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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.
Couples hold onto ribbons during a special ritual during a mass wedding event at Lincoln Center on July 11, 2022. 500 couples who couldn't marry or had diminished weddings due to COVID were celebrated in an extravaganza at Lincoln Center. Couples who applied wrote things like this: "He is originally from Sao Paolo. After two years of not being able to see each other in person, we are finally married - but because our families and friends are scattered all over the world, we have not done our ceremony or any celebration." There was a symbolic ceremony with an imam, rabbi and minister, live musical performances, stations for henna, flower crowns, a magician and a reception on the dance floor under a giant disco ball as well as a a food truck, selfie stations, and henna tattoos.

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.

"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.

"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.

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.

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."

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 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.