On Unsha Bakker’s wedding day, the 27-year-old sat in front of her computer, dressed in her mother’s red and gold wedding sari. The sari wasn’t the wedding outfit she had in mind, but neither was her living room as a venue. Her wedding had been planned for July with a venue, vendors, and an imam nearly decided, but the couple had not foreseen the pandemic. Bakker, who lives in Queens and works as a nurse at NYU, did not want to wait. “We were like — if we wait a couple of months for this to die down, who knows who will be affected by the virus?”
Eventually, Bakker and her then-fiancé settled on an idea they’d seen around the internet. What if they held their wedding virtually? Bakker tweezed her own eyebrows and did her own makeup. They decorated their house with hanging flowers and glitzy fabric. Then, they carefully examined each of the 10 wedding guests before they were allowed into the house, checking their temperatures and making sure they weren’t showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
On Saturday night, 70 screens, including that of an officiant from California, tuned into Zoom for their nikkah, the Muslim ceremony. It turned out that a virtual wedding isn’t so different from an off-line wedding. Some people still showed up late. Other older family members forgot to turn off their microphones. “I was trying to see what girls were on the chat,” laughed Rafee Uddin, one of the attendees, who streamed in with a suit on top, shorts on the bottom, and whiskey in hand.
Long after the wedding ended an hour and a half later, participants lingered. Bakker and her husband went screen to screen, meeting their wedding’s attendees, her husband’s extended family in Pakistan, Bakker’s extended family in Bangladesh, college friends, relatives across the United States. “I never knew I could feel so much love from a screen,” Bakker said. “For that one hour, everyone thought the world was normal.”