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Hundreds of couples didn't have a wedding due to COVID - until now

Couples hold onto ribbons during a special ritual during a mass wedding event at Lincoln Center on July 11, 2022.
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
Couples hold onto ribbons during a special ritual during a mass wedding event at Lincoln Center on July 11, 2022.

Hundreds of couples gathered for a massive wedding celebration this weekend - the wedding that many of them couldn't have because COVID disrupted their plans.

There were older couples and younger ones, gay, straight and nonbinary couples, couples of different races and from different places, all joining together to pay tribute to love.

"Celebrate Love: A (Re)Wedding was thrown by New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Edelmiro Medina Jr and Evanette Concepcion take a selfie before symbolically renewing their vows.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
Edelmiro Medina Jr and Evanette Concepcion take a selfie before symbolically renewing their vows.
Participants line up before the procession into the wedding ceremony at Lincoln Center.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
Participants line up before the procession into the wedding ceremony at Lincoln Center.

"We thought about what does NYC actually need right now? We realized we really need to bring back our rituals, all the things we couldn't do together, and so a wedding was at the top of the list," said Shanta Thake, Chief Artistic Officer at Lincoln Center.

Five hundred couples were invited to register for free.

And many did.

Sheryl Wilson and Jenn Melendez hold up their rings. The two met online via HER App, an app for women who want to date women, 1.5 years ago during the pandemic. They live on the Upper East Side.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
Sheryl Wilson and Jenn Melendez hold up their rings. The two met online via HER App, an app for women who want to date women, 1.5 years ago during the pandemic. They live on the Upper East Side.
Aya Navajo cries as she embraces her husband Renato Meloni after symbolically marrying him.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz
Aya Navajo cries as she embraces her husband Renato Meloni after symbolically marrying him.

"We had this beautiful wedding planned with friends and family in Lisbon in April 2020. And March rolled around and we were a month out from the wedding, and the world closed down and we knew that wasn't going to happen," said Lauren Gibbs.

Instead, she and Rob Jenkins had a small ceremony on their stoop, with his dad officiating and friends watching both on zoom and from chalked hearts on the sidewalk, carefully placed six feet apart.

But this celebration gave the couple room to relax and enjoy themselves, finally. "It's been a really weird and challenging two years and it's nice to find these moments to reflect and bring joy to ourselves, to each other, and to those around us," Gibbs said.

There were older couples and younger ones, gay, straight and nonbinary couples, couples of different races and from different places, all joining together to pay tribute to love.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
There were older couples and younger ones, gay, straight and nonbinary couples, couples of different races and from different places, all joining together to pay tribute to love.

The trees on the outdoor plaza were wrapped in twinkle lights, with lanterns hanging from branches. Some couples wore bridal gowns and suits, others had special his-and-her masks. Staff members handed out bouquets and flower crowns. There were henna stations, a 360-degree photo booth, and champagne.

But most importantly, there were the loved ones celebrating with the couples; parents, friends, children.

The trees on the outdoor plaza were wrapped in twinkle lights, with lanterns hanging from branches.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
The trees on the outdoor plaza were wrapped in twinkle lights, with lanterns hanging from branches.

Not all couples were kicking off marriages. Fabiola and Carlos Escobar came to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. He wore a purple tie; she wore a flowy white gown and sequined veil she picked up at Nordstrom Rack. Accompanying them as witness and flower girl was their young granddaughter Brianna, 7, who was asked what she learned about love by watching her grandparents.

"To be nice," she said. "To be helpful. To be respectful. To be proud of yourself."

Carlos and Fabiola Escobar of the North Bronx have been married for 50 years and are renewing their vows.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
Carlos and Fabiola Escobar of the North Bronx have been married for 50 years and are renewing their vows.

The couples processed down an aisle, two-by-two, where they were welcomed by Mayor Eric Adams, and serenaded by Broadway stars. An imam, a rabbi and a minister blessed their unions.

And then they all gathered under a 10-foot-tall disco ball set up on top of the iconic fountain, under the stars - and danced.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mario Cantone & Jerry Dixon performed "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" from the musical "Showboat" for a crowd of hundreds couples.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
Mario Cantone & Jerry Dixon performed "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" from the musical "Showboat" for a crowd of hundreds couples.
After the ceremony, the couples danced under a 10-foot disco ball.
/ Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
/
Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for NPR
After the ceremony, the couples danced under a 10-foot disco ball.

Jessica Gould

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