A Pandemic Wedding Story


At the beginning of the year Jason and I set May 30, 2020, as the date for our wedding.  We didn’t want it to be too soon and we wanted it to be special as our two families were becoming one.  It would also allow just enough time to get all the paperwork in order before his retirement date on June 22.  We sent out ‘Save the Date’ cards and started planning.  Since Shortway Brewing Co. was our first date (over a year and a half ago) and our second first date (when I finally got my act together and realized I was in love with him) we thought there would be nowhere more perfect than for us to have our wedding and the reception in the Beer Garden there.  So, we locked it on. 

Jason’s daughter, Akela, and I went to David’s Bridal the last weekend in January just to look. We walked away with a wedding dress and a bridesmaids dress. The invitations were made and they were in addressed envelopes with stamps waiting to be mailed. I even set up a page on Zola.com so that I could manage all the RSVPs.  It wasn’t going to be a large wedding.  We definitely weren’t planning anything crazy or glamorous (we aren’t fancy people).  We just wanted to make sure the kids got to be a part of it.  I was looking forward to Landon walking me down the aisle (more like rock path) to my future husband.  And we wanted to make sure there was good beer and good bbq for our family and friends.  Priorities!  

February flew by and before I knew it, it was March. Just a few short months away Jason and I would be married, Akela would graduate high school, Jason would retire and we would all head up to Wisconsin as one family.

Hello COVID19. 

First came the travel ban for active duty Marines and DOD employees.  Next, schools went into virtual learning mode from home.  Then, companies began putting their non-essential employees on telework status.  Lastly, businesses started to close and the ‘Stay at Home’ order went into effect. 

Because of all this, Jason’s retirement got pushed up to June 15.  Now we were going to have less time to get my name on all the necessary paperwork.  But I was certain we’d be able to get it done.  I made sure my last day of work was May 28th so that I could focus on getting what needed to be done after the wedding.

I realized we might not be able to get an application for a marriage license because of all the closures.  I called the Register of Deeds and they said they were taking it a day at a time and they couldn’t give me any definitive answers.  And we were still more than 60 days out from the wedding (marriage applications are only good for 60 days in North Carolina).  This is the moment I went into panic mode. 

Jason had told me he didn’t care when or how we got married.  He just wanted to be married to me.  So, on the morning of Friday, March 27th (about 1030am), I called the Register of Deeds and asked if I could come in to get a marriage license (just in case).  I had a doctor appointment in New Bern that afternoon so I was already going to be up there.  They made me an appointment at 1230pm.  That was going to be plenty of time before my 2pm appointment.  I called up Jason, told him to get the paperwork he needed and that we were going to get a marriage license. 

While I was rushing to get ready, now that I knew I had to get to the Register of Deeds office in two hours, I thought I would call the Magistrates office to see if they were offering limited services. The Magistrate answered (in a not so friendly way) and told me there was only one office still doing marriages and that they perform them until dark.

Yes!  He said dark… that is NOT helpful for a person who needs an exact time!  I digress.

When I got off the phone with him, I called Jason and said, “let’s get married after my doctor appointment.”  I don’t think he believed me because I was so adamant about waiting until May 30th.  He agreed and said he’d be over soon to pick me up so we could head to New Bern. 

Now I really needed to get ready.  Like, do my make up and do something with my hair. And I did not have a lot of time to do it in.  

I needed two witnesses. I FaceTimed Roxie. We casually chatted for a minute when I asked what she was doing at about 3pm that day (it was already 11am). I asked if she would be my witness and grab Carson (her daughter) because I knew Daniel was at work. Roxie was at a loss for words. She tried saying stuff, but she kept stammering. I wish I could have recorded her reaction. It was priceless. She of course said yes. Then asked me what she should wear. I said “I don’t know” and then she asked “what are you wearing?” CRAP! I hadn’t even thought of that. She asked “What’s Jason wearing?” CRAP again! I didn’t know. I guess I should tell him to wear something nice. I called him, told him to wear jeans and a nice shirt. Easy peasy, right? I FaceTimed Roxie back and told her what Jason and I were going to wear and that I would drop her a pin of where to meet us at for the wedding after my doctor appointment.

Jason and I headed to New Bern.  We got our application. We were hungry.  We went to McDonalds (since we couldn’t go anywhere to sit and eat) and ordered chicken nuggets and sat in the car and ate. 

We arrived about 30 minutes early for my doctor appointment.  We waited at least 15 minutes when the girl behind the desk finally called my name to take me back.  Since Jason and I were the only ones in the waiting room she got a good look at us and said “Awe, you guys look so nice.  Are you doing something after this?”  I casually answered back, “yeah, we might get married.”  Her jaw dropped.  “Are you serious!?” she asked.  Yes. Yes I was.

When my appointment was over we headed straight the Magistrate’s office (and the jail… they are in the same location). Roxie and Carson texted that they were on their way.  When they arrived, Roxie gets out of the car and hands me a bouquet of beautiful hydrangeas (they were the flowers I planned to use for the May 30th wedding).  Then she handed me her nana’s handkerchief (which I totally tucked into my underwear – I didn’t have pockets!) and said I could ‘borrow’ it.  She wrapped blue string around the bouquet (my something blue), she told me Jason was my ‘something new’ and that she was my ‘something old.’  Then she went around to the back of the car and pulled out Shortway Beer from a cooler.  She said it was for the reception after. I was completely suprised. (And impressed at how she was able to pull it all together in such a short time).

Carson, me and Roxie.

It was time.  We all walked to the Magistrate, filled out papers and paid our fee.  He let us do it outside and stood about 20 feet away from us.  Roxie FaceTime her husband Daniel and our friend Kim (who was traveling to Virginia – she stopped on the side of the road to watch) and our simple, short and sweet ceremony began.  We were Mr. and Mrs. Van at approximately 3pm that afternoon. 

The Moment it Became Official.

Afterwards we went down the street to the rest stop, sat on a picnic table and drank our beer. 

Jason and I were still going to have a reception at Shortway on May 30th and I was going to wear my dress and we’d just cut out the ceremony part. We were already married so it didn’t seem necessary.  It was just going to be a celebration with our family and friends. Plan B was a go. 

Today, a month after we got married, we had to make the hard decision to cancel our reception on May 30th. There are still too many unknowns and we’d hate to make a last-minute decision and waste money.

Plan C is now in effect.  Instead of having a reception we are going to have professional pictures taken of our family, all dressed up like we would have been for the wedding on May 30th, and instead of sending out wedding invitations, we’re going to send marriage announcements. 

The pandemic may have forced our hand in changing our wedding plans.  But it definitely didn’t ruin anything.  Our wedding day was absolutely amazing.  My friend rocked it with last-minute surprise planning (which she does best) and made our day even sweeter. 

I married the man of my dreams on March 27th 2020.  It was perfect in every way. 

The Happy Couple. Married on 3/27/20 in New Bern, North Carolina.

Signed,

Mrs. Anne Van

I did it…… Again!

Today, in my cap and gown, wearing honors cords, I received a Bachelor of Science in Management/Marketing. Knowing my friends and family were there to support me and watch me as I received my degree, it was truly one of the most special moments ever. And it wasn’t any less special than when I received my first undergraduate degree 3 years ago.

That’s right – I have two bachelor’s degrees.

My educational journey started the fall after my divorce was final.  I was scared.  REALLY scared.  I was 26 years old.  I lived 6 hours away from my parents.  How was I going to support a 7-year-old with just a high school education? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had a great job. Financially, I was doing OK. But what if there were layoffs one day? What if, down the road, they required a college degree in order to keep my job? I always wanted to go back to school (when I was 18, I didn’t take college very seriously and just wasted a lot of my parent’s money) but I didn’t know if, or how, I could. How was I going to afford it? When would I have the time? 4 years seemed like a LONG time to go to school. I mean, I couldn’t make it during my first attempt, so how was I going to make it now? Well, thanks to an amazingly wonderful boss (and friend and mentor) she encouraged me to register for school. I spent an entire workday figuring out what I needed and applying for financial aid. By the next day, I was accepted into Park University for their online curriculum.

After I got my first semester under my belt, I felt a little better about going back to school. I was getting the swing of things. I was actually enjoying it.

I took 2 classes a semester (which is the max you could take). Since each semester was only 8 weeks, there were 5 semesters a year. So naturally, I went to school year-round with only a week or two of a break between semesters. I worked full time and traveled frequently for my job. All the while, I was balancing being a single mom and going to school. It was hard. I had many late nights of writing papers, doing discussion boards and taking exams. I would take my textbooks everywhere to read whenever I could. There were many baseball practices where Landon would be out on the field and I had a nose in a book on the side lines. I had to plan outings around school and when we went on vacation, I had to make sure the hotel had free wifi. When I traveled for work, I looked forward to long layovers. I would sit on the ground with my laptop in a chair and do as much homework as I could. My carryon bag for all those work trips always consisted of my laptop and books.

I remember one day when I was sitting on the couch writing a paper, Landon sat down next to me and said, “I want to go to college like you so I can stay home.” It crushed my heart. I looked at him and said, “Landon, no you don’t. You want to get good grades in school and get accepted to a good college where you can actually enjoy college life and not have to juggle work, school and family like I am. I’m missing out on a lot. And I don’t want that for you.”

When I walked across the stage the first time, Landon was in the audience.  In fact, he had math end-of-grade testing that day and I reached out to his teacher and said he would be at my graduation and was hoping he could have a make-up day.  She said, “Absolutely!  Seeing you graduate is important.” 

I received my first bachelor’s degree at 32 years old in Social Psychology with a concentration in culture, industry and organization. I achieved what I never thought I would. I was finally done!

Or so I thought. 

A little over a year later I registered to go back to school. I missed it. I was so used to having a routine that involved schoolwork that I didn’t know what to do without it. And plus, I loved learning. So, in the fall of 2017 I was back in school full-time. And loving every minute of it. That is, until I ran out of financial aid and had to start paying for classes out of pocket. That hurt! I could have taken out personal student loans, but I didn’t want to add to my debt. Thank goodness I only had to do it for a few semesters for a total of $7,000.

I wouldn’t change anything about how long my education journey took me. I was able to show Landon the importance of an education at any age. And that right there is priceless. I want to go and get my masters (I love school and learning) but unfortunately, I have to pay back the $65,000 in student loan debt I have, and I have a kid going to college in a few years. It would be selfish for me to take away from him. Maybe one day I will be able to go for my masters. But then again, maybe one day I will pay off my student loans. But I’m thinking at this point, I may die before I actually pay that in full. Either way, I will be paying off student loans for the rest of my life. And it is depressing to think about. Seriously, some days I cry because I think to myself: Was it worth it? Is it worth having to live poor just to pay for two degrees? And when I look over to where I proudly display my diplomas I’m reminded that I am the first person in my immediate family to have earned a bachelor’s degree. And I don’t have just one. I now have two. Then I smile and say to myself – “Damn right it was. It is worth every penny.”

This blog is not meant to be boastful. Rather, it’s meant to show you that even though there are plenty of obstacles thrown in your way on this journey of life, you can still overcome, achieve and accomplish what you put our mind to. For the single parents out there, you can do it! For those who don’t have a support system for encouragement, I’ll be your cheerleader! Whatever the reason, whatever the obstacle, I am here for you.

Simply put:  If I can do it, so can you!