Debbie and Eyosias Samson stand, just married, in front of their bare living room wall with their WiFi router at their feet.
Social distancing regulations amid coronavirus put a halt to wedding ceremonies couples had been planning for months. Despite the pandemic, these pairs still found a way to say “I do.”
“Coronavirus is horrible, but for me it's like a blessing from God that he's allowing me to get married sooner because he's heard my prayers and he knows where my heart's at,” social work senior Debbie said.
Debbie and Eyosias had planned on getting married May 25, after Debbie graduated, but instead exchanged vows on March 24 just before Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced the initial shelter-in-place order so they wouldn’t have to be apart.
With less than ten people present, the couple celebrated with masked friends and family in their living room, while others watched via Zoom.
“I'm thankful for the way people have received the news about us getting married,” Samson said. “It's like a ray of sunshine in the middle of a lot of dark times.”
Another couple hosted their marriage on Facebook Live. With over 1,000 people watching online, UT alumna Priyanka Patel wore a blue floral dress to marry Jai Patel in a 10 minute courthouse ceremony — a substitute to their three-day long Indian wedding plans.
Priyanka and Jai married early March 27, just nine days after they canceled their May 3 wedding. After being in a long-distance relationship, Jai said there was no sense in waiting.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat it,” Priyanka said. “We’ve gone through a lot of grieving. You're almost grieving the death of a dream that's never going to happen.”
Priyanka said both her and Jai’s’ parents were heavily involved in the planning process and were also disappointed in the delay of their 800-person traditional Indian wedding.
“(My parents were) figuring out, ‘We can't give our daughter away the way we had dreamed of doing for 27 years,’” Priyanka said.
On April 11, about a month earlier than their initial wedding date, UT alumna Katie Kesting walked down the aisle, phone in hand, so her dad could “give her away” to Tim Kesting via FaceTime.
With family across the country and courts rapidly closing, Katie said she submitted their marriage license application on March 25 as their backup plan.
“It’s obviously not plan A or B or C,” Tim said. “Yeah it was plan Q,” Katie said.
With just six people present at a Grace Church campus in South Carolina, it was an intimate ceremony, Tim said.
“It was nice to not have the exhaustion and the stress,” Katie said. “From everyone I know that has gotten married, (they say) when you're up there, you're not there. You're just trying to smile and not pass out. We were actually able to be present during it.”
After their ceremonies, the Kestings ate a yellow cake they had baked together the previous night. The Samsons took photos in their new home and ate Ethiopian food for dinner. The Patels celebrated their marriage with Cheesecake Factory cake, champagne and a first dance in Priyanka’s parents’ living room.
Each couple has said they each plan to have a ceremony after restrictions loosen and that they're just happy they’ve found a way to marry and start their lives together.
“We firmly think our wedding day was never the gift,” Priyanka said. “The gift was each other, and we still have that.”