Love in the time of coronavirus: New York couple determined to tie the knot amid pandemic

NEW YORK CITY – It was to be a glamorous New York wedding, with some 200 guests enjoying iconic views of the Hudson River, a diverse array of international cuisine and blood orange jalapeño margaritas against a lavish backdrop of cherry blossoms signaling the start of spring.

Instead, the nuptials of Madeline Fauntleroy and David Dougherty Jr. are set to take place this Saturday with a group of six people on the rooftop of the couple’s lower Manhattan apartment, with homemade cake and a potluck meal.

The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country forced the pair to cancel their meticulously planned March 21 wedding at the famous Chelsea Piers, as many businesses across the city and state have closed their doors.

But, the couple is not complaining.

This New York City bride and groom have moved their wedding from the popular Chelsea Piers to their own apartment.

This New York City bride and groom have moved their wedding from the popular Chelsea Piers to their own apartment.
(Madeline Fauntleroy)

“It’s a surreal experience but we are so lucky amidst all of this,” Fauntleroy, 30, said in an interview Monday. “People are very sick and people are being laid off, and that is not lost on us.”

“Everything that mattered one month ago – the food, the flowers – does not matter now,” she said. “This is a wedding and we still have each other.”

Fauntleroy and her 36-year-old fiancé – both of whom work in the event-planning industry – sent an email to guests on Thursday alerting them to the change in plans after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced dozens of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in New York City and declared a state of emergency.

“This is a wedding and we still have each other,” the bride says.

“This is a wedding and we still have each other,” the bride says.
(Madeline Fauntleroy)

“At that point, we felt it was really unfair to make people travel,” Fauntleroy said of the 194 confirmed guests, most of whom living in other states, including her parents.

The pair quickly scrambled to come up with a “Plan B” – a small ceremony at Chelsea Piers with a reception to follow at a nearby restaurant. But, the restaurant soon announced it was closing. The couple then opted for a gathering at the Maritime Hotel, where they had blocked off rooms for guests.

“That was Plan C until they emailed us this morning and said they decided to close the hotel completely,” Fauntleroy said.

The couple had made a “Plan B” and “Plan C,” but still had to scramble.

The couple had made a “Plan B” and “Plan C,” but still had to scramble.
(Madeline Fauntleroy)

The last resort was the couple’s two-bedroom apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, blocks from the venue where they had planned to dance to a live band’s rendition of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with their nine bridesmaids and seven groomsmen.

The apartment, as it turned out, would be a fitting choice.

“It’s come full circle,” laughed Fauntleroy, as she described waking up one morning inside that same apartment to find her fiancé kneeling on one knee and asking for her hand in marriage.

The couple says he proposed to her in their apartment.

The couple says he proposed to her in their apartment.
(Madeline Fauntleroy)

“The proposal was supposed to happen on a run in Central Park but he couldn’t wait any longer for our schedules to align, so he did it one morning in the apartment,” she said. “It was very intimate.”

So, too, will be their wedding.

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A friend is baking the cake – the flavor is a surprise – and a group of six guests will enjoy a potluck-style meal and take-out platter from local seafood business Luke’s Lobster. The bride said she’ll still wear her dress, a simple white silk gown with a train by designer Ines Di Santo, complete with a long classic wedding veil.

The bride and groom have planned a bigger celebration for later this year.

The bride and groom have planned a bigger celebration for later this year.
(Madeline Fauntleroy)

“One of the florists we work with is throwing together a bouquet for us and I’m not even sure what will be in it,” Fauntleroy said. “I’m usually a pretty Type-A person and I’ve got to say, I’m now trying to let it all go and allow other people to help.”

As for all the money spent on the wedding, none of it should be lost. The two said they’re planning to throw a party at Chelsea Piers in October, Fauntleroy explained, and the vendors so far have agreed to transfer the payments to a later date.

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The bride and groom said their story underscored the resiliency of a city that’s been no stranger to hardship and loss.

“These people are tough and some may come here and think New Yorkers aren’t the nicest sort, but they pull together in hard times and love always prevails,” Fauntleroy said.

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