Pinterest didn’t prepare me for a pandemic.

I am immunocompromised. And I’m getting married in 3 months in the midst of a global pandemic. The situation is not exactly ideal.

For other partners — immunocompromised or not — who are having to make difficult decisions like postponing or canceling their weddings, this process can feel confusing, alienating, and downright heartbreaking.

Here’s how we decided to have a social distancing wedding, and what exactly we’re going to do to make our event safer.

We anticipated obstacles while planning a wedding, but Pinterest didn’t prepare me for a pandemic.

My fiancé and I got engaged in September 2018, and the planning for our Fall 2020 wedding began immediately. Before 2018 was over, I had my dress, we had our venue, and we were well on our way to checking off all the boxes for a beautiful event.

At the time, I was in graduate school in Ohio, 5 hours from home. We thought that planning for a wedding in upstate NY was going to be challenging as I completed my course work in a different state than our venue and vendors.

But this didn’t end up being the challenge.

When I saw how slow the United States was in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in February, I started to get a little worried. But my wedding was more than half a year away — I thought that would be plenty of time to find a solution.

My fiancé and I quickly came to terms with the fact that we wouldn’t be able to have a honeymoon this year, and we felt okay about it — it was the safest option and it wasn’t like the spare change in our adventure fund jar would get us very far, anyway. We could wait.

But as I defended my thesis from our studio apartment in Ohio and watched my hometown become swarmed with COVID-19 cases, I began thinking that the entire wedding might not be possible.

And, truthfully, I’m still not sure if it will be, even as we move forward with planning and reopening in New York.

After speaking with our venue and our vendors when we moved back to NY, we realized that postponement wasn’t going to work for us. There would’ve been fees we couldn’t pay, and we couldn’t even get a postponement date for 2021.

We were looking at losing thousands of dollars to cancel all the planning we’d done over the past year and a half, or stretching out the engagement for another couple of years.

So this meant we were going to have a wedding on the date we planned. Smaller. And socially distanced.

We know that the wedding isn’t what’s important here, but…

There are so many different reasons and excuses I could list as to why we didn’t take our financial losses with a cancellation and instead made the decision to have a smaller wedding. 

I could list all of the things I missed out on when I was coming to age as a disabled teen (homecoming and proms, best friend sleepovers, dates).

I could speak to how a wedding is one of the only things I’ve truly ever desired in my entire life.

My privilege in being able to have a wedding, get married to the love of my life with the support of my family and friends, and to take the risk to move forward with the event in light of the pandemic is very real. This is privilege. There’s no denying that.

But at the bottom of all of this is the raw, honest truth: I want to have a wedding.

I want to wear my incredible dress and walk down the aisle and have professional photos to hang up around my house. I want to say vows to my fiancé with our friends and family members as witnesses to our love.

I want the fairy tale, the sparkle, the glam.

Obviously, this vision has changed to fit the real world we live in right now. 

There will be no dance floor. There won’t be celebratory hugs. Not all of our friends and family members will be able to make it. In fact, more than half of our guest list has been reduced, and we’ve already had to plan for separate celebrations with out-of-town loved ones when the world becomes a little safer. 

And this might still not be enough.

We know that there’s a very real possibility that the number of cases sparking throughout the country will reach us here, and might force another shutdown — rightfully so.

On that first Saturday in October, it might be just the two of us and close family in masks. Or it might not happen at all.

Once my fiancé and I made the decision to move forward with the date, I was nervous to tell people. I was nervous of being judged for wanting a wedding still when clearly safety is the priority. I was also afraid that my event would cause illness or worse.

This is why we aren’t trying to have the traditional wedding we envisioned. Instead, we’re putting some safety protocols in place.

How can you socially distance at a wedding?

Simply put, the same way that we’ve been distancing through the phases as the state has reopened.

Our ceremony will take place outdoors, to start. We’re the only wedding party there the entire weekend, which means spending time to disinfect and sanitize everything before the event begins.

The benches will be placed more than 6 feet apart and have enough space for people in the same households to sit together without any overlap. We will provide disposable masks for guests who are safely able to wear them, and sanitation centers around the venue.

When the ceremony ends, we’re encouraging people to celebrate by throwing petals. No hugs, no great-aunt cheek kisses. Just an explosion of color and loud cheers will do.

We’re still trying to figure out if the reception will happen, or what it will look like, but we’re working to put precautions in place so that it’s even safer than going to a restaurant. 

Our goal is to eat a good meal from our favorite BBQ place as a newly married couple, share a twirl or two in our fancy outfits, and then, you know, live happily ever after. Simple.

In all seriousness, state guidelines and our own morals will dictate what we should and should not do to keep everyone safe. 

The most important thing about this is giving our invited guests all the information they need to make an informed decision for themselves on whether or not they feel it would be safe for them to come to our wedding.

For our guests who are unable to attend, we’re going to share videos of the ceremony and wait to celebrate together — hugs and all — when the world is safer.

For other couples out there, try to keep hope.

Research is showing that having large events might be a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.

Even by next year or the year after that, development on a vaccine might not be where it needs to be to keep everyone safe. Weddings in particular are going to look different during this historic time. (Can’t wait to explain the masked photos to our grandchildren.)

Having a socially distant wedding isn’t necessarily the “right” choice to make — but it’s the decision we’ve landed on because we think we can make it work for us.

Regardless if you postpone, elope, cancel the wedding altogether, do a virtual ceremony, or go ahead exactly as planned (within your state’s guidelines), know that your choice is your own to make.

However you choose to share your love, do so safely and do so with hope for the future.

Aryanna Falkner is a disabled writer from Buffalo, New York. She’s an MFA candidate in fiction at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where she lives with her fiancé and their fluffy black cat. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Blanket Sea and Tule Review. Find her and pictures of her cat on Twitter.