Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Nakitta Faupula Ellis and Ezrym Ellis shared their experience of staying grateful for what they have after getting married and not being able to return to New Zealand.
“We are really happy that we got married. This feeling that we have is really nice. We didn’t get to go to New Zealand, but we are really happy with what we have,” explained Nakitta Faupula Ellis.
Faupula Ellis, a senior from Utah majoring in social work, and Ezrym Ellis, a senior from New Zealand majoring in exercise and sports science, described their experience of trying to get married amid the global pandemic. Due to the stay-at-home order, March 23 was the deadline for Hawaii to process marriage licenses. The couple shared, “We missed the deadline by one day.”
Faupula Ellis explained the process they went through to get married. The two needed to fill out the necessary information online and then submit it to a marriage license agent. After submitting their information, they needed to do an interview with a marriage agent, so the agent could print out the documents to allow them to be married.
Those documents were then given to the wedding officiator. Once all the previous steps were completed, the marriage certificate was created to show the couple is legally married.
However, marriage agents weren’t taking appointments until May 1, said Faupula Ellis. Regardless, Ezrym Ellis encouraged her to keep trying. Faupula Ellis said, “I thought it would be a dead end. I knew I needed to show faith and do my part because I knew that Heavenly Father had my back.
“I asked if there was any way to do our meeting virtually because we filled out everything online. We ended up doing it virtually through Zoom. She emailed the official document, and we reached out to our bishop on Tuesday.”
Two days later, on March 26, Faupula Ellis and Ezrym Ellis got married. However, they were uncertain about receiving their marriage certificate in time as their flight to New Zealand was leaving in just two days, and March 26 was a state holiday.
Faupula Ellis said, “It came Friday night, right in the nick of time. I thought, ‘Man, Heavenly Father is on our side.’”
When they arrived at the airport, the airline would accept Ellis’s passport, but not Faupula Ellis’s because it was not a New Zealand passport.
According to the New Zealand government’s official travel website, a travel exception was made for spouses of all New Zealand citizens. However, as they checked in, Ezrym Ellis said the clerk told them, “The memo they received was only people with New Zealand passports or permanent resident visas were allowed on the airplane.”
Ezrym Ellis and Faupula Ellis spent the next three hours doing everything they could to make any contact possible with New Zealand embassies. However, as it was Sunday in New Zealand, and their lockdown had already begun, their options were limited.
“There was another student there with us, Lisa Agafili, and she couldn’t get on the airplane either because of having an Australian passport, even though she has lived in New Zealand her entire life. She tried her best to get on, but they just did not listen,” said Ezrym Ellis.
Lisa Agafili, a senior from New Zealand majoring in TESOL and Pacific Island studies, explained her experience in the airport. “Not being able to go wasn’t as frustrating as the airport staff. They had no empathy and didn’t really try. ... I honestly don’t mind staying here, but that experience was very annoying.”
Faupula Ellis said they were able to get a hold of the New Zealand emergency consular officer who apologized to the couple. The officer asked to be able to speak with the individual checking them in on the airline but was denied. “As we were about to give the phone to the check-in woman, she shouted, ‘No, we are closed.’”
Ezrym Ellis shared, “She told us there was no chance that we would get on, despite what the website said and what those in New Zealand were saying.”
At the airport, Faupula Ellis said they were “just really down and discouraged.” She said after talking about it, they were glad they could have been there with Agafili. “We were glad that she wasn’t there by herself, and she had other people who could understand what she was feeling.”
Following this experience, the couple said they tried to cheer themselves up with “a lot of prayers that night, and [we] sang a lot of hymns.”