When Love Is In The Air

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[The Weekend Report]

The Riverside Church on the Morningside Section of Manhattan, even on a normal day is overwhelming. 

Its 20-floor gothic tower, 74-bell Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon and its Narthex stained glass Renaissance windows are awe-inspiring and inspirational. Last Thursday, it was the perfect setting for multiple nuptials.

Dressed in resplendent gowns, 10 beaming mommies-before-brides at the “Marry Your Baby Daddy Day” ceremony yesterday, walked down the aisle mostly escorted by their children, even as the prospective husbands waited eagerly.

This was no ordinary wedding ceremony. It was a ceremony for couples who were already living as a family, without having tied the knot.

In an all expenses paid wedding – including bridal attire, flowers, decorations, transport, catering, photography, reception hall, cakes, wedding rings and even a honeymoon package – presided by Rev. Lee J. Hill Jr., 29, the couples solemnly vowed to “love and cherish” their partners all the days of their lives.

Thirty-year-olds, Shaun and Patrice Linzi were among those who went down the altar. Residents of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and the couple have known each other for 14 years. They have two daughters, one-year-old Nia and Leneasia, 12. They have been living together for nine years now. For the Linzis, it was just a matter of being able to afford a wedding and when they came across an advertisement for the Thursday event, they jumped at it.

“Organizing a wedding is an expensive affair and since this was all-expenses paid, I thought why not,” said Shaun. But, there were other things that motivated the couple to go ahead and make it official.

“For Shaun and me, the way we were living was fine. We never had time to think about marriage because we were always busy—first with our studies and then careers. When Leneasia began to grow up she often asked us if we were married and we always told her that it was okay not to be married as long as we loved each other. But, when this opportunity came along, we thought we might as well grab it,” said Patrice.

Understandably, Shaun’s grandmother Clara Smith, 68, is thrilled. “I am so happy that they have decided to finally tie the knot,” she said. “They are a lovely couple and the most fun people to have around. Shaun’s parents would have been delighted, had they been around today.”

This was the second annual “Marry Your Baby Daddy Day.” The first was held on September 29, 2005, the event is an effort to strengthen two-parent homes and promote marriage and family values.

According to founder Maryann Reid, 32, of the hundreds of couples applying each year, only 10 are selected. This selection is based on rigorous interviews, economic need and family commitment. “The couple must be living together for at least 3 years, have children and must be willing to undergo pre-marital counseling,” said  Reid, who also follows up with the couples regularly to see if they are on track.

India and Ahmeid Potts, a couple from the 2005 event, were at the reception this week to show their support.

Going back two years, to what made them jump the broom, India said, “My daughter often asked me why my last name was Willis while Ahmeid’s was Potts and we always evaded the question. When I saw the ad for the event, I thought, ‘I have
been performing the role of a wife for so many years, now let me just become one’.” The couple has a seven-year-old daughter Amina and a son Kasson, four.

A staunch supporter and second time sponsor for the event, Ella Babaev, 46, said that the joy of being part of the event was indescribable. Her store, David Jewelers on Fifth Avenue, provides the couples a discount of 40 to 60 per cent on all wedding rings.

“The experience of getting married must be so memorable that it etches a place in our memory forever. A wedding ring is part of that lifetime of memories and everybody must be able to afford one. We are glad to be part of the couples’ experience,” she said.



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