Sheila Brosnanwoke up Sunday morning thinking about what she would have been doing that day had her bridal shower not been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When her fiancé, Terence Gavin, suggested they take a car ride as a distraction, Brosnan, 35, of Ashburn, Virginia, agreed.
When the couple walked outside their apartment complex, Brosnan said she noticed a group of people gathering outside for a birthday party.
"I even looked at my fiancé and said, 'I hope those people are being socially distant there,'" she recalled. "'I don’t know who they are but I hope they’re following the rules.'"
As Brosnan walked closer, she realized they were her friends -- who surprised her by holding her bridal shower in the parking lot, stationed on blankets and in beach chairs and car trunks safely 6 feet apart from each other.
"I think it’s the nicest thing anyone ever has done," said Brosnan. "I felt really, really loved."
Brosnan, an elementary school librarian, said it also struck her that the friends and colleagues gathered were people she had not seen in more than two weeks, since schools in Virginia closed and people began practicing strict social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus.
"We were far apart but we just kept looking at each other and saying hi," said Brosnan. "It was emotional seeing these faces that I love so much but have not seen in recent weeks."
Brosnan and Gavin were scheduled to wed on June 6, 2020, the weekend of Father's Day, a day they chose as a way to honor their late fathers.
With most of their family and friends coming from New York City, Chicago and New Orleans, three cities hit hard by coronavirus, Brosnan and Gavin decided to postpone their wedding until Nov. 28, 2020, the next date that both their church, Saint Theresa Catholic Church, and reception venue, Belmont Country Club, were available.
"I didn’t realize how emotional it was going to be [to postpone the wedding] and how attached I’d become to that date," Brosnan said. "It was in my heart at that point."
On Saturday, before Brosnan and Gavin had decided to postpone the wedding, Brosnan's friends decided to throw her the surprise bridal shower less than 24 hours later.
"We didn’t want our lovely friend to miss out on traditions because of bad luck timing," said Kerry Ames, who helped organize the shower.
The friends decorated with signs and streamers, created a beach chair throne for Brosnan in the middle of the circle and brought her gifts and coffee and doughnuts.
Brosnan said she's been trying to keep perspective through quarantine and having to reschedule her big day. The shower, she said, was another sign to just keep focusing on the "good stuff."
"That shower, walking out and seeing some of my closest friends, it was like everything is going to be okay because people are good and kind and they take care of each other," she said. "Now I need to pay it forward too."