Planning a wedding during a pandemic

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Photo by Francesca Schell

It is no surprise that at a school like the University of Dallas, so many students find love. Our courses, shared ideals, and most importantly our Catholic tradition all help us to dwell on the meaning of true love in hopes of finding it.

This year’s senior class has been especially blessed with more than  20 engaged or newly married couples. Though each couple has a unique love story, they share in the fact that UD brought them closer together, whether it be through meeting here or simply in the good of marriage and family values promoted by the university. 

The catch is, these couples face the dilemma of planning a wedding during an unprecedented pandemic.  

Several couples met their freshmen year and formed a friendship that became the foundation for their relationship, including Helen Maier and Peter Burleigh, M-C Scarlett and Noah Lombardozzi, and Grace Campbell and Greg Vanderheiden. 

Maier, a painting major, and Burleigh, a philosophy major, became fast friends their freshman year and “after a few weeks of friendship decided to be more intentional,” Maier and Burleigh said. Though neither of them had planned to date so early on in college, it clearly worked for them.

Scarlett, a Psychology major, and Lombardozzi, a UD alumnus currently in his first year of law school at Baylor University, were placed in three classes together by chance in their freshman year. 

“We like to say we have the registrar to thank for our relationship,” Scarlett joked, “because we started discussing the coursework and studying together over the first semester, which led to our friendship and dating.”

Campbell and Vanderheiden, both Theology majors, became friends their freshman year and chose to take their relationship slowly, waiting until the beginning of their junior year to officially become a couple.

There are also several couples who met and began dating prior to coming to UD, including Camryn Dougherty and Tucker Jameson, Colin Lancaster and Jessica Gjonnes, and Sarah Carter and Marc Laurent.

Dougherty, an Elementary Education major, and Jameson, a Philosophy major, met in high school and have been a couple since 2016. They then joined UD as freshmen in fall 2017.

Lancaster, a UD Politics major, and Gjonnes, a graduate of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, met in 2015 when they were both working at their local Culver’s. 

“Jessie was a trainer and I was a crew member,” Lancaster explained. While Gjonnes initially said no to dating Lancaster, he tried again a few months later and she assented.”We got engaged in 2020, in the same front dining room where Jessie had turned me down [exactly] four years earlier.”

Carter, a Business major, and Laurent, an English major, met in elementary school and began dating just two weeks before coming to UD. 

After speaking with each of the six couples, there seems to be a general consensus that Covid-19 has had little to no effect on the timeline of their weddings, and they count their blessings for that. 

However, there has been some mild difficulty in choosing a location, regulating the number of guests at their weddings, and the question of mask-wearing and travel. 

Vanderheiden and Campbell pushed aside any fear of the unknown about the minor details in their wedding and reception and instead focused on the only certain detail.  

“The most important thing is that we get married – of course we would rather have a big wedding, and we are still hoping for that, but the most important thing is that we get to enter into the everlasting covenant of the sacrament of Matrimony and become husband and wife!” Campbell said.

For couples currently discerning marriage, the newly engaged couples readily gave great advice.

Scarlett and Lombardozzi emphasized the importance of timing when making such a life-altering decision like marriage. 

“Committing your life to someone else is just that: commitment. If you are unsure that you’re ready for that step in your life yet, that is perfectly alright. Talk to your partner about your hesitation and communicate about what your respective timelines look like. Make sure you’re not jumping into marriage just because your friends, your family, or your significant other think it’s a good idea. Until both you and your partner are both overjoyed by and at peace with the decision to get married, you should continue discerning who the right person is and what the right timing is.”

Dougherty and Jameson also emphasized that the thought of marrying your significant other should bring you a sense of peace. Talking to engaged and married couples, learning exactly what marriage is, and praying both with your partner and privately about your future together is a helpful step when discerning marriage. 

Jameson advised, “Imagine your wife fat and old and ugly. Still want to marry them? Get engaged.” 

This light-hearted wisdom of the couple highlights the importance of loving the other person for more than just their external beauty, since that will fade. Dougherty and Jameson advised learning the “good, the bad and the ugly,” about your partner by spending plenty of quality time with them as to fall deeply in love with their soul.

Like Dougherty and Jameson, Maier and Burleigh stressed the importance of quality time. Also be sure to “find someone who complements your personhood. And let God be a part of it!” Maier said.

Sharing in God with your partner is the underlying message of each of the couple’s advice. Lancaster and Gjonnes also acknowledged what makes love the most Christ-like.  

“You’ll only know for sure that you should marry someone if the knowledge of their love for you makes you want to become a better person for them, so that you can better love them. When you’re in a relationship that leads to you taking steps to become a better person for the sake of the person you love, that’s when you know it’s real,” Lancaster said.

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