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Love is in the air – and so is a deadly virus. But Goan brides and grooms remain optimistic as they say ‘I do’ to virtual weddings and ‘mini-monies’

ANNA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ

For many couples with a 2020 wedding date, the pandemic popped the question: to cancel or not to cancel? And while some couples consider cancellation and postponement, others are choosing to celebrate love by embracing the new ‘I do’.

Shane Fernandes and his wife Meena had initially planned to walk down the aisle in the month of April. But with their special day stolen by a deadly virus, they decided to wait until the situation improved. And when things didn’t improve, they decided that they couldn’t wait any longer and set the date to May 25. But having a wedding during the lockdown meant a big fat Goan wedding was out of the question. And that meant trimming the guest list. “As per the directives of the government, we had to limit the number of guests to just fifty people. We couldn’t invite our neighbours, friends and much of our relatives due to the limit. And of course, some of our family members settled abroad couldn’t come down for the wedding due to travel restrictions,” reveals the Margao-based musician adding that a virtual screening of the wedding was held for those who couldn’t make it.

And without a shred of regret of what could have been, he says: “The best part of having a small wedding was cost saving. Secondly, we were stress free as we entered the final league of our marriage preparation. On the whole, I would say we really enjoyed the day as it was a whole different experience getting married in the lockdown. Some things just happen for the best,” he adds.

Similarly, refusing to let the wedding bells be silenced by the pandemic, Lalan Palyekar and Girish Haldankar chose to have a June wedding. “We had certain future plans which we did not want disrupted due to the pandemic, so we decided to hold the wedding as scheduled,” says Palyekar.

Due to the COVID-19 regulations however, the Ponda couple had to settle for a small wedding with not more than 25 guests per family. Finding a wedding hall and caterer also proved to be a challenge. “We could not invite our family members residing out of Goa and abroad. Blessings of elders above the age of 60 years were missed. There was no band-baaja-baaraat which is an essential traditional element of any Hindu wedding. Children also could not attend the wedding,” she says, adding that wedding planning was stressful as the safety of guests was a major concern.

But despite the circumstances and since it was the first wedding in the family, excitement was at its peak, she says. “This pandemic made us realise that a small wedding can bring just as much happiness. What matters is being around your loved ones. Our wedding was simple yet memorable,” she says.

And when wedding plans turned awry for Old Goa-based visual designer Sneha Suresh, a new venue had to be sought. The couple had originally planned to have the wedding in Chennai and had completed all bookings by March. But when the pandemic reached this side of the globe, it felt like every day posed a new challenge and as the wedding month drew near it seemed increasingly impossible to go ahead with plans of having a full-fledged wedding in Chennai, reveals Suresh. “Given the uncertainty of the times we’re living in and since it was – and still is – hard to tell when all this will end we decided to stick to the dates and have an intimate wedding while abiding by the rules which permitted up to 50 guests,” she says.

The couple, therefore, decided to shift their wedding venue to Bengaluru where the groom Prashant Sriram is based, “so that only one family would have to travel and undergo the 14 days of home quarantine”. “This phase was chaotic. Initiating the process of cancelling our Chennai bookings and making fresh bookings in Bengaluru almost felt like a gamble. We were unsure of how things were going to work out even 15 days prior to the wedding date. We all had to prepare for the worst while just hoping for the best – all of this while staying safe and keeping in mind that our number one priority was the health of our near and dear ones and all those who were going to be a part of our big day!” she says.

With a trimmed guest list and high-risk guests who couldn’t attend, they realised that technology could bridge the gap and bring people to the party – virtually. While 50 guests were invited to the wedding, 100 were invited to the virtual wedding on Zoom and 1000 guests to the live streaming of the wedding on YouTube.

In lieu of a sangeet and a reception at a wedding hall, the couple tied the knot on August 28 in Bengaluru with a simple temple ceremony. “Having the company of close ones around you gives you a sense of calm and cheer that keeps one going through the day. The interesting fact is, both of us imagined having a temple wedding but it wasn’t practical (pre-COVID) since we were supposed to have many guests. However, the will of providence had its way and everything just came together in the end like notes of a song that sync in perfect harmony,” she says.

Emmie de Abreu and her groom-to-be Joshua Silveira, on the other hand, had plans to get hitched sometime in the future but decided to pull their date forward because of all the uncertainties around. “A wedding is about two people coming together and celebrating love and postponing the wedding would simply mean adding to the uncertainty,” says Abreu.

It’s important to start a life together sooner than later. Also, we always wanted to have something unique and this was it,” she says.

For the bride and groom-to-be, this meant adjusting their wedding to fit the new normal. “Trimming down the guest list, doing away with a full-fledged reception, ensuring social distancing norms are being followed, and not to forget, custom-made masks! It’s like going back to the eighteenth-century era where weddings were a matter of just the two families,” adds the Porvorim-based research associate.

And having a small and intimate wedding has its pros as well as its cons. “You save a lot that can help in building your future. The planning is a lot less stressful. And it ensures that you realise who are the people who mean the most to you. But of course, some people may feel left out. At the same time it could be risky for those invited as well,” she says adding that 35 guests have been invited to the nuptials to be held in late September, while 16 relatives in their youth have been invited to the wedding dinner.

Listing the protocol to be followed on her big day, the bride-to-be says: “Masks are to be worn at all times, sanitisers to be used, safe distance to be maintained, and physically wishing the bridal couple to be avoided.” A virtual platform for the nuptials has also been created to ensure that all their loved ones can join in and be a part of their journey. For the happy couple, it will indeed be a memory to love and to cherish.