A Facebook wedding, frantic Jewish mamas - and an ending no-one saw coming.
A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows of the conversations you have at brunch. This is Part 2 of a series. For a recap, click here.
Lockdown was in full swing, and to be honest, its hard to remember exactly how we felt, day in and day out. I think we just have collective trauma blocking and PTSD. I remember parts - setting up my desk, online trivia. Some of it was funny, but mostly I remember feeling frightened. How long would it be? What was happening? Why are they doing this? Is my mum okay?
At this point, both my partner and I were working from home. My role, a career I loved as a copywriter for a finance company, was slowly diminishing. A job that had taken me 250 applications, 49 interviews and 18 months to get pivoted from writing about lavish travel destinations and shopping purchases, to acting as an online agent for customers complaining about access to their funds and calling me a c*nt at 9am, day in day out.
The wedding I had dreamt off - yes, I'm a girly girl who fantasised about a wedding, get over it - was canned four weeks before showtime. And honestly - it was going to be the coolest wedding, you guys.
The ceremony was in a cinema, showcasing our (well, my) love for all things movies. My dress was handmade from a drawing I had created. My best friend was flying in from London as my bridesmaid. My dad finally got a new suit that wasn't from an op-shop in the 1970s to walk me down the aisle. Our live band was going to play our favourites, our Greek caterer was going to serve a kilo of meat per person (I know, I can't), our tables were movie-themed, we had a luxurious hotel stay booked after a night of eating, dancing, and lots of love, and then, we were off to Hawaii!
But then... you know...
Just get married, people said. Just elope, they go. But those people don't get us as a couple - we LOVE a party! We wanted to be married yes, but we also wanted a WEDDING!
As it was cancelled only four weeks beforehand and a pandemic was, you know... unprecedented is an understatement... lots of suppliers didn't know how to handle it.
Monies got tied up (and still are) with the band, the venue, the dressmaker, the florist, the car supplier. Our photographer ran off with the funds. The airline gave us credit instead of a refund. We were thousands of dollars in limbo. I was also annoyed - like, had I been doing a low calorie diet and exercise for NOTHING? What a waste.
I chastised my partner for not proposing earlier, as obviously, this would have meant an earlier wedding. We both so wanted to be married. By now, we had been together five years. We didn't want to wait however much longer (also, the date was inscribed on his ring. No refunds). We wanted to say and know that we had been married since 2020. We were ready.
We floated the idea of a much smaller wedding, as was the rules at the time. We almost went ahead - we were going to have a ceremony and some drinks with our immediate family and wedding party at my in-laws house on the coast. It wasn't my dream (where are the cameras and rolling movie tape?) but it was so kind of them, and would still be a beautiful way to celebrate in nature.
Then the harsher restrictions came in - no gatherings, no parties, no weddings. Cue the second cancellation, the emails, the phone calls, the disappointment.
We thought about it and decided, well, they can kick us out of our wedding venue, they can kick us out of a public garden, they can kick us out of your parents place... but they can't kick us out of our own house.
So we got married at home.
April 18, 2020: The Facebook Wedding
On April 18th, 2020, I got married on Facebook.
Not words one exactly dreams of or imagines writing, but this was 2020, we also all watched a Tiger King go to jail for plotting a murder and ran home from a 7-11 so we wouldn't miss 8pm curfew. It was a weird-af time.
I can't even remember how we got the idea for an online wedding, but once we did, it was full steam ahead. I got a white dress from a vintage shop. My partner wore a nice suit, we saved our real wedding outfits for the Big Day, not knowing when that would be. We were lucky that my mum doubles as a celebrant, so would marry us via video link. My sister was our 'bubble buddy' and was there to film.
Considering my job had now become answering irate online messages from customers wanting a break on their interest rates, I had the time to make some online videos for the ceremony. We invited everyone to view on a new thing called 'Facebook Live,' and to dress up at home with champagne to watch on their screens as if they were attending IRL for a 6:00pm start.
The day of the Facebook Wedding (which was also the date of the real wedding) we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the beautiful packages we kept receiving all day from friends and family. Champagne, flowers, balloons, care packages - it was all so unexpected, but also so beautiful. Plus, it really set the scene - our stage was gonna be bare af otherwise.
We got ready for our entrance at 5.58pm.
At 6:00pm on the dot, our internet stopped working.
I had a MELTDOWN.
As did everyone else, it seems. I tried writing on my Facebook wall about it from my phone, but it got lost in a sea of messages, largely from our parents' boomer friends and my old Jewish relatives typing, 'WHERE IS THE LIVEBOOK? WHY CAN I NOT MYFACE? HAVE I MISSED THE WEDDING? WHERE IS JESSICA? WHAT IS YOUR DAUGHTER DOING? IS THE LAWYER JEWISH? WHEN IS THE BRISS? WHY HASN'T SHE INVITED ME TO WEDFACE?' etc.
I also received many phone calls. Can I stress - even if a bride is in her lounge room, on Facebook, in an op-shop dress.. she is STILL THE BRIDE AND DON'T FKN CALL ME, EVER.
Luckily, my partner randomly let out some secret tech skills and 15 minutes later, we were underway. You can watch some of it here.
While it wasn't the Big Day, it actually was really moving and fun. After the ceremony, we spent the night drinking champagne and eating cheese that wasn't from Aldi, and calling around on Zoom to all our friends' group chats like going around the tables at a wedding. We danced, we laughed, we re-watched the wedding with red faces, and celebrated being (technically) married in spirit.
Even though it wasn't legal (as you need witnesses present and there was no paperwork), we felt, and still feel, married. We knew the real Big Day would come around. In a few months, we thought.
The 'Facebook wedding' or 'Online wedding' gave other people something to watch. People I hadn't spoken to since high school messaged asking if it was okay if they tuned in. Mate, it's lockdown, there was nothing to do - I would have watched a doco on drywall. We even got a spread in The Herald Sun, a spot on Fox FM's Hughesy and Ed Show, and on ABC Radio with Virginia Trioli:
Not me over the moon about being famous. Images: Supplied.
I was thrilled. Could I quit my job? I mean, we were famous now. I excitedly emailed a copy of our article to my boss, to which he replied, "Yep thanks Jess, got it the first time."
But look. We needed momentum to keep the fame train going. Feet pics? A sex tape? Unfortunately, my new 'husband' was not so thrilled, and wanted to turn down future opportunities for D-grade status, like another newspaper interview and an invite to roleplay as a couple getting married at the premiere of The Wedding Singer Musical. My influencer dreams were dashed.
Back to work!
While the wedding was a high, with 300 people from around the globe watching, April 2020 was also a very difficult time.
Melbourne, especially, had plunged into an extremely hard 'Stage Four Lockdown'. We were only legally allowed to leave our homes for four reasons - work/school, medical, exercise, and supplies. You couldn't leave your 5km radius, go out after 8:00pm, hang out with more than one other person or have anyone over. Absolutely everything but essential services were shut. I couldn't see people like my mum, who lived 45 minutes away. Our Hawaii honeymoon was obviously over, as were trips for many people. Over the whole Covid period, we booked and cancelled seven or eight different holidays in total and racked up a small fortune in (budget) airline credits.
Friends were getting put on indefinite leave, losing jobs, cancelling birthdays and celebrations and plans for the future. We felt that we were okay - after all, we had our wedding.
Then, in mid-2020, my dad gave me a call.
"Hi beautiful. Look - it's not good. I've just been told I have liver cancer. And it's terminal."
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