Last night, amid a flurry of Facebook Foxes stickers and cute animal videos, my fiancee Sarai sent me this message.

“I started to cry reading those,” she wrote.

She was talking about the wedding ceremony scripts from the Leelanau County Clerk’s office. We had a choice of six to pick from or embellish, or submit our own.

The words were incredibly moving, even the more brief, utilitarian scripts: “I promise to be true to you — in good times and in bad — in sickness and in health — I will love you and honor you — all the days of my life.”

My response to her message?


Yes, I found myself tearing up when I read the words, and had to reflect on what led up to the moment. Not just the serendipity of finding, meeting, dating, falling in love with and proposing to a beautiful and singularly incredible woman, but the tricky task of planning a wedding during a pandemic, even a simple one.

Her engagement ring was no problem, thanks to the mom of an old friend who just moved to the area and makes jewelry. But the ceremony wasn’t so easy.

My parents eloped in the ‘70s after one of my grandparents, upon learning of my parents’ engagement, started planning an elaborate wedding that no one could afford. Instead, Mom and Dad (who at that point were still push-starting their rusted-out Beetle) paid a respectable $14 to have a judge wed them, thus starting something of a family tradition that both of my older sisters observed.

But even the simple courthouse ceremony with mostly immediate family as witnesses, followed by fancy dinner, was out of the question. My middle sister is having a baby soon, the oldest has three kids and my parents are considered “high-risk” at their age.

We quickly put the latter half of “wed now, party later” on hold as the COVID-19 epidemic spiraled.

So my future wife and I set our sights lower, opting to marry now and worry about the suspended reception after everyone’s vaccinated. Even that proved tough.

Judges aren’t conducting weddings at the moment, and Grand Traverse County’s clerk, out of understandable health concerns, might not officiate weddings for the rest of the year, at least as of a few weeks ago.

Leelanau County’s clerk is officiating, but election year trainings have her and her office busier than the waitstaff at a Suttons Bay brewpub on a Saturday evening (our first date).

There are always other officiants, who for a few hundred bucks and up will wed you wherever, whenever, just plan the ceremony.

Or we could ask a friend to hit up one of those “click for ordainment” online churches so they could officiate.

But when we heard back from Leelanau County that the clerk was available July 27, we jumped at the date.

Now we’re planning to wed in front of a few friends — we need at least two witnesses, wearing face masks, of course. We’ll have a cell phone streaming the thing to an audience spanning three time zones and two countries, connected via everyone’s favorite virtual meeting app.

Please know, though, that I’m not complaining. It’s more than enough to have the privilege of uniting with a truly fantastic woman who I love.

Plus, can you imagine trying to set up an elaborate wedding with 100-plus guests, caterers, a band, a venue, etc. at a time when every step is 10 times harder? I can’t — my mind refuses to run down that rabbit hole. To everyone out there undertaking what is a truly daunting task even during regular times, you have my sympathy.

We’re just thrilled to be taking the first step toward building a life together. There are so many choices to make, so many goals and “maybe oughtas” to pencil in to our plans, so many “let’s-just-get-away-from-it-all” fantasies to share ... and so many inescapable facts to reckon with.

As for the reception, now indefinitely on hold? My dad put it best when he told me not to worry about when we as a family will get to celebrate our latest addition.

“We have literally the rest of our lives to figure that out,” he said.


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