By Madalyn Watson | Editor-in-Chief
When Carrollton senior Ryan Johnson first met his fiancée, Texas Tech junior AisLynn Jackson, she was less than impressed with his tactics to get her to notice him. The two attended a mutual friend’s birthday party when they first met.
“He was squirting me with a squirt gun and trying to get my attention,” Jackson said.
She approached some other people at the birthday party and said, “This guy won’t leave me alone. I don’t know what his problem is. I’ve asked him to stop and he wouldn’t.”
One year later, they met again. But this time, Johnson left a different impression.
“We met because my best friend was in love with her and I was his wingman for his birthday party and I completely failed. I’m the worst wingman in history,” Johnson said. “It was at a waterpark and we played tag for the entire time. We ran around, having fun.”
He was 14 and she was 13 years old.
The young teens couldn’t have imagined what they would mean to each other years later. Today, the couple plans to marry on Dec. 18, 2022.
Even though they are not the only couple planning their wedding in the age of coronavirus, engaged couples — like Johnson and Jackson — are becoming rarer than ever before.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, marriage rates hit an all time low in the United States according to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Between the years 2017 and 2018, the rate dropped six percent, making it the lowest marriage rate since 1900.
Marriage rates in the United States are expected to decrease even more because of financial insecurity, travel restrictions and restrictions on social gatherings due to COVID-19 fallout.
Although marrying in December 2022 was not the original plan for the couple, it works out for them because by then, they will both have their bachelor’s degrees.
“Obviously, we go to different schools, so it’s not like if we lived together and could get married now,” Jackson said.
The couple has already been engaged for just over a year. Johnson proposed on Aug. 6, 2019 in one of their favorite parks in their hometown of Carrollton.
“I really didn’t think I was gonna cry,” Jackson said. “And then it was like the floodgates opened and I was bawling my eyes out even sitting in the car and looking at the ring.”
The couple also celebrated their anniversary on Aug. 18, seven years after they went on their first date to see “Iron Man 3” in theaters accompanied by Jackson’s mom.
They dated all throughout high school.
“No one ever saw us without each other,” Johnson said.
Today, they are separated by a five-hour drive since Johnson is pursuing a degree in economics at Baylor and Jackson is studying nutrition at Texas Tech.
“We’ve been doing long distance for like three and a half years now,” Johnson said. “She almost exclusively lives in Lubbock. She comes back to Dallas every once in a while, and I’m almost always in Waco.”
Even though Jackson will be getting a car within the next two weeks, their ability to see each other in the last year has been limited by Johnson’s schedule. This semester, however, both of them have a lot on their plates.
“We’ll just see each other at Thanksgiving and Christmas right now and hopefully, in the spring, it will be better,” Jackson said. “It’s definitely been tough. Been lots of tears and lots of sad moments.”
When the coronavirus first started spreading in the United States, it prevented the already long-distance couple from seeing each other in person at all.
“She stayed in Lubbock over the summer, and I was going to go visit her in late March when we had some free time for Baylor,” Johnson said.
Since the pandemic was brewing, Johnson’s family did not want him to travel to see her for his safety. Johnson said his father even threatened to take away his car.
“We went on vacation with my family. We ended up going out to Port Aransas, and that was a hotspot at that time,” Johnson said. “When we came back, her family was panicking.”
Jackson said her family was very careful and cautious with her when she returned home. She was at risk of exposure not only because she was traveling, but also because she works as an inpatient pharmacy technician in a hospital.
“There were a lot of safety measures we had to go through,” Jackson said.
In the age of coronavirus and social distancing, couples that lived relatively near each other suddenly had a long-distance relationship. These newly-distanced couples have a lot to learn from relationships like Johnson and Jackson’s engagement.
“Texting by itself gives like 40% of the information that usual communication does,” Johnson said. “If you’re talking with someone, they get your tone, they get context, way more than when you text.”
The couple is waiting two years before they officially tie the knot, but they have proven they can make their extreme social distancing work.
“We’re doing long distance, and we love each other anyways,” Johnson said.
This is the first article in a series about weddings, wedding planning and love in the age of a pandemic.