About a year and half before The Day That Broke The World's Heart, Daphne Uviller
went to the top of the Twin Towers on Valentine's Day. There, she found all kinds
of people, from all over the world, making Big Gestures in a Special Place. This
is how we choose to remember that place and that time.
Your Love Put Me...
On Top of the World
Valentine's Day, 2000
by Daphne Uviller
On Valentine's Day 2000, forty couples thumbed their noses at tissue paper-filled
invites, spurned table-seating charts, and freed themselves from the tyranny
of caterers, florists, and mothers. In a marathon that began at 5:20 a.m. and
continued until 8 p.m., renegade lovers were wed in succession by a judge on
the Observation Deck of the World Trade Center, 107 stories above
Careful observers of the phenomenon will tell you: just as the greeting card
and marshmallow-chocolate-kitsch industries launch Christmas the day after Thanksgiving,
so, too, is Wedding Season begun on Valentine's Day. No sooner does the sun
set on the day of cut-out hearts, simpering cupids, and chalky, cheeky candy
than specialty stationery shops splatter enormous wedding displays across their
windows, enjoining couples to stay on schedule by ordering invitations NOW for
their spring weddings.
those couples who want to inject a sense of adventure into their nuptials, the
nice folks at the World Trade Center have a better way. For the fourth year
in a row, the staff at the Twin Towers invited couples to enter a contest called
"Make Love on Top of the World" by writing essays explaining why getting married
in the urban aerie would be the
perfect end to their courtship. The lucky couples had one week between being
notified and tying the knot, during which time they had to procure some dressy
duds, break the news to their families, and secure a New York State marriage
license. In addition, many couples had to purchase plane tickets. While most
of these spontaneous lovers were locals, about a quarter had come from outside
the state, and some from as far away as Estonia.
One couple from Singapore arrived with a wedding party of 25 in tow.
It Was Meant to Be
When asked Why here? Why now? couples from Brooklyn to England fell
back upon the same answers: most saw it as a sign, a call to wed this instant.
Many of the participants at the elope-fest were mixing and matching their skin
colors and most already had children, either with each other or from previous
unions. Many had been harangued by their families to break off their culturally
conflicting relationships or to hurry up and marry already before the third
child was born. The spontaneity of the contest and the romance of the locale
proved both a seductive formula and worthy antidote.
One couple, a conservative Jewish man and a Japanese woman, wrote that their
families have been trying actively to prevent them from marrying. The pair was
drawn to the symbolism of the venue. "Terrorists attempted to destroy the World
Trade Center on February 25, 1993," they wrote, "because they disapproved of
America... yet the pressure that should have torn it apart and broken the will
of the American people did not. The building stands as tall and as proud as
it ever did. Despite the pressure being placed upon us, our resolve and love
has only grown stronger."
not every couple had reasons as poignant as theirs, but the prevailing sentiments
were still sincere. Al and Rebecca came from Las Vegas, quickie-wedding capital
of the world, because they didn't want to be married
by an Elvis impersonator; also, they felt compelled to trump his proposal
to her atop the Eiffel Tower. They landed at Newark airport, stopped at David's
Bridal, and got their license with minutes to spare (New York State requires
that a couple possess the official papers for 24 hours before the wedding).
Rebecca's two daughters walked down the aisle with her, each about to receive
a ring that matched their mother's enormous, glittering
two-tiered rock because "it's like the whole family is getting married."
Once More, With Feeling
The brave couple that took the first time slot were renewing their vows. They
had six children, all in attendance, and had been married for 20 years. The
oldest daughter was concerned about a science test she had later (it was a school
day, after all) and the boys were pawing through the gift bag given to each
couple. When asked why she would subject herself to such an activity, the bride
-- a college professor and bustling organizer if ever there was one -- separated
the two littlest ones who were arguing and said in a harried voice, "You have
to find ways to keep the romance alive." Wake up; check. Keep romance alive;
check. Get kids off to school; check. All before sunrise. Ouch.
The most traditional couple, Sarah and Carl, were the same race, young (she
26, he 25), and without children. They flew in from the north of England, certain
only that they would wed somewhere in New York sometime in the next four days
on the way to their honeymoon in Hawaii. On Friday, February 11, they were waiting
on line for a license when they happened to read about the World Trade Center
ceremonies. A quick call got them accepted, even without an essay, but Sarah
was intent on including some traditional elements in their wedding, among them
items borrowed and blue. Later that evening, they found an English pub and were
chatting up one of the locals sitting nearby when Sarah mentioned her predicament.
The noble New Yorker handed her his itchy, blue wool scarf, which she gallantly
kept tied around her thigh throughout the ceremony. The stranger said she could
keep the scarf, but Sarah told him, "No! You must meet us again tonight, so
I can give it back! Otherwise it's not borrowed!"
Resigned couples will often concede that a wedding is for the family and friends,
while the honeymoon is for them. But by tossing tradition to the winds, these
adventurous partners made their weddings their own. The couples who came by
themselves depended on each other to be not only bride or groom but best man,
best woman, ring bearer, babysitter, stylist, and travel coordinator. A groom
attaching his bride's train for her, as he was taught just the day before at
the store, bespeaks a partnership not often imparted during a traditional ceremony.
(Also worth noting: every bride who chose to wear a white gown fit into her
dress perfectly; further evidence that eight months and four fittings are not
So start working on your essay now and next year you could have a spontaneous
ceremony very nearly on Cloud
Nine. One final advantage, for those who may need it, was pointed out by a groom
from the Bronx: acrophobia can help you keep the size of your wedding down.
"The whole family would have come," he said, "If we'd done this on the third
makes a point of being spontaneous between 2:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. nearly
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