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Kiran Rana, left, with her fiancé Jordan shortly after they got engaged in 2019.

Courtesy of family

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Kiran Rana is a content strategist at The Globe and Mail

There’s nothing like a pandemic to bring a bride-to-be back to reality.

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When my boyfriend and I got engaged last year, we promised not to get swept up in the wedding-planning process. I was going to be a “cool bride,” who would never stress about floral arrangements or flip out over bridesmaids dresses. I’d continue to focus on my real priorities: my fiancé, friends, family and role as a content strategist at The Globe. It turns out, I didn’t have much of a choice. The sobering reality of the new coronavirus has put a lot in perspective, for us and, as my colleague Zosia Bielski writes in The Globe, many other couples who were scheduled to tie the knot this year. In my case, I’ve realized how much I was actually getting sucked into the frenzy of wedding planning, despite my best intentions.

Take the costs, for example. Bridal makeup for a single day can run hundreds of dollars, but I told myself it’s okay. Brides are supposed to look beautiful on their wedding day. Our venue, to which we are already paying a hefty sum, is charging a “cake-cutting fee” to literally slice and plate dessert. Bizarre, but apparently standard. Anything can be justified by the statistically disproven magical words: “You only get married once.” Suddenly, I had strong opinions about things I never had given much thought to before: fonts on invites, table settings, and, yes, floral centrepieces.

It’s not entirely our fault. From a young age, women are conditioned to believe that their wedding is the most important day of their lives. And as Meghan Garber writes in The Atlantic, even as the number of people actually getting married is on the decline, “participation in the parties that celebrate the institution has been expanding – if through no other method than the workings of cultural osmosis.” Think of the TV shows, the celebrity weddings, the bridal boot camps and the tourism industry that caters specifically to bachelorette parties. Weddings are a billion-dollar industry.

I especially related to this article, also in The Atlantic, where Natalie Escobar delves into the world of bridal expos, which she says establish an “understanding of what the industry considers necessary for a good wedding – and consequently, sets expectations for what’s normal.” The rings, the wedding dresses, the photographer – “people have been taught to want these things.”

And these wants add up. The average cost of a Canadian wedding is anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000 depending on who you ask. My Indian background means that number can be substantially higher. One documentary puts the average sticker price of an Indian wedding in Canada at $100,000. As my colleague Rita Trichur wrote in her column pre-COVID-19, cultural expectations of big weddings were already out of whack with the economic reality in Canada.

So when you factor in our unprecedented global health emergency and the impending financial recession, it really does warrant a pause.

Our concerns about our wedding look a whole lot different than they did six weeks ago. Gone are the politics of a ballooning guest list (Indians have a different definition of what constitutes an “Aunty”), the overwhelming choice of elaborate bridal lehengas (an Indian wedding dress) and white wedding gowns (yes, two outfits for a two-day multicultural celebration). Now, we worry about the immediate health and safety of our loved ones, the potential restrictions on large gatherings and closed borders that could prevent friends and families from joining us to celebrate. We worry about having our wedding this year, if at all. Even when our current situation improves, there’s no road map for what future months will look like.

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I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t disappointed. I really love weddings. I love the cheesy speeches. I love watching the groom’s face when the bride walks down the aisle. My fiancé laughs at how, without fail, I have cried at every single wedding we’ve attended together – and there have been many. And after more than six years together, I was excited for our turn at that perfect day.

But despite the amount of time, money and mental space that wedding planning has consumed, I am less concerned than pre-pandemic me would be. Perhaps it’s because vendors have been co-operative and flexible. This is uncharted territory for all of us, including the small businesses that rely on wedding season.

Mostly, though, I’m just grateful for what I have. And I’ve taken comfort in the heartwarming stories of people celebrating their love, even as their plans fall apart. As one bride told The New York Times: “A wedding is great, it’s a celebration of a union, but at the end of the day, a marriage is about the coming together of two. We didn’t let the pandemic take that away from us.”

This pandemic has made it abundantly clear what’s important, in weddings and life. And it isn’t the centrepieces. It’s how much I want to marry the man I’m stuck in lockdown with, whenever and however that might happen.

What else we’re thinking about:

A big part of my role at The Globe involves producing podcasts, and I’m a huge fan of audio storytelling. Lately, I have noticed the podcasts I am gravitating toward are the ones with disillusioned protagonists. For example, WeCrashed is a six-part series about the rise and fall of WeWork and its CEO Adam Neumann. Cool Mules looks at the abuse of power by one Vice editor, “Slava P,” who asked young journalists to smuggle nearly $20-million worth of cocaine into Australia. And I am only just now listening to Season Two of Slow Burn, which delves into the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Inspired by something in this newsletter? If so, we hope you’ll amplify it by passing it on. And if there’s something we should know, or feedback you’d like to share, send us an e-mail at amplify@globeandmail.com.

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