Pandemic Weddings Honored at Lincoln Center Event



Lea DeLaria, the actress-comedian, surveyed the crowd that had gathered on a recent Sunday evening at the Damrosch Park band shell at Lincoln Center.

“A drag queen, three different religious leaders, Broadway stars, the mayor and one loudmouth butch dyke,” she said from the park’s stage to hundreds of people. “Kids, that’s very New York.”

If the mix she described was characteristic of the city, so was the reason many had come to the performing arts campus in Manhattan that day: for opportunity, specifically to take part in a mass wedding celebration for people whose weddings had been delayed or derailed because of the pandemic.

According to organizers, around 200 couples turned up for the free event, Celebrate Love: A (Re)Wedding, which was part of Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City series. Some wore formal wear including white gowns and suits, while others winked at the theme by donning tuxedo T-shirts and veils from Party City.

As noted by Ms. DeLaria, the evening’s M.C., the event drew notable guests as well, including New York Mayor Eric Adams. Not one to miss a party, he took the stage as a band played the opening notes of “New York, New York.”

“New York is invincible,” Mr. Adams said in his remarks. “Nothing can ever destroy our spirit. Nothing can ever destroy our love for each other.”

The hourslong affair began with a nonlegal, symbolic ceremony, before which event staff handed out bouquets and flower crowns to some revelers, while others got henna tattoos and posed for photographs under rainbow streamers and treetop lanterns.

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After attendees took their seats, performers including the actor Mario Cantone serenaded them with love songs. Interspersed among the musical numbers were blessings from Rabbi Matt Green of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn; Imam Khalid Latif, the executive director and chaplain at the Islamic Center at N.Y.U.; and the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan.

The ceremony concluded with a unification ritual, in which couples simultaneously held up yards of pink, blue and yellow ribbon. Raising the ribbon in unison for some proved to be a logistical challenge, but how many weddings go off without a hitch?

For Hjordys Perez Matos, 35, who handles fashion partnerships at Instagram, and Marcus Moore, 36, who handles public figure partnerships at Meta, the hitch was the pandemic’s arrival months before their original wedding date in the summer of 2020. The two, who live in Upper Manhattan, postponed their nuptials for about a year before marrying at the First Congregational Church of Marion in Marion, Ala., his hometown, in May 2021.

When they heard about the (Re)Wedding, Ms. Perez Matos and Mr. Moore, who became engaged at a Lincoln Center Midsummer Night Swing event in 2019, welcomed the chance to celebrate their marriage at a place dear to them and their love story. The venue’s “free and public programming has been a major part of our lives ever since we’ve been teenagers, really, so it was definitely something we wanted to do,” Mr. Moore said.

Kimberly Lawrence-Lopez, 28, and Jeffrey Lawrence-Lopez, 33, also said their wedding plans were upended when Covid set in. They had at first planned to wed on a cruise around Manhattan in May 2020, but canceled that event because of the pandemic and instead were married in a virtual ceremony on Zoom on the same date.

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For their ceremony, the couple, who live in Queens, rented a house in Westhampton, N.Y., on Airbnb. Their only in-person guest was the bride’s mother. “Our officiant was on Zoom,” said Ms. Lawrence-Lopez, who works as an assistant at a medical office. Her mother aside, “our guests were on Zoom,” she added.

Joining them at Lincoln Center, where each couple was allowed two guests, was Mr. Lawrence-Lopez’s mother, who had watched their nuptials on a screen. He and his wife appreciated the ability to celebrate their union with his mother physically present, or to “have this chance at normalcy,” as Mr. Lawrence-Lopez, a residential account manager at a real-estate company, put it.

Though Neish McLean and Katisha Gloster, both 37, were married before the pandemic, they came to the event for a similar reason. At their civil ceremony in Manhattan, in July 2018, they had only two guests.

“We thought this would be just a really great experience to have with other people,” Ms. Gloster, who works in higher education as a program manager, said of the (Re)Wedding.

The couple, who live in Middlesex, N.J., also saw it as a way to renew their commitment to one another, and as a moment to reflect on the 13 years they have spent together since meeting in 2009. “We’re so grateful to have our love survive,” Mr. McLean, who works for a philanthropic organization, said.

Esther Friesner-Stutzman and Walter Stutzman, both 71, were drawn to the event by the chance at a vow renewal as well. Ms. Friesner-Stutzman, an author of science fiction and fantasy books, and Mr. Stutzman, a college music professor, live in Madison, Conn., and were married at Yale in December 1974.

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In the years that followed, they have recommitted to each other at multiple ceremonies, which have taken place at a science fiction convention, on Valentine’s Day in Times Square and at the now-closed 24 Hour Church of Elvis in Portland, Ore.

A lover of love, Ms. Friesner-Stutzman said she also attended “to see everybody else being happy.”

Indeed, happy would be an apt way to describe the mood at the ceremony and reception that followed, during which some couples and their guests danced on the plaza, kissing, laughing, dipping and spinning beneath a kaleidoscope of rainbow party lights and 1,300-pound disco ball suspended above them.

As for how to cultivate a happy relationship, Mr. Stutzman had some advice from his 47-year marriage.

“Tell each other you love each other every day,” he said. Then: “Don’t walk out on an argument.”

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