(WSYM) — Lauren Hughes and Addie Rivett haven’t had a “normal” first year of engagement, even under the new normal with COVID-19.
The main reason: Hughes lives in Windsor and Rivett lives in Farmington Hills. They were engaged on March 27, 2020, six days after the U.S. border with Canada closed due to COVID-19.
“We’re 27 miles apart, door-to-door, so it was pretty easy for us to always see each other,” Rivett said. “We saw each other pretty regularly, 3-4 times a week.”
Hughes and Rivett had a trip planned to British Columbia, where Hughes was going to propose. COVID-19 changed the plans, and instead, she proposed on the Windsor riverfront.
“It was symbolic because I’m from Windsor, she’s from Michigan, you can see Michigan right across,” Hughes said. “Obviously, it wasn’t beautiful British Columbia, but it was still a really memorable weekend.”
COVID-19 also caused Rivett to lose her job, but that meant she was able to spend the first few months together with Hughes in Canada.
“We were definitely really fortunate. We know a lot of people went a lot longer without seeing each other, so we were very lucky to be on one side of the border together,” Rivett said.
Eventually, she got a new job and that meant having to come back to Michigan and spending time apart. On average, they went a couple of months apart before seeing each other in person again. That meant they had to find unique ways to do things engaged couples normally do in-person.
The two have done FaceTime dates, and most recently on Valentine’s Day, they each cooked a viral TikTok recipe and then did a side-by-side painting.
On top of that, they’re also planning the next steps of their lives, including their wedding and buying a house.
“We’re actually house-hunting right now, so I bring Lauren around on FaceTime with our realtor,” Rivett said. “Basically, wherever we can bring each other along, we do it over FaceTime right now.”
In September, Hughes came to Michigan to pick a wedding venue and they booked a date for their wedding, two years out. Then, Rivett was able to come over to Canada for Christmas due to Canada’s family exemption.
Since the new year, they haven’t seen each other. With Canada’s tightened border restrictions, they’re hopeful to see each other possibly in April.
Those tightened border restrictions make it even harder for Hughes to come to the U.S. to visit. She would have to drive to Toronto, pay for a flight, take a PCR test and then come to the U.S. When returning home, Hughes would have to take two COVID-19 tests, one at the airport and one as part of an at-home test kit, and must book and pay for a 3-night stay in a hotel near the airport where she’d have to quarantine until getting the results from her test.
“So, for Lauren to come for a trip, you’re looking at $3,000 just for Lauren to see her fiancée,” Rivett said.
The two are also navigating an immigration process trying to get a K1 visa for Hughes. That’s a visa for a foreign fiancée to come to the U.S. to get married.
Normally, the couple said, it takes six to nine months from your initial filing to coming to the United States, but with border restrictions and embassies closed, it’s slowed everything down.
“A process that normally takes six-to-nine months, we're looking at 18-24 months before Lauren will be here,” Rivett said.
The two filed their petition on May 27, 2020 and didn’t get a single update, until they found out their petition was approved on Feb. 2, 2021 – 251 days later.
“Our petition wasn’t even looked at until about two days before we got approved, so for about eight months, there was no progress,” Hughes said. “Now, looking forward, it’s great to see actual progress and things moving.”
The next step is to get an in-person interview at the national visa center. There’s a backlog, and the two feel lucky they’ve only waited less than a year while other couples have waited longer.
“I’m hoping that Lauren might be here by the fall, but it could go into 2022 depending on availability for an interview,” Rivett said. “It’s something we knew we’d always have to go through being a cross-border relationship, but we had planned on it being a lot quicker and being able to see each other through the process.”
“We could potentially have another 8-12 months where it’s just going to sit there, waiting to be transferred to the embassy in Montreal. This is where it matters to stay positive, stay encouraged, and stay so in love,” Hughes added.
The whole process has been difficult, but they said they’re making do and having laughs throughout the entire process.
Their wedding is set for June 25, 2022, and they’re hopeful it happens and that restrictions will be loosened because Hughes' family is from Canada.
“We’re always looking ahead and knowing this is just a part of our journey and a part of our story,” Rivett said. “We’ve gotten really good at staying patient, staying positive. At the end of the day, we’re alive and we’re in love.”