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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

empire state building weddings

empire state building weddings

The sky-high nuptials on Tuesday followed the legalization of gay marriage in June when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the law making New York the sixth, and most populous U.S. state, to approve gays and lesbians to wed.

"We just thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to get married on top of the Empire State building, especially since it is the first year that gay marriage is allowed," said Phil Fung, a 49-year-old product manager at a financial services firm who wed his partner Shawn Klein, 51, a hospital administrator.

The couple, who live in New York, met 18 years ago at The Roxy, a famous Manhattan nightclub, and have been together ever since.

"It was love at first sight," said Fung. "We have been talking about getting married now that gay marriage was passed in New York state and friends of ours told us about the contest."

They will be among an estimated 21,000 gay and lesbian couples from New York who are expected to marry within the first three years of the law passing and nearly 42,000 from out of state who will pick New York for a destination wedding, according to a report by the Independent Democratic Conference.

Fung and Klein are among the select few chosen to exchange vows 61 floors up in the sky. They were one of four couples selected from hundreds of applicants this year from around the country who submitted a video to win their dream wedding at the Empire State Building that was completed in 1930 and is visited by 3.5 million people each year.

Both have visited the 102-floor landmark but it was be a first-time experience for some of their guests, including many relatives of South Dakota-born Klein, who is one of 13 children. Eleven members of his family planned to make their first trip to New York for the ceremony.

For Alaskan Steph Figarelle, 29 and her partner Lela McArthur, 24, it was the wedding and trip of a lifetime.

"The Empire State Building to us in Alaska is like going to Egypt to look at the pyramids. That's what makes it special," said Figarelle,

"It stands for many things," she added. "Getting married there sets the tone for our lives together."

Alaska is among the more than 40 U.S. states where same-sex marriage is not recognized. The couple, who are both personal trainers who met while students at the University of Alaska, had been planning to marry in New York when Figarelle spotted the contest to wed at the Empire State Building while searching for wedding venues in New York.

"It was a shot in the dark," said Figarelle, adding that her mother, and her brother from Montana were due to attend the ceremony.

As part of their winnings each couple received a customized wedding, gown and tuxedo and a two-night stay at the Pierre Hotel in New York. Same-sex marriage is expected to generate an estimated $284 million for the state economy, according to the Independent Democratic Conference report.
Nearly three years ago, Paula Cubero and Enrique Catter felt crushed when a flu outbreak caused them to cancel the wedding they had spent months planning in Cubero's native Mexico.
But how the pair spent this Valentine's Day more than made up for it.
Cubero and Catter, who live in Greenwich, were among four lucky couples to tie the knot at the Empire State Building Tuesday, in weddings designed by celebrity event planner Colin Cowie. Among those to exchange vows were the first gay and lesbian couples to wed at the Empire State Building.
Valentine's Day is the only time couples are allowed to marry at the landmark building, which has held an annual contest to select brides and grooms for the past 18 years.
"It doesn't get higher than this," said Catter after the ceremony, in an area on the 61st floor that is rented out for events. "It was something different and very special."
Cubero met Catter, a native of Peru, in 2007 at a party in New York City, where she had traveled to visit a friend. After falling in love and carrying out a long distance relationship -- which included such romantic gestures as Catter hiring a mariachi band to play outside her home in Mexico -- he proposed.
The two spent five months, and much of their savings, planning a wedding for 300 people in Mexico City in 2009, but it was canceled amidst the swine flu scare that year. One week before the wedding, guests started canceling, and the borders closed, so Catter's family could not fly in from Peru.
"When we heard about the Colin Cowie contest we thought this was our chance," said Cubero in the video she and Catter submitted for the contest.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, Cubero, wearing a Maggie Sottero gown compliments of the Manhattan bridal shop Kleinfeld, walked down the aisle with her parents to Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings," and met Catter underneath a canopy of peach and pink flowers.
The ceremony included the couple and their parents participating in a symbolic washing of their hands, to signify the bond bringing the families together.
After the ceremony, an entourage of photographers and videographers followed the newly married couple to the 86th-floor observation deck to pose for pictures
A couple kiss on the corner of 34th Street and Park Avenue in New York City, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. In the background is the Empire State Buidling where four couples were married at the historic skyscraper on Valentine's Day. The building is managed by Malkin Holdings LLC, the family-owned company headed by Greenwich resident Peter Malkin. Photo: Bob Luckey

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