Finding Love and Planning a Wedding during a Pandemic


Elisa Peregrina, Staff Writer

COVID-19 has made dating harder than it was before. Whether it is meeting someone for the first time or maintaining a relationship through safety restrictions.
Mary Shenoda, a 22-year-old psychology major, got very lucky in terms of finding love through this pandemic, but these times have made it extremely difficult to sustain it.
Shenoda originally transferred from Brookdale in 2017 to Kean University, where she graduated May 2019. She had to take a specific psychology class for a potential job, so she is back at Brookdale for the spring semester.
“You could say this pandemic is the reason I met my, now fiancé, in the first place. I went to Arizona because I had a family member pass away from COVID, and in turn, I met one of my cousins’ friends. You could say we were very fond of each other from the jump.”
“Eventually one thing led to another, and when I came back to Jersey, we texted and Facetimed each other every day, until eventually making it official.”
Shenoda is from Tinton Falls and currently lives in Colts Neck, while her fiancé, Botros Soliman, is from Detroit and lives in Arizona. Being that there is some distance between the two, the pandemic has made it much harder. If not for the pandemic, they would be seeing each other very frequently, but traveling is difficult.
They met in April in Soliman’s hometown of Phoenix, Ariz., where they were introduced through family. The first time they spent alone time together was when he planned their first day to get to know each other. “He took me to Papgo Park in Phoenix where we walked, went hiking, biking, ice cream and ended the day watching movies. There was an instant connection.”
“In order to see each other, we had to go through series of quarantining, COVID tests and more. With both of our jobs and family, it was impossible to keep up. Technology was really what saved the relationship,” Shenoda said.
“Eventually he came to New Jersey for the end of the summer and popped the big question. We are now happily engaged,” she said. He proposed while they were out to dinner in Asbury Park on Sept. 5, just a few months after they first met.
Between possible guest limits for the wedding, getting availability for the venues, shopping for wedding dresses alone – COVID really has made the planning more difficult.
“Pricing has skyrocketed due to so many people making up for cancelations from last year,” Shenoda said. “We weren’t planning for a wedding financially yet – it just happened. I couldn’t even bring anyone to go wedding dress shopping with me because of restrictions. My fiancé has been helping, but I’m alone most of the time because of the travel.”
Both Shenoda and Soliman are of the Coptic Orthodox religion, so following traditions, their wedding celebration will be two days long with a few days of events previous. The wedding will be taking place in New Jersey. The ceremony is on Sept. 4 at St Mina Church in Holmdel and the reception on Sept. 5 at the Merion in Cinnaminson.
“It’s happening so fast because I want to do it right. I can’t move out there without being married and being together is the only option,” Shenoda said. “This pandemic may have led me to my fiancé, but it’s been the hardest thing I have had to do.”
Not only are finances and emotions a big stressor on these two, but the overall health risk. Her fiancé is high risk and so are members of their families. They have no social lives due to fear of getting ill or spreading it. Even when they are together, they can’t do anything a normal couple would want to do.
“We love each other, even if it is such a short time, but if it weren’t for the pandemic, things would be very different. I am uprooting my life for someone I love, yes, but the pandemic has made it emotionally and physically harder.”
They just hope that by the time the wedding comes around, the restrictions from the pandemic have changed to have the wedding capacity they intend.