My husband and I decided to tie the knot in August of 2020, when group meet-ups were restricted and a partial lockdown was enforced due to COVID-19. Getting married during a pandemic meant not being able to celebrate with friends and family. But it also meant that the day was even more intimate and special than it might have been otherwise.

I’d like to think that it was the initial pandemic lockdown that pushed my husband and me toward marriage. Just a few weeks after we’d discussed the coronavirus situation in China over coffee, my then-boyfriend and I were laid off from our restaurant jobs and sent into lockdown.

During those challenging first weeks, we developed a routine and somehow avoided completely driving each other crazy. We would take walks through our deserted town and cook meals together. We even managed to escape for a camping trip here and there. A couple months later, once our town started reopening, we found new jobs and P proposed.

The proposal itself came as a shock. But the idea of spending the rest of our lives together felt familiar and comfortable after all we’d been through in the last few months.

Since P is German and was in the country on a work visa, and I am an American citizen, COVID could have easily separated us. His visa was set to expire at the end of the year. We worried that pandemic travel laws would force us apart.

That’s why, as a newly engaged couple, we decided on getting married during a pandemic. With one family stuck on the other side of the country, and the other in Germany.

We decided to keep things simple when we first discussed the idea of getting married right away. We would just go to the courthouse and sign the necessary papers. We'd save the celebration for another day when gatherings and travel weren’t banned and masks not required.

But then, the idea of spending such a unique moment of our lives in such a casual way seemed wrong.

After all, we had made it through the first few months of an international crisis. We had managed to stay safe and healthy, we had found jobs after three months of unemployment, we had made a home for ourselves, and had found a rhythm for our lives that worked even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Even if we were getting married during a pandemic: we had to celebrate!

Upon hearing my plans for a low-key wedding day, my new coworkers came together to plan me a bachelorette party. Just a small group on the rooftop of a bar for some socially-distanced drinks and snacks, as our town’s pandemic guidelines were still very strict,. My husband-to-be spent the day fishing with a friend.

Because we couldn’t throw a party, P and I decided to commemorate the occasion in our own way.

To make it special, I reserved a hotel room for us a few blocks away from our apartment. We made reservations at a fancy restaurant, and planned to sneak away for a picnic by the river after our appointment at the courthouse. With some plans in place and our restaurant shifts covered, we were ready to make the leap.

Getting married during a pandemic meant we had to make a group chat for both of our families and call them as we took our first steps towards the courthouse. It was a beautiful August morning in the little mountain town where we live, and the aspen trees danced in a gentle wind.

We called our families from outside the courthouse. We put our masks on. And we headed inside, where we spent fifteen minutes filling out paperwork.

Our families watched from Massachusetts and Germany.

Since we’d made the appointment only a week before, we didn't have time to seek out an ordained minister. We married ourselves.

Out in the courthouse’s garden, we met a photographer friend-of-a-friend who’d agreed to document the moment. Before stepping into the shade to exchange our vows and rings, we propped the phone up on a picnic table so our families could watch. We signed the marriage certificate, beamed at the video chat, and we were married.

That afternoon, P and I made our own little private camp by the river. In the shade of the trees, we ate salami and cheese and watched the trout swim through a bend in the stream. We napped in the sunlight, running our fingers over each other’s wedding rings.

There was a certain sadness to celebrating such a momentous event in our lives far from our family and friends.

But we still made our wedding day special. We finished the evening with a fancy three-course meal, then returned to the hotel and fell immediately into a champagne-induced sleep. We know that there will be another celebration with friends and family somewhere down the road.

For now, we will hold hands and face the rest of the pandemic together as husband and wife.

Zanny Merullo Steffgen