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Getting hitched during a pandemic is tricky business

During the rampaging flu epidemic of 1918, a Jewish couple in Queens “offered themselves up” and were joined in holy matrimony in a cemetery.

The shvartse khasene, or “black wedding,” is an ancient Eastern European tradition. Two-thousand celebrants cheered them on. The idea behind the custom is that God’s attention will be turned by their humility and directed toward the affliction of their fellows. Similar ceremonies happened in Philadelphia and Winnipeg, Manitoba. My thanks to the New York Times for this information.

Every year over two million weddings are performed in the United States, according to statista.com. This pandemic year messed with many well-laid plans, and weddings, the happiest day of many people’s lives, were not left standing. However, where there’s a will to love, there is a way. Whether it means postponing the celebration for a less risky time or making unusual but necessary alterations to the norm, lovebirds will marry.

Two years ago, I wrote an article for Southern Oregon Wine Scene titled, “A Vine Romance.” It highlighted a few local wineries and offered how well-suited they are for romance. I interviewed Rhonda Robertson and Paul Jerkins, a head-over-heels example who experienced their first date at RoxyAnn Winery. At the close of the article, I suggested they might be making a serious commitment before long if the love-train kept chugging. They planned to tie their knot May 30 of this year. They joined countless others in the valley facing off against an invisible foe, and made the decision to postpone their big day on Paul’s birthday. Happy birthday.

“We don’t want to have this negativity dictating our plans and fun party at RoxyAnn,” Rhonda shared recently. “It was an emotional decision for us, but the right one. For us it is important to have a fun celebration with friends and family.”

Everyone knows that even a small wedding requires a lot of planning far in advance. Sidetracking those plans isn’t easy and makes an already frustrating and anxious scene worse.

“We had 72 pounds of pork roast we had already purchased to cook for our taco bar ... yes, we got a bit tired of pulled pork,” Rhonda said.

One of the main interests she and Paul share is music. They enjoy the diverse sounds of a number of local musicians, who just happened to be out of gigs at that time.

She laughed and added, “Thankfully we had a lot of starving musician friends out there who gladly accepted a meal.”

So, Rhonda and Paul share hope eternal and have reset for June 12, 2021, at RoxyAnn, in hopes that life will resemble something close to normal. I plan to drink a toast at their reception, if I’m still on the list.

Other couples are making hard decisions and adjustments. They’re going ahead with plans by having their ceremonies outdoors, separating out guest chairs, inviting fewer people, and having masked servers at the buffet table and bar. Streaming the party online will make it accessible for elderly relatives and those unable to travel far — a great idea anytime. There will be celebrations amid the somber as there have been throughout history’s woes, and joy will be unconfined.

It’s encouraging to witness the enduring respect for the institution of marriage. There are still those who count it an important step for their lives. So important, in fact, that they navigate their way through the waves of change. Heaven knows there are oceans of those in the years ahead. May as well start rowing now.

As to the black wedding putting a stop to the plague, there’s no evidence to support that outcome. But their cemetery wedding story shared space with another item in the Nov. 4, 1918, issue of The Evening World. Two columns over, that headline read, “Influenza Nearing End.” Love conquers all.

Freelance writer Peggy Dover welcomes emails. If I, um, she, doesn’t answer, there’s a glitch, or your subject line reads, “we’re closing your account.” Try peggydover@gmail.com.