Engaged students face varying challenges during pandemic

Michelle & Russel - Engagement Session

Written by Victoria Mills

Many of Southern’s students have heard the endearing term “Southern Matrimony College” at least once from family members, professors or other students. Southern is known and celebrated for bringing couples together. How is the university living up to its nickname during the pandemic?

Sophomore general studies major Elise VanderWaal and senior computer science major Timothy Morgan met at Camp Au Sable in Grayling, Michigan, but this is their second year attending Southern together. They got engaged Dec. 27, 2020, and are planning on getting married Sept. 19. Both VanderWaal and Morgan are planning to graduate in May, VanderWaal with her associate’s and Morgan with his bachelor’s. 

“We wanted to make sure we both had our degrees before getting married,” Morgan said.

Once married, they plan on settling in Virginia, and VanderWaal will eventually continue with her bachelor’s degree online.

COVID-19 has impacted the two of them and their wedding plans quite a bit, the biggest challenges coming associated with finalizing their guest list. 

“Our guest list got up to almost 300. … We really wanted all of our friends and family,” VanderWaal said.

The wedding venue contacted the couple recently and said that they would have to cut the list down to 120 or below. 

“It was rough, but hopefully by September they’ll lift some of those [restrictions] at least,” VanderWaal said. 

Junior music education major Isaac Fortunato and his fiancé Amy Dawson met in 2014, got engaged Jan. 24, 2021, and are planning on getting married May 23. Fortunato said COVID-19 has impacted the two of them quite a bit. 

“Initially, we were considering just going to the courthouse but then decided we’d do an actual wedding,” Fortunato said. “The hardest part is that Amy is from Australia, and so [her] family won’t be able to make it due to Australia’s strict travel for their citizens.”

The couple also had to change their honeymoon plans. 

“We planned on honeymooning in the Bahamas, but we’ll have to stick to the States due to COVID-19 procedures at Amy’s job,” Furtunato said.

Senior nursing major Michelle Hebard and former Southern student Russel McCurdy first noticed each other in I Cantori, but they didn’t officially meet until they played a game of pool together in the Student Center. They got engaged on July 2, 2020.

The date for their wedding is June 20. After the wedding, they plan to stick close to Southern’s campus until Hebard graduates in December. McCurdy said they plan to move to the Murfreesboro area after the graduation, and he plans to continue his education there.

In reference to COVID-19, McCurdy said, “It really hasn’t affected our future plans at all … unless the school I’m going to be attending decides to cut down on attendance.” 

McCurdy and Hebard said they are grateful that the COVID-19 hasn’t impacted them much.

“[COVID-19] didn’t change when we got married,” Hebard said. “It didn’t change our relationship track.”

Isaac Fortunato and Amy Dawson
Elise VanderWaal and Timothy Morgan
Russel McCurdy and Michelle Hebard

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