They got married during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, these Long Island couples are looking at Valentine's Day as another opportunity to savor their relationships in simple ways during an extraordinary time.
Arjun Shah, 31, and Seema Uppal-Shah, 32, of Syosset, are focused on the small things to keep their love strong.
And Andrew Beer, 30, and Jamie Beer, 31, of Calverton, believe working together is the key to overcoming any obstacle.
Each couple's weddings were drastically pared back because of the pandemic. And their lives as newlyweds have not gone exactly according to plan. Yet they are reveling in married life.
The Shahs married May 16.
"So, we had a big old Indian wedding planned with 500 people," Arjun said. "It was going to be a weeklong thing with the final two nights and days at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge. But obviously that didn’t happen."
Instead, they married in the backyard of Seema's parents' Dix Hills home with nine people present, including the bride and groom. Added Seema: "And my sister was in Dallas and she couldn’t make it, so she sent out a cardboard cutout" of herself, her husband and their two children.
The Beers had to drastically curtail their wedding ceremony on Oct. 16. "Like most couples, we had to postpone the larger party. We were able to have a small, intimate ceremony at my aunt’s condo in Aquebogue," Jamie said. "We had probably about 16 or 17 people."
For Andrew, "not being able to travel has been a little disappointing." That meant substituting a honeymoon at Walt Disney World in Florida for Lake George in upstate New York, which Jamie said turned out to be "beautiful."
Andrew indicated he was taking things in stride. "We came to the acceptance that we feel better trying to be safe than doing the travel," he said.
So, nine months into the Shahs' marriage, the couple is looking at Valentine's Day not as some obligatory day that love messages must be sent, but rather a continuation of their routine of setting aside some time for themselves and nestling into what is important.
Arjun noted that while the pandemic has meant isolation for many, that has not been the case for them. "It's obviously been much different than we imagined because we had plans to travel, to spend time together away from our family," he said. "But since we got married, we’ve kind of been in a bubble with just our family."
He and Seema live with his mother and two siblings who left New York City to work from home because there is more space. "So it’s been a lot of family, [and] we haven’t got too much time to ourselves," Arjun said.
The couple makes it a point to carve out some space for themselves, as they will Sunday on Valentine's Day.
"One thing we’ve learned," Seema said, is to take that time. "Whether it’s grabbing a sandwich from the deli and sitting in front of the beach in the parking lot, or it’s wearing … layers and sitting outside somewhere. But we definitely have taken that time for ourselves …"
On Valentine's Day, which has lost some of its luster for Arjun since his father died three years ago on Feb. 13, the couple will have brunch with family. Later, they plan to share a bottle of wine, alone.
"It's joyful when we sit together and eat, even if someone else is at the table, just sitting next to each other knowing that we both waited for each other, I think brings joy," Seema said.
This Valentine's Day, Jamie said: "I am going to cook my husband a nice romantic Italian dinner … Even if it wasn’t the pandemic, we still wouldn’t go out because we know it would crazy," citing the bustle on Valentine's Day in a normal year.
For Jamie, there are lessons from the pandemic that can inform her marriage. "Just take one day at a time and do not stress about it. At the end of the day, no matter [whether] it was a big extravagant wedding or a justice of the peace at the courthouse, you're still getting married to the one person you're in love with," she said. Being able work things out together, she said, will no doubt help.
"I agree with Jamie," Andrew said. "I see it as, if you truly love the person, you do whatever it takes to make sure it works."