Tafadzwa Zimoyo Senior Lifestyle Writer
Walking down the aisle arm-in-arm is every bride and groom’s dream on their wedding day after months, or even years, of preparation.
It takes a lot of investment from time, money to fresh ideas, just to make the wedding day worth-while.
Ladies in floor-length growths and male guests dapper in designer suits and ethnic prints would be also competing to outshine each other.
Not to be outdone were gatecrashers who always find their way to the wedding venue no matter how rigorous the screening exercise would be.
In some cases, hundreds jostling for food and booze took centre stage, while new dancers were discovered when the floor was free for all.
As for the rich, world renowned entertainers were normally invited to add colour and razzmatazz at the event.
Over and above all, big crowds are what used to define ‘normal’ weddings.
Now these are just tales and memories of an era that has been eroded by the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic, which does not allow for public gatherings of more than 50.
In fact, observing social distancing has become a new prerequisite owing to the lethal coronavirus
The monster, which has claimed many and infected millions, has dampened the way we celebrated weddings.
So hard is the new ‘normal’ where weddings are now done online to curb for the spread of Covid-19.
This has seen weddings losing their appeal as numbers have been cut to as low as five or as many as 50.
Everything, with virtual weddings, now looks fake with plastered pictures of guests on benches and chairs to resemble a packed auditorium.
For the sake of saving lives in these trying times, online weddings have become the new normal until the Covid-19 cure is found.
Celebrities have shown us how it is done and many are now following suit.
Nigerian-based Zimbabwean television personality Vimbai Mutinhiri who recently married her long time Nigerian lover Andrew Ekpenyong instantly comes into mind.
The two got engaged late last year and wedded in May, breaking the internet.
The virtual ceremony attracted African stars from models, entrepreneurs and the who-is-who in events management.
“Virtual weddings are the new normal and we need to embrace the new trends, especially from celebrities who have shown us how it is done,” said a Harare-based wedding planner.
A local marriage officer was of the view that the new normal has also come as a lesson that weddings can be done with few guests.
“These days I am only invited in homes to ensure that the two lovebirds sign certificates and at times there will be less than 10 guests.
“The bride and groom are now saving a lot since there is life after the wedding, which needs resources that are increasingly become scarce in this pandemic era,” he said.
Another San Francisco couple made headlines in April as they got married in an empty church.
A photo posted on Facebook by photographer Vicens Forn, and went viral, shows a father walking his daughter down the aisle of an empty church, capturing the surreal experience of tying the knot during these unprecedented times.
Parris Khachi and Emily Manashi from San Francisco were excited about their special day after being engaged for almost a year until Covid-19 happened.
“Once the lockdown was effected we spent some time figuring what we should do next,” said Khachi.
“Neither of us wanted to postpone indefinitely, since it’s hard to figure out when things will feel right again. Meanwhile, we did not want to put our loved ones at risk.”
The couple decided to continue with the wedding at San Francisco’s St Ignatius Church in accordance with social distancing rules and some slight adjustments with the guest list.
“We had a wedding with just our immediate family members and the church was kind enough to live stream so that our friends and family could watch in real time,” Khachi told ABC7.
Not only were the happy couple joined by their family and friends, they were joined with the church’s members.
“When we arrived at the church, we saw the pictures in the pews. The church regularly streams their services, and to keep the priest and audience connected they had put pictures of the church members in the pews, and we appreciated the audience,” he said.
Local cake-maker Pauline Mapisa said she is getting many orders for lobola ceremonies and wedding parties despite the lockdown.
“Coronavirus is real but people are not stopping when it comes to celebrating love. I remember I had to travel to Murewa after a lobola ceremony that had happened virtually.
“The event had about 10 guests and, for those who were not invited, I was instructed to pack their cake slices with a note written:
‘I know you could not be here but we thank God we were together in spirit. Be safe and stay strong this tough time. It is the new norm and we need to adjust’.
“This is a different way of doing things but I am happy the orders keep coming,” she said.
A Louisiana couple, who are also frontline nurses working during the pandemic, exchanged their “I dos” at a very small celebration. Bride Clare Keefer has been working 50-hour weeks at a hospital in Baton Rouge, fighting to help save lives during the virus outbreak.
She was not about to let Covid-19 stop her from marrying the love of her life, but the virus would stop her loved ones from being able to attend in person.
Her sister, Mary Seghers Shaffo, shared online a heartwarming video of Keefer walking down the church aisle beside her father, who wore a black mask to protect himself.
“Their wedding was about to be cancelled due to this virus,” Shaffo captioned the video, also tagging actor John Krasinski.
Though their honeymoon and reception were cancelled, it is clear the kind gesture meant a lot to the bride, who smiled tearfully at the pew photos as she walked towards her soon-to-be husband, Mel Keefer.
“I turned around and saw all the pictures on the pews and immediately started crying,” Clare told WAFB-TV.
“It was very sweet.”
To make matters even sweeter, many of their friends and family showed up in their cars, parked in the parking lot, awaiting their debut walk as a couple.
“Whoever could show up and were waiting for us to walk out,” Mel said.
“They were in their cars and honking the horns when we came out.”
While they would have loved to have everyone there in person, in the church, the circumstances made their day even better than they could have imagined.
“It ended up kind of being more beautiful in a way, all the extra love we got,” Mel said.
“It was really sweet, all the extra surprises.”
However, some were of the opinion that our local culture is yet to adapt to the new norm as most people in the rural areas especially the ‘gogos’ and ‘tetes’ still believe that it is a Western culture practice.
“I am still yet to understand this system. We grew up uniting and celebrating as a family, now we are only told we should not come to the wedding.
“I know about the situation but why can’t they have us tested first then we sanitise and attend weddings. We still need to be taught more about this technology because to us it is still unfair,” said 58-year-old Anesu Moyo.
Despite mixed feelings and different experiences the new norm might ignite; it remains a fact that lovers are determined to fight the impediments of Covid-19 to legalise their unions.