I fell in love with my roommate. We got engaged in the house and, funnily enough, we got married in the house as well. The wedding day brought the typical long-term coordination and planning that goes into an event of this scale, and all our family and friends temporarily moved into our neighborhood for the festivities. Because of an unexpected change in plans, everyone had to get to know each other fast—it took two days to get my childhood best friend to get along with my work best friend. My fiancé’s brothers wouldn’t stop swimming, and I upset my future in-laws when I didn’t open the door quickly enough. (In my defense, my energy was low and I had to pee.) But the day finally came, and it was perfect. I saved everything, booted down, and closed my laptop.
My real-life wedding was an entirely different story. I got engaged in September of 2018 and spent the last few years dreaming and planning about May 30, 2020—only for everything to get swept away in the coronavirus pandemic. So I decided to recreate the day the best way I could: in the alternate reality of The Sims.
My disappointment comes with all the necessary caveats; ultimately, a canceled wedding is low on the list of real-world concerns, and I am so lucky and thankful to have safety and health. Still, I’m disappointed, and that feeling took me by surprise at first. Though I wasn’t a bridezilla, or someone who popped open the wedding scrapbook they’d been compiling since elementary school, I’d reached the point in planning when I wondered what it was all for. The event became associated with a blur of DJ and lighting contracts, selections of identical-looking cutlery, and questions from relatives. In a way, The Sims redirected my focus to what’s really important.
I found comfort in creating all the important people in my life. I built my man of honor, Eric, in the image of our first meeting: an over-tanned, lanyard-toting, Aeropostale double collar-wearing king. He has since transformed into a New York City tech moneymaker, but remembering how I met him made his presence in my wedding party—real or virtual—that much more significant. As I meticulously crafted my stage mom in the Create A Sim portal, I could almost hear her voice guiding my hand over the mouse: “Valerie Bertinelli when she was younger. Maybe a little bit more Carmen Electra.”
But I found the most joy in creating my future husband. How could I capture eight years, three cities, and a ten-year friendship in a game where the characters talk in a nightmare babble? It was easier than you’d think. I gave him all the characteristics he already possessed: a brave and kind personality, hair that is both floppy and luscious, and a mutual love that takes no work. We instantly connected, and were married within a Sims month.
The last time I played The Sims I was in middle school. I used the game as an escape, to craft the older, cooler, WooHoo-having version of the life I envisioned for myself. In my young mind, wealth, success, and happiness meant a pool in the backyard and a second refrigerator just for drinks. Decorations for every holiday sat alongside framed family portraits over the fireplace.
Now, at 28, I built a second dream world filled with people over things. Since our wedding, I’ve given birth to four kids (two boys and a set of twin girls). My husband published five books, and I have a personal net worth of $4 million. We see our family and friends most days for BBQs and park dates. I can watch guests take a drink from the second refrigerator as I swim in the pool with my husband. While my real life is on pause, The Sims gives me the chance to live it out anyway.