This Couple Got Married Alongside a Black Lives Matter Protest in Philadelphia

1 year ago 59
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Kerry Anne and Michael Gordon were initially meant to have their dream wedding on May 26, 2020. But as the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that their original date would need to be postponed, the couple set their sights on a new concept: a “micro” wedding on June 6, 2020. What they didn’t realize, even then, was that the world would be turned upside down yet again, this time in the form of worldwide protests for justice and equality and the Black Lives Matter movement—and that they would eventually become a symbol of hope and love for thousands.

Kerry Anne, M.D., an ob-gyn originally from Jamaica, and Michael, a wireless deployment manager originally from Pennsylvania, are both equally passionate about fitness. They first met at a gym in Philadelphia. “When I met Kerry, I knew that was a person I would love to get to know. Her energy, her aura—there was something about her,” Michael remembers. “I knew that if I had this person around, my life would be good.” To Michael’s “dismay,” the pair started off as friends. It wasn’t until Kerry Anne moved to New York to complete her residency that the two began to develop a romantic relationship, with Michael finally asking Kerry Anne out on a date during a two-week break when she planned to visit friends in Maryland. “It was something unconventional, not something I would ever do,” Kerry Anne explains of making the date a pit stop on her trip. “But he seemed so sweet over the years, and just concerned. I knew I’d know within five minutes if it was worth my time.” The pair started dating almost immediately. “Even now he still amazes me with the things he does.”

Two years later, as Kerry Anne neared the end of her residency program and was deciding if she would apply to jobs in Philadelphia, she knew she wanted to commit to Michael forever. In December 2018, the pair went to Jamaica for Kerry Anne’s mother’s wedding, where her sister dropped a not-so-subtle hint to Michael. Then, it was only a matter of time. “Those first two weeks of the New Year I called her family to let them know,” Michael says. He went ring shopping with the help of his own sister, and eventually set the master plan. On one of Kerry Anne’s few days off, while the couple attended a mutual friend’s birthday party, family and friends gathered at Michael’s home to set up for an engagement surprise party. The plan was for Michael to fake being sick, go home with Kerry Anne, and propose with a garage full of family and friends in the background with the letters that spelled out the question, “Will You Marry Me?” taped to them. There was only a slight hiccup—when the door wouldn’t open. “Once we were on the driveway, he was the most flustered I’ve ever seen him,” Kerry Anne remembers. “He was going crazy that the garage door wouldn’t open and I wasn’t sure why. Once it did open, all I could see was feet. I really was about to turn around and run! But then I just saw him on his knee and completely lost it.” They went inside the house, where Kerry Anne discovered dozens more family and friends who were there to celebrate.

Soon after the engagement, Kerry Anne completed her residency and began her new full-time job, all while planning her dream wedding. But as the date neared, daily reports of the coronavirus pandemic’s spread made it clear they would have to postpone the wedding. “I sat on my couch and cried as I drafted the email to family,” Kerry Anne says. “My heart was overwhelmed by everything.” Still, the couple knew they wanted to get married this summer, wedding or not, as long as it would be memorable.

Originally the location for Kerry Anne’s bridal shower, The Logan hotel had begun offering their garden to any bride and groom whose ceremony had been affected by COVID-19. The venue allowed for 25 guests, just enough for the couple’s immediate family and a few friends to attend. The hotel had two dates available, and the couple decided on June 6. “Even with something so short notice, the goal was still to do something elegant and memorable,” Kerry Anne says. It was important to both Kerry Anne and Michael that they maintained their original theme of “clean and pristine.” The bride wanted everything to remain very “classy, simple, and elegant,” with an emphasis on timeless details. “I spoke to about seven different photographers, one as far as Maryland,” she says. “Florals were also so important; it was probably the biggest part of the bill.” The couple chose to work with Robertson’s Flowers for their flower arrangements, some of which lined the aisle. “I was nervous the chairs would look too sparse and scattered,” Kerry Anne says of the seating that had been set up six feet apart for guests. “But I loved the floral arrangements, especially on the chairs and columns of the garden, and it worked out better than I imagined.” Cellist Aijee Evans played at the ceremony, Reverend Roxanne Birchfield was the officiant, and the couple’s pastor called in from New York for the blessing. Linda McQueen Photography and Sacred Pact Films were there to capture the moment.

As for Kerry Anne’s dress, with two weeks to go and her original wedding dress still overseas, she turned to a local boutique, Sew Pretty Bridal Studio, for a Hail Mary. After a 12-hour shift at work, Kerry Anne went in for a four-hour fitting. “I didn’t even know my style or what I would feel comfortable in,” she says. “After I purchased a dress, I left her boutique around midnight and immediately texted her saying I had a change of heart.” It was ultimately the first gown she had tried on, an off-the-shoulder white dress by Sophia Tolli, that would be “the one.” She paired the gown with Aminah Abdul Jillil heels, and worked with Hair at Ease and Tyra’s Hair Experience for her hair, and MS Artistry for makeup. For the groom, a Michael Kors tuxedo and Kenneth Cole shoes did the job. All the guests were a part of the bridal procession and were encouraged to wear white—masks and hand sanitizer were gifted ahead of the intimate ceremony. Much like how Kerry Anne had planned their original wedding, every detail was set in place, every single scenario accounted for. But it was a moment just before the bride walked down the aisle that the couple could have never prepared for. A moment that caught the attention of nearby protestors—and then the attention of the entire world.

A few days before the ceremony, the hotel notified the couple that protestors were planning to peacefully demonstrate in front of the hotel in downtown Philadelphia. “At first our biggest concern was rain,” Kerry Anne says. “Then it became the protests.” But it didn’t deter the couple from moving forward. Because of their demanding work schedules, they hadn’t been able to join a protest themselves yet. “It would be really nice to join a protest,” Kerry Anne remembers thinking. “We’re watching the movement; we’re feeling the movement. We hadn’t had the chance.” Around the world and in all 50 states, hundreds of thousands of individuals had been taking to the streets to protest against police brutality and racism against Black people in a movement that has continued to grow every day since George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers on May 25, 2020, a turning point in our nation’s history. The date of June 6 just so happened to fall on the day of Philadelphia’s largest protest ever, according to city officials.

As the couple prepared for their first look, protestors neared the hotel. “We could hear the sounds in the air. We could hear the sounds of the helicopters above us. You could almost feel the energy around you, and in addition to that, we’re about to get married,” Kerry Anne remembers. “While I was getting ready in the hotel, and I’m reading over vows that I wrote five months ago, at that moment I was just so overwhelmed with emotion. We already had a lot built up inside because of the [protests over the past week]. So seeing that we were embarking on this together, and everything we’ve been through, and that now we’re on the forefront of America fighting for justice and trying to push for positivity and change, I’m not only proud as a Black woman and Black professional, I’m so proud of him to represent who we are as a people.” As Kerry-Anne stepped outside, protestors started to gather around her, cheering her on as she awaited Michael to meet her.

“I was around the corner; I couldn’t see Kerry and was just waiting,” Michael says of the moments before their first look. “All of a sudden I started hearing the crowd around the corner, and I [realized] it was all for Kerry. I come running around the corner and I see Kerry standing with a circle of people around her just cheering, and she’s literally standing there looking like a Black princess. That’s all I see. These peaceful protestors, positive energy, cheering, yelling, people with their phones out taking pictures and videos. And Kerry’s just standing there looking beautiful as can be. And I walked up to her and took her hand, and she was shaking. The energy and passion and moment, everything that was going on, was just blowing through her. It was the most empowering thing to be there at that moment. The narrative of love, of Black love, doesn’t always get put out there. But that’s what [the movement] is about, that’s what we’re looking for. Black love is a beautiful thing. Black love exists. Black love is powerful.”

After the ceremony, the couple originally planned to take photos throughout the city. But they pivoted to taking photos in a field in their neighborhood, which gave them ample room to space everyone out. Meanwhile, the world was catching on to the moment back at the protest. Michael and Kerry Anne say they were overwhelmed with messages—from friends, long-lost colleagues, and strangers alike—who had seen and been inspired by the moment. “We expected this to be very quick and low key,” Kerry Anne says. But as the couple made their way to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for a minimoon (they’ll eventually head to Jamaica for a bigger getaway), they realized that their plan to not reveal their micro-wedding to a wider circle for some time would no longer be possible. It was their intention to hold back in hopes that their guests could remain excited for the postponed 2021 date, but as the image of them, as a bride and groom, at the protest began to circulate on the internet at wildfire speed, it seemed keeping it under wraps was no longer an option. “Literally no one was supposed to know about this,” Michael says. “We failed horribly. This turned into something that we are never, ever, ever going to forget.”

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