Adam was the first person Jen had dated where it didn’t sound like a game. “In relationships or past dates, I put on a show,” she says. She had the usual stories she told on first dates and was good at hiding the mess of who she really was. Once Adam got to know her more, she believed, he wouldn’t feel so enamored.
“I to do I know you, ”Adam, now 33, told him. And he didn’t back down. As he remembers now, “I really wanted to stand up for what I was feeling, why it was working and why it made sense to me.”
That was in 2016, years before the covid-19 pandemic wiped out everything from first in-person meetings to weddings of 150 guests. But the story of how Adam and Jen ultimately ended up getting married on a New York City sidewalk is a pandemic love story.
The past year has proven that the perfect first date and getting to know you just don’t go any further. You do not really know someone until you quarantine them. During months. And for couples like Adam and Jen who have planned, postponed and rescheduled their nuptials on multiple occasions, the pandemic has been a crash course in the improvisation that marriage requires.
It’s a lesson the 33-year-old Jen has learned over and over again – she works as a professional bridesmaid. Strangers pay her to be their confidant-meet-marriage coordinator. She sometimes works two weddings in a single weekend, all the while easing family tensions, adjusting to vendors’ slippages, and making sure the bride is well hydrated. She even maintained it for the past year.
Along the way, she’s been an intimate part of celebrations of love and commitment from strangers – and she’s seen all the ways that those promises could come crashing down. Some of her brides changed their mind just hours before their walk down the aisle, while others called her months after their wedding day, saying they had made a mistake.
Before meeting Adam, Jen’s job left her little time to date and plenty of time to wonder if she would be a lifelong bridesmaid who would never make it down the aisle herself. In 2016, she took on the challenge of doing 14 dates in one month. Adam was 15 years old. The moment they met in a cafe on the Irving farm near Manhattan’s Gramercy Park, Jen was too tired for her usual first date. Instead, she came as herself.
“I remember showing him who I was,” Jen recalls. “I’m clumsy. I’m on top.”
After their second date, for example, she tripped and fell outside her apartment building, ripping her jeans and scraping her knee. It all happened after saying goodbye to Adam, but she felt compelled to tell him about it – and send photographic evidence. “I was so excited to let him into my real life and let him see a side of me that I often protect,” Jen says.
His guard down, he was addicted. Jen has written a lot about her personal life and before their first date Adam read everything he could find online. In person, he found her to be authentic, ambitious and adventurous, qualities that he also shares. “It was easy to connect with her,” says Adam.
A year and a half later, they were talking about moving in together. But something was holding Jen back. “I can’t do this,” she told Adam. “I can’t go through this next phase: moving in, getting engaged, getting married, having a child.” So they came up with a plan that would allow them to deepen their relationship. They both worked from home, so they decided to become digital nomads, renting an Airbnb in another city. or borough of New York each month.
It was a taste of the conviviality of 2020. “We would go to a city, we didn’t know anyone there. We were just each other, ”Jen recalls. “And that was awesome.”
In 2019, they stopped traveling and signed a lease in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Several months later, they got engaged and started planning a 170-person wedding for October 2020. Save dates came out in early March and it soon became clear that they had to postpone. They flirted with the idea of fleeing to Los Angeles, one of the cities they had explored during their nomadic phase, but the pandemic nullified that idea as well.
After spending much of the past year waiting to pick a new date and location, one possibility has emerged as significant: March 19, 2021, right outside the cafe where they had their first date exactly five. years earlier. “This pandemic has shown people: you can’t plan. If you wait and wait and wait for the world to give you the okay, you’re going to waste a lot of your life, ”Jen says.
After spending six years as a bridesmaid for over 125 others, Jen had her chance, and she didn’t blow her budget or succumb to cold feet. Instead of a white dress, she wore a gold sequin suit. Adam wore a beige J. Crew suit and his brother officiated. A handful of friends served as witnesses. Family and friends watched Zoom. In all, they spent less than $ 1,000. While they wished their parents could have been there, the couple are planning a wedding reception for when it is safe to meet in large groups again.
Even this wedding professional was thrilled to see the pressure around weddings ease this year. “You don’t have to wear white. You don’t have to have a bouquet. You just need to sign your name on the dotted line, ”Jen says. “So everything else should be what you want and not what the world has convinced you.”
The ceremony, says Adam, “wasn’t about making sure everyone had a good time,” as weddings often are. It was more for the two of them, “a special moment where we signed an article and made it official together”.
Instead of the mega-celebration they first envisioned, the miniature version was enough.