The testimony of John and Debbie Limcangco
As told to Nicole Gusto
Weddings are joyous occasions. For a woman, it is the manifestation of her dreams and fairytale happy endings. Weddings celebrate the promise of love, setting it in a grand display with cherished friends and family.
Unfortunately, the pandemic changed the face of weddings.
For John and Debbie Limcangco, marrying during the pandemic became a whirlwind experience full of disappointments, heartache, and surprising twists. But as they banked on God’s grace, their wedding became a miracle, a testimony forged from the difficulties of the national lockdowns.
The Pandemic Postpones the Dream Wedding
“When John proposed in March 2020, the pandemic wasn’t serious yet.” Debbie shared. “On the night we got engaged, Duterte announced that there would be a lockdown.”
The couple thought that it wouldn’t be a huge problem. They still had time since they were planning to get married in a year. But the pandemic continued, and quarantine measures stayed. Weeks turned into long months. Soon, a year was about to pass since the proposal, making the couple feel frustrated. The pandemic wasn’t ending. By this time, financial constraints added to their challenges.
“I couldn’t prepare funds for the wedding,” John shared. “In the first months of the lockdown, my savings were spent on necessities and food. What made it even harder was that we didn’t see each other for months.”
Debbie was from Quezon City, while John was from Bulacan. Checkpoints were strict, and it would take around six months before the couple could physically see each other.
“Inisip ko na lang na at least nabigay ko na yung singsing (At least, I was able to give her the ring),” John said, remembering his worries.
Planning for the Pandemic Wedding
Fortunately, the couple persevered, and after months of waiting, they finally decided to plan the wedding seriously despite the national circumstances. However, weighing dreams against the practicality of a celebration became a struggle.
“We wanted a big wedding, but we couldn’t have that,” Debbie shared.
“Options and resources were limited,” John said. “Guests and venue options were limited; planning was limited in all aspects.”
It came to a point when the groom was willing to splurge all his savings for a grander wedding, so that his fiancee wouldn’t be disappointed.
But expectations had to be trimmed down.
Surrendering the Dream to God
Debbie shared, “I prayed to God.Habang tumatagal [yung pandemic], tinatanong ko kay God na kung ang gusto ko ba ang mag goglorify sa Kaniya, kasi lahat ng gusto ko ay hindi nangyayari. (As the pandemic continued, I asked God if the wedding dream I had in mind was going to glorify him; if that’s what he wanted. I wondered because all the things I wanted for the wedding wasn’t happening.)”
Debbie decided to surrender her wedding dreams to God. She prayed that He would be the One to make the celebration come to pass in His own way–in a way that would bring glory to Him.
Originally, the couple intended to marry in December 2021, but after a pamamanhikan with their families, it was decided that they would marry in April 2021. They realized that circumstances could change, and it would be better to marry as soon as possible. When they received the confirmation from their family members to wed earlier, the couple experienced peace.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases shot up once more in the summer of 2021, plunging the nation into another season of stricter quarantine measures.
They had already gotten a gown, confirmed a guest list, paid a venue, and booked suppliers for the April wedding. Then less than two weeks before their date, the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine was enforced. Their original guest list numbering to 30 was not allowed. Only 10 people at a time were allowed to gather, which meant that the couple could only invite around 8 guests.
“Bayad na lahat (Everything was already paid for).” Debbie shared.” We hoped instead that it would all be better after a month.”
“Lord, bakit ganun (Lord, why is it like this?),” John shared how he prayed to God in desperation. “Akala ko gift mo si Debbie (I thought Debbie was your gift for me). When I prayed for a partner in life, You gave me her. Why is it so hard to be with her?”
They managed to get some refunds from the suppliers, but plans and guest lists had to be adjusted again. For the third time, they were going to change their wedding date, and they had to accept that their wedding would be whittled down to an even smaller celebration.
“Willing na ako mag-civil wedding (I was already willing to just have a civil wedding). Anything to be with her,” John said.
The couple almost fought. The bride wanted to maintain a standard—at least to have a beautiful wedding celebration they could be proud of. Meanwhile, the groom admitted that he became too practical, only prioritizing a successful union.
The couple managed to resolve these issues by meeting halfway. They decided to make a compromise on their individual expectations.
As Debbie surrendered her wedding dreams to God, she decided to be content. Meanwhile, John decided to trust in God’s timing and provision.
“Stepping out in faith became a deeper meaning for me,” said John as he surrendered to God’s guidance.
God’s Blessing in the Midst of Postponements
Despite the many roadblocks, the couple recognized God’s redeeming hand in the details. What turned out to be a disappointing time became an occasion lined with silver linings outweighing the heartache of postponed dreams.
“We wanted an indoor air-conditioned wedding, but because of the restrictions, we moved to an al fresco venue from the same venue,” Debbie shared.
It turned out that the garden setting was more beautiful than the indoor area they first wanted.
As the busy bride coordinated with her suppliers and wedding guests, John was working on finding a suitable place where they could live. Despite the financial constraints brought about by the pandemic, miracles occurred.
“Someone gifted us with a car,” John said. The couple only had to pay for mortgages, but they were so happy they could move around more independently.
Originally, John found an apartment in Sucat, but because they suddenly had a car, parking expenses forced him to scout for another place. A business project opened in Bulacan, the groom’s home province, and so they looked for a house there.
They drove around subdivisions, looking for available homes. At the end of the day, Debbie urged John if they could check out one last house. “Isa pa (One more),” Debbie said. “Tignan lang natin (Let’s look at the last house).”
The last house they saw was spacious, clean, and it had a garage. Sadly, the rent per month was more than what they could afford.
After meeting with the owner of the house, they drove away disappointed once more.
But their cell phone suddenly rang. The owner of the house was calling them!
“Tawaran niyo ako (Bargain the rent with me),” the owner of the house said. Apparently, he liked the couple very much. “Kunin niyo na. Mas gusto ko na kayo ang makakakuha. (Please rent from me. I’d prefer to have tenants like you than entrust this house to someone else.)”
The owner knew that we were just about to get married, and that Debbie was an executive producer, while John was a pastor.
Despite the odds, the Lord had provided a car and a home for the couple.
The Wedding Day
Finally, the couple’s wedding day fell on the day after the bride’s birthday on May 9, 2021.
The couple was surprised. Beautiful flowers and decorations transformed the intimate garden venue. Ninongs, ninangs, a few friends, and immediate family members came. The couple only had 20 on-site guests, but God Himself filled their ceremony, making it a gorgeous event they
could be proud of.
Debbie said, “It was as if God was confirming that I was marrying the right person. His provision and guidance followed us.”Every good and perfect gift really does come from Him.”
John agreed, “God is the great provider. We didn’t have a budget for a wedding, but everything was paid for. God made that day very beautiful. We cannot underestimate God’s grace. You can always settle for ‘okay lang’, but God will give you something that will wow you—something amazing for you.”
The stressful season of wedding planning became a glowing testimony of God’s faithfulness. Despite the challenges, God can still make weddings a grand display of His love–as long as He is at the center of it.
For Debbie and John, surrendering their expectations allowed God to paint His own version of what the “best” wedding could be.
Lessons and Tips for Couples Marrying in the Pandemic
When planning for a wedding in a pandemic, these tips from John and Debbie may prove to be helpful and encouraging:
1. Be transparent with the Lord. Don’t be afraid to be honest with Him. Tell Him
your fears and disappointments. He listens. When you give Him all your worries, you’ll realize that He’s listening, even though you might think that He doesn’t.
2. Pray about all the details—down to the smallest details of planning a wedding. Talk to God about the suppliers you’re considering, because He can lead you to the right ones.
3. Join online groups for brides. You can filter the quality and the budget of available suppliers, but don’t overthink the details because you’ll just be frustrated.
4. Limit the guests to the important people whom you’d want as witnesses for your wedding.
1. Converse with your bride and have open lines of communication regarding the wedding plans. Honor the fact that she wants a beautiful wedding. Every man’s dream should be to see his wife happy on her wedding day.
2. You’ll realize that “putting God in the center of a relationship” holds a new
meaning. He must be involved in every decision you both make. If He is in all the details, you can never go wrong.
3. It’s hard to plan a wedding; it’s like doing a thesis. You can get through it as long as you rely on God. Malalagpasan mo rin yung mga challenges. (You’ll also get through the challenges.) You’ll realize that God is real and that He is with you.
4. It’s very comfortable to live with one’s parents as a new couple, but if you obey
God’s command to “leave and cleave”, God will take care of you. Follow His command to build your own home together. Siya bahala sa ‘yo. (He has you in His hands.)