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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Love in the time of COVID-19

Cynthia Luik and new husband Ryan Rafferty celebrate

Cynthia Luik and new husband Ryan Rafferty celebrate their wedding on March 31 outside Huntington Town Hall Credit: Dorothy Luik

Coronavirus canceled the wedding of Cynthia Luik and Ryan Rafferty twice last month, but on March 31 the pair got their slippery knot tied. 

They did it outside Huntington Town Hall rather than in the Cayman Islands, where they had planned nuptials for May 1. The ceremony was during the couple’s lunch hour rather than mid-vacation. Attendance was limited to the couple’s parents and the groom’s brother, rather than the 30 guests who had planned to travel.

But there was plenty of love and plenty of opportunity to show support with efforts large and small and special gestures.

And there have been plenty of marriages at Huntington Town Hall, as the coronavirus pandemic makes planned ceremonies and receptions unworkable and, for some, staying single unthinkable.

“I’d say I’m doing about three times as many marriage licenses as usual, and twice as many actual weddings,” said Huntington Town Clerk Andy Raia, whose own health scare caused Luik and Rafferty’s second wedding postponement. Raia feared he’d been exposed to the virus, and had to isolate until his test came back clear.

Raia said the crush of marriages is mostly a combination of people who suddenly see getting on their partner’s health insurance as crucial, and couples who, seeing their more traditionally planned events canceled by distancing requirements, want to turn their relationships into marriages as soon as possible. Town hall is closed, so he’s meeting applicants in the parking lot, handling licenses through car windows, wearing gloves and other gear, and doing ceremonies from a ways away.

Luik, a 31-year-old licensed mental health counselor, said getting on the health insurance of Rafferty, 28, a senior analyst for NBC, was a consideration in hurrying the wedding, but far from the primary one. “We’ve been together for 10 years,” Luik said, “and we live together in a house we bought together. Having the wedding we’d planned become impossible was difficult, but being able to get married helped.”

Eventually.

Luik said her mother-in-law started looking into the possibility of a civil ceremony, and set up the March 27 appointment. Luik got excited, then was again crushed when Raia’s health scare led to another cancellation, and was almost afraid to hope when she got her March 31 slot.

But then, suddenly, she was having a wedding, then very much married.

“It was really very special, given the circumstances,” Luik said. “My mother-in-law made a cake [strong on lemon and raspberry] and my mother brought the flowers [white roses].”

And then Luik went back to work, counseling patients racked with anxiety and powerlessness. She says her youngest clients, kids, are not so anxious, and many are glad they don’t have to go to school, but the adults are off-balance, particularly because they don’t know when the crisis will end.

“At first, there was a lot of denial,” Luik said, “but now people seem to be adjusting to the reality. Increasingly it’s the boredom, the stir craziness that they have to contend with.”

Luik’s counsel? 

  • Have a routine and structure in our day-to-day lives.
  • Limit news exposure.
  • Within the constraints of responsible social distancing, get fresh air, sunshine and exercise.
  • Try to live in the moment and not look too far into an uncertain, overwhelming future. 

She’s taking her own advice and not looking too far into the future.

“I haven’t even thought about a honeymoon yet,” Luik said. “I don’t think I want to travel right now.”

As it turned out, she didn’t have to.

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.

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