NEW YORK — There were fancy dresses and men in tuxes, but some came in attire that was decidedly more casual — not an unusual sight at New York’s Lincoln Center. But the scene Saturday evening was far from routine as faux flowers hung from the balconies and as brides — yes, brides — clutched bouquets of roses and wildflowers in the din of a hall teeming with hundreds of giddy couples.
In all, some 700 couples arrived at the iconic New York City venue to profess their love, no matter how new or how long. Some were exchanging vows for the first time, while others like Hazel Seivwright-Carney and her husband, Rohan Carney, came to renew their vows after eloping so many years ago, to the dismay of family.
“When we eloped 28 years ago, my mother did not have a chance to see us get married,” the bride said.
On Saturday, her mother, who declined to discuss that matter, waited patiently in the humidity for the nuptials to begin so she could finally witness her daughter exchange vows with the love of her life.
It was just the second year for what could become an annual event at Lincoln Center. With so many weddings delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, center officials thought the event would help COVID-fatigued couples reengage after months of lockdowns and seclusion. None of the weddings were legally binding. More than 500 couples took part last year.
Last year’s overwhelming success convinced organizers that they needed to do it again.
“We started doing this last year, right after the pandemic and we felt it was a time for all of us to come together,” said Shanta Thake, the center’s chief artistic officer. “There was so much to be sad about and mourn. It’s also important for us to have these rituals together.”
Alexander Fischer and his soon-to-be fiancee, Nina Oishi, who met while attending law school at Yale, took the opportunity Saturday to express their commitment before they would have to temporarily part, after living together in New York for a year, because of clerkships in different cities.
“It felt like such a New York thing to do,” said Oishi, who wore green for the occasion. “We know we’re going to get married, so why not get a chance to celebrate it now before we’re apart?”
The couple didn’t tell their parents what they were doing.
“Our parents would obviously be very upset to miss the real one,” Oishi said.
Added Fischer: “We just wanted to be part of a celebration with a bunch of other people and doing the same thing.”
Mirian Masaquiza admitted she had to drag her husband, Oscar, and their two children to the festivities. Her family wore traditional wear reflecting their Ecuadorian heritage.
“I just saw that it was a very nice opportunity for us to strengthen … um … our team because we are a team now with our two kids,” Masaquiza said.
“I was more happy about it,” she added. “He was like, ‘OK, I will do it.'”
The clear majority were couples who were using the event as a recommitment ceremony.
Archley Prudent and his spouse of 12 years, Hugh, were married as soon as gay marriage became legal in New York.
“We just jumped at the chance,” he said, explaining they thought they would eventually have a proper wedding. “And then 12 years passed by. … So many other things happened in between so we never got around to it.”
Like their marriage 12 years ago, their decision to take part in Saturday’s nuptials was also a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I got so excited when this came up and asked, ‘Why don’t we reaffirm our love?'” Archley Prudent said, as he looked around the lobby of the hall. “I’m thinking about everybody attending, and how we have something in common. We’re doing this because I think we all love each other. We all care for each other, and we want to celebrate that.”