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Opinion We got married in a 53-second ceremony in a conference room. It was joyful.

Eric Althoff and Victoria Cooper married in a civil ceremony in Northern Virginia on March 27. (Lindsey Dean Smith)

Eric Althoff is a member of the Post Opinions staff.

Decked out in top hat, tails and tap shoes — and with a stiff drink or two for courage — I proposed to Victoria that rainy Baltimore night by singing and dancing to Cole Porter’s “It’s De-Lovely.” We chose May 9, 2020 — two long years away — and my New Jersey hometown for the ceremony.

We had it all planned: a Bentley to chauffeur us, an ensemble for prelude music, a groovy cover band for the reception. Suits and dresses bought. Invitations sent.

Then came covid-19.

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

By March 15, it was clear we had a problem. If air travel from Britain became impossible, could we really go ahead without Victoria’s parents? Soon other guests politely dropped out. Old military friends — including one of my groomsmen — were forbidden by the Pentagon to travel. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) decreed gatherings of 50 or more verboten in my home state.

Covid-19 is forcing all of us to make the best of what we still have — and to look after our well-being as never before. The decision pretty clearly having been made for us, we improvised. Within days of postponing our big day, Victoria and I decided on a civil ceremony where we live in Northern Virginia.

Cue the processional: After passing a preliminary online health and travel questionnaire from the Alexandria clerk’s office — repeated by a security guard at the courthouse — we were sent to a quiet records office that I’d wager is, in “normal” times, rather busier. The clerk examined our passports, collected the processing fee and wished us well.

It did not, however, provide an officiant, so we made a separate appointment with a local attorney authorized to perform the ceremony.

The Friday morning of our “little big day” dawned sunny and warm, with spring blossoms paradoxically beckoning the homebound to un-isolate. We watched the news and ate breakfast — all so foolishly usual but for our business attire. Our neighbors, Lindsey and Nena, agreed to bear witness — the maximum number allowed for the ceremony. They dressed smartly, too.

Not so the criminal defense attorney who was to marry us. Clearly not due in court anytime soon, he greeted us in jeans and a ratty T-shirt, explaining that his side hustle is officiating weddings when Alexandria’s judges are just too busy (his words, not mine). Pleasantries aside, Victoria and I exchanged vows in his conference room, and he declared us legally wed under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Total ceremony: 53 seconds.

Back at home, with Nena, Lindsey and their dog, Cheubie, we shared a transatlantic champagne toast over Facebook video with our families in Britain and New Jersey, who cheered as my new bride and I together cut a sponge cake she’d baked the night before. My dad asked whether I felt “different” being newly married. We’d lived together for nearly three years, so other than a sense of pride at now being an “honest man,” not especially.

Completing the surreality of the day, I changed and returned to my work laptop. My bride, meanwhile, kept on celebrating with our neighbors.

Only a month back, a seeming lifetime ago, Victoria and I were looking forward to saying “I do” before family and friends, not in some bland conference room standing before a man we’d only just met. But circumstances forced us to adapt, and we’re finding joy where we can — and trying our best to share it. Several people told us that Facebook photos of our impromptu wedding offered a welcome break from covid-19 doom and gloom.

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Other spring weddings were scrapped much faster and more dramatically. Furthermore, we’re fortunate to be healthy and continuing our jobs from home while so many face unemployment. We are trying to siphon off a little bit extra for charitable causes from what we used to spend on commuting, dining out and postponed wedding-day frills. We’re also reaching out to more friends and family, especially those bearing the brunt of the crisis, to offer a virtual ear.

For our one-week anniversary, we shared a bottle of champagne gifted to us — of a variety that typically lives only behind locked glass cases to be seen and not touched by the likes of myself. We felt almost guilty popping that French cork, but we reminded ourselves to instead be grateful.

As difficult as the decision was to push the celebration of our marriage back to 2021, it was the right one. Though Victoria and I are now legally wed, the suit I bought and her champagne-colored dress I’ve still not seen await us. As do the rings, to be exchanged publicly next year.

From then on, we’ll get to celebrate two anniversaries every year.

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Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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