When Amanda Liu Chang and Jia Shihan grow old, they can tell their family members of the time they got married in the middle of a pandemic, Liu having to trudge with her wedding dress through the snow.
The story began on 19 March when the couple awoke in their respective Tangshan city apartments in China’s Hebei province, looking forward to formalising their three-year romance with family and friends. But unknown to them, authorities had locked down Jia’s gated neighbourhood overnight, banning all residents from leaving, after some had tested positive for Covid-19.
In keeping with custom, Jia had planned to pick up his fiance from her home at 6am.
“When I tried to go outside our neighbourhood, our guard said we can’t go out at this time, that we’re isolated,” Jia told the Guardian. He phoned Liu with the bad news.
“At that second I knew our wedding and everything could not be held. So I decided if he cannot get out I will come for him,” Liu says.
She gathered her dress, shoes, makeup and other belongings. In a thick red coat, white sneakers and laden with bags, Liu jogged the three blocks to his community. It had snowed overnight, and temperatures had dropped to -6C. But when she arrived the guards were confused. Lockdowns were coming suddenly, amid China’s worst outbreak of the pandemic, and the guards didn’t seem to know the rules of this one. Eventually they told Liu she could come in but then she wouldn’t be allowed out again until the lockdown lifted.
“Of course I wanted to come in. The guard unlocked the door and let me in, and I ran into Jia’s arms,” she said.
The couple decided to push on with their plan to get married. A neighbour helped Liu with her hair and makeup, but halfway through they were ordered to get a PCR test. They complied, finished getting ready and the couple held a small ceremony inside Jia’s apartment. A neighbouring aunt acted as officiant, while Jia’s parents – who had been staying with him – looked on as witnesses.
“My mum and family were in my home because they didn’t know the policy if they go outside,” says Liu. “It’s OK … My mum likes him, she thinks he is a very good son-in-law.”
Amanda Liu Chang and Jia Shihan got married in lockdown
The couple were napping after the festivities when a relative’s classmate uploaded a video of the day to social media. By the time they woke up they were famous, with hundreds of millions of views and Chinese netizens praising the couple for finding a way through the restrictions to go ahead with their wedding.
As attention built, they filmed themselves answering questions from viewers. “How does this affect our future life?” Jia read from one. “Going viral is just a short-term thing. We still have to go back to our normal life,” Liu answered.
The couple are still locked in the compound. Many of Jia’s family members also live there, and so they’ve been helping to care for Jia’s nine-year-old nephew. They open one wedding gift a day, to keep themselves entertained, and are still fielding interview requests. To keep busy they play Uno and plan future trips. Jia spent four years studying in England and Scotland, and hopes to go back with his wife one day, when they are allowed to travel internationally again.
Liu says she has two messages for people.
“Stay home and do what you should do to help our world become normal quickly. The second thing is, you should go for your love.”
Additional reporting by Xiaoqian Zhu