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Love Is Love All Ways, Always

By Julie Smith SchneiderJun 28 2021
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Love is in the air, on the rooftops, and the upper floors of Rockefeller Center this Pride Month. With skyline views of the heart of Manhattan as a backdrop, five LGBTQ+ couples were treated to a dream New York City wedding, thanks to the Love Above All Weddings contest. Entrants submitted their love stories and described how they support and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. The Ali Forney Center, a New York–based nonprofit whose mission is to empower and protect LGBTQ youths from the harms of homelessness, selected the winners, announced earlier this month.

On Saturday, June 26, the six-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in the US, each couple exchanged vows at an intimate ceremony at 620 Loft & Garden, overlooking Fifth Avenue and the Neo-Gothic spires and rose window of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A champagne toast in the Rainbow Room was accompanied by a performance by Alexis Michelle, a drag queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race. And, to capture the occasion on camera, each couple had a wedding photo shoot at Top of the Rock, with 360-degree views of the vibrant city they call home. Here’s a peek into the five love stories.

Eddie Rosenbaum & Don Cummings

A 6-foot-by-8-foot paper world map from National Geographic covers a wall in the Upper West Side apartment shared by Eddie Rosenbaum, 35, the assistant director of the global outreach programs at the NYU College of Dentistry, and Don Cummings, 36, a gastroenterologist at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan. The world map is one of their prized possessions, and in many senses reflects these globetrotters’ relationship, which has extended across state lines and international borders. The pair first met on the dating website Adam4Adam in 2011. For their first date, they got coffee together in Cleveland, where Rosenbaum grew up and Cummings was doing a residency in internal medicine. Though they both had a good time and found the other attractive, Rosenbaum was on the cusp of leaving the country for three years for a Peace Corps post in Cameroon.

Three years passed, and Rosenbaum came back to Cleveland. He decided to text “that handsome man that I met for coffee,” as he put it, and they met for another date. But, Rosenbaum was supposed to leave the country again soon for a yearlong international project. It seemed like their timing was off again. But, in a last-minute twist, the project was canceled and Rosenbaum ended up taking a job with the Peace Corps in San Francisco. They kept dating long-distance for two years, while Cummings continued his medical training in New York. It wasn’t easy to maintain their relationship with so many miles between them, but they persisted and eventually, Rosenbaum made the move to New York.
After living together for a year, in 2020 Cummings and Rosenbaum decided to propose to each other in Puerto Rico, a place they’ve visited together several times. To mark the occasion, which ended up happening on Valentine’s Day, they donned matching floral-print “RompHims”—one of several one-piece getups that Rosenbaum had tailor-made while in Tanzania. After proposing with rings from Tiffany’s with a sunset as a backdrop, they walked around San Juan. Strangers congratulated and took photos for the newly engaged couple, showering them with good cheer.

Looking into the future years of their relationship, Rosenbaum said, “I vow to keep making life exciting,” with an intention to go above and beyond “going through the motions” of life, with more sunsets, more travel, and more adventures together.

Julio Gutierrez & Argenis Payamps

It all started with a bouquet. “He sent me flowers before he knew me,” Argenis Payamps, 33, recalled, relaying the story of how he met Julio Gutierrez, 29, on the dating app Tangle in 2015. The floral arrangement, he clarified, was actually an emoji, but it had the intended effect. Gutierrez and Payamps started dating long distance. On one of Payamps’s trips from the Dominican Republic to see Gutierrez in New York City, Gutierrez, one for grand gestures, booked a downtown hotel and decorated it with flowers—real ones—and chocolates.

A year later, Payamps took a leap of faith. He uprooted his life in the Dominican Republic (where Gutierrez is also from) to move in with Gutierrez and his grandmother in the Bronx, where the couple shared a living-room couch. The transition was rocky for Payamps, who left behind many comforts, including close family and friends and more spacious accommodations. In his new home, he didn’t speak the language and started completely from scratch.

But things improved over time. Eventually, Gutierrez and Payamps found new jobs and moved into their own “little nest,” as Gutierrez described their first tiny apartment together. Payamps now works as a pharmacy technician at Capsule and as an LA Fitness instructor, and Gutierrez as a school administrator. Both are working towards advanced degrees—a master’s in law from Fordham University for Gutierrez and two degrees from Atlantis University in Miami for Payamps: a master’s in healthcare management and an MBA. “Good education opens doors,” Gutierrez said, adding that he and Payamps hope that their education will also set their future children up for success.

In 2019, Gutierrez and Payamps had a bare-bones wedding at a courthouse in the Bronx, and celebrated with a meal at a diner afterwards. That was all they could afford as students, but they dreamed of a grander celebration in the future. “I always wanted to have an amazing Manhattan wedding, like Carrie [Bradshaw] in Sex and the City.” Now, two years later, they finally got that dream New York City wedding.

Chelsea Powell & Mia Ibrahim

After Mia Ibrahim, 30, and Chelsea Powell, 30, met on the dating app Hinge, they quickly discovered that they share an uncanny number of specifics in common. They each have a dog named Charlie. They’re both teachers and artists. Ibrahim teaches music and plays clarinet (and a number of other instruments), and Powell teaches visual art and practices painting and ceramics. They share a passion for speaking openly about mental illness, something they both contend with. Plus, they are two women with a taste for good beer.

Their commonalities diverge with contrasting personality traits; Powell is known as an adventurous daredevil and Ibrahim describes herself as a type-A rule follower. “We would not have been friends in high school,” Ibrahim said, with a laugh. Though their connection initially trailed off after an awkward third date in 2018, Ibrahim and Powell found their way back to each other about nine months later. Both had recently come out in their mid-twenties, and were raring to find queer friends. After just a week in the friend zone, their love ignited for good.

The couple, along with Powell’s 8-year-old dog Charlie (Mia’s dog lives with her mom), now live together on the border of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. Just two months into their rekindled relationship, Powell bought a diamond-shaped dog-collar charm with the words “Will you marry my mom?” that she tucked away for the right moment, which came nearly two years later. Powell proposed to Ibrahim at a park in Williamsburg recently renamed in honor of Marsha P. Johnson, a place where the pair likes to hang out and eat poké bowls. Powell thinks they should get matching poké bowl tattoos; Ibrahim isn’t totally convinced. Matching tats or not, the couple donned coordinating wedding dresses from BHLDN that are, as Ibrahim put it, “white, lacey, and hella bridal,” as they exchanged vows in the city where they’ve built a home together.

Cole Murphy-Hockett & Marco Garcia

“If you want to see if your relationship works,” Cole Murphy-Hockett, 32, said, “just move into a 295-square-foot [studio] apartment.” That’s what he and Marco Garcia, 32, did when they first moved in together.

The two have inadvertently tested their bond in a variety of ways, ever since they formally started dating in 2016, after having loosely known each other while studying medicine at Stanford University. There was the frigid, rainy half-marathon they ran that concluded with broken phones and Murphy-Hockett hiding in a portable toilet to stay dry, and the trip to the Bahamas that revealed their contrasting approaches to travel preparation. There were the long commutes between Garcia’s apartment in upper Manhattan and Murphy-Hockett’s in Brooklyn. And, recently, there was the ill-fated Seamless order that Murphy-Hockett placed while indulging a drunken craving. When the delivery arrived, the couple was surprised to receive 22 orders of fries, instead of two, the result of a tiny, tipsy typo—one that resulted in a more than $100 charge that ate into their wedding budget, to Garcia’s displeasure. (Although, after they won a Love Above All wedding, this was no longer a potent concern.)

Murphy-Hockett and Garcia relay these stories with good humor and laughter, ribbing one another lovingly. They now live in a plant-filled apartment in Long Island City with their two cats, Benny and Luna, the home where they rode out the Covid-19 pandemic by binge-watching The Amazing Race while dreaming of resuming their trips around the world and venturing back out to see Broadway shows together. Through the ups and downs of working on the frontlines during the pandemic (both work in pediatrics), their upcoming nuptials offered a ray of light for the couple. “It’s definitely one of the most positive things that has come out of this year for us,” Murphy-Hockett said.

Christian O’Brien & Robert Furler

In the swirling density of New York City, Christian O’Brien, 29, a lifelong New Yorker who works as an oncology sales training manager for Bristol Myers Squibb, and Robert Furler, 39, an assistant professor of immunology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, managed to meet each other on a Manhattan sidewalk in late 2019. Furler was walking his dog Sophie, a 15-year-old Schnauzer, in their neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, when O’Brien, a self-described “chatty Cathy,” struck up a conversation. It turned out they lived exactly a block apart, and they ended up swapping numbers. “I felt this spark come over my entire body,” O’Brien recalled.

Four months after O’Brien and Furler started dating, the city went into lockdown. They spent the rest of the year getting to know each other and falling in love as the world fell apart around them. On their one-year anniversary, the couple drove to Bay Ridge to admire Christmas lights. “Let’s pull over and take pictures,” Furler suggested. When he handed his phone to O’Brien, the camera app was not pulled up. Instead the glowing screen showed a photo of candles and a sign with the words, “Will you marry me?” On this Brooklyn sidewalk, O’Brien gave an immediate “yes.” A few days later, he surprised Furler with a proposal of his own. Keeping an eye on Furler’s whereabouts using the Find My Phone app, he made sure a photo of the three of them—O’Brien, Furler, and Sophie, of course—was pulled up on their flatscreen TV and “Lover” by Taylor Swift was playing when Furler entered the apartment. He, too, said, “yes.”

Though the pair had originally planned to elope to save money for a house together, they were thrilled to be getting married in navy suits in an iconic venue overlooking the streets of the city that brought them together. “I never thought as a young gay boy,” O’Brien said, “that I’d be able to have a fairytale.”

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