New York, the pastor of the church we had been attending for the past few years, gave a lovely sermon and our good friend Leticia read scripture. Our friend Grace held my bouquet and was witness to our marriage certificate. We were surrounded by some of our closest friends and family, and that is what mattered the most because I knew as I was walking through the Park that day, mask on my face and all, I was about to marry my best friend.
Gracyn Elizabeth Bride
Dot’s Rentals & Sales
John Bunch Photography
Texarkana Country Club