Directly behind her sat Mom and Dad; she beaming proudly and holding a flower while he stared painfully in a stiffly ironed barong. Front-and-center, clutched close to her bosom where one might expect a rose, Maryneil Guarte, the soon-to-be new wife, held tightly onto… wait… a cell phone?
Say hello to what may soon become the new normal; courtship and marriage courtesy of Zoom.
This wasn’t exactly the wedding she had planned. Guarte, 24, met her now-husband, 23-year-old Nyuim White, last year the same way many transnational couples meet these days; on an Internet dating site called Filipino Cupid. “He was just so kind,” she recalls, “he really understands me.”
Like most Fil Am couples, they chatted, wrote, and zoomed until they fell in love. Unlike most until recently, however, their romance got rudely interrupted by the humorless COVID pandemic.
It all happened so quickly they hardly knew what hit them. Guarte invited White, a roofer from Marietta, Georgia, USA, to attend a family reunion in her hometown of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur. The potential husband—a fan of the popular TV series “90 Day Fiancé”—quickly bought a ticket. Then the pandemic hit, the Philippines closed its borders and zoom!, the rest you can probably imagine.
Though they had yet to meet in person, White proposed to her late last year. At first Guarte turned him down, wishing to avoid what she calls a “Tik Tok” wedding. But as the months dragged on with no end to the lockdowns in sight, she suffered a change of heart.
There’s only one jurisdiction in America—and perhaps the entire world—that performs legal marriages online and that’s Utah County, Utah. The rules are simple; the bride and groom can be anywhere, either together or apart, as long as the officiating officer has both feet firmly planted in Utah.
And so it came to pass on a recent afternoon (or wee-early morning depending on your geographic perspective) that Maryneil and Nyuim became Mr. and Mrs. White as dozens of eyeballs watched from half as many screens. It was 1 p.m. in Utah, 3 p.m. in Georgia, and 3 a.m. in Cantilan.
“It felt kind of weird,” Maryneil now admits. “You’re talking, but you can’t hear because there are lots of people in the background. Our connection was bad, but I was too scared to ask them to repeat; it was really very funny.”
Yet love always finds a way, and so they got the deed done. Nyuim, who now qualifies for an entry visa based on his marriage to a Philippine citizen, plans his first-ever visit to the Philippines in December. “I can’t hug him at the airport because he needs to be quarantined for 10 days in a hotel,” Maryneil laments, “but I will try to wave.”
Eventually, she says—when the pandemic becomes history—she hopes to emigrate to America.
But there was one last burning question just begging for an answer; what, exactly, did they do upon hearing those fateful last words: “you may now kiss the bride”?
Oh, that’s easy, Maryneil replied, “We threw flying kisses.”
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David Haldane’s latest book is a short-story collection called “Jenny on the Street.” An award-winning American journalist, author, and broadcaster, he divides his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.