Monday, November 29, 2021

When Your Wedding Day Is Sept. 11

Monday, November 29, 2021

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One evening in March 2020, Angeline Disante, 29, was tasting teriyaki steak on a stick to be served at her wedding on April 15. Once the pandemic hit, Ms. Disante and her fiancé rescheduled the wedding for Nov. 28. Not surprisingly, that one had to be postponed as well.

Her venue in New Rochelle, N.Y., still had one date open for a third attempt; coincidentally, her photographer, videographer, hair and makeup artists, florist, D.J., and “dais bedazzler” were also available. It was a Saturday night in September, the holy grail of New York nuptials. It was also the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

“I told them, ‘Cross that date off your list,’” recalled Ms. Disante, who is engaged to a police officer. Her brother is also a police officer, and there were many more on the couple’s guest list. “I wouldn’t even consider 9/11,” she said. “There was no way I was doing it.”

She is doing it.

Maybe it’s a result of all the ceremonies and receptions postponed because of Covid-19. (They had to happen at some point.) Maybe it’s because, after 18 months in takeout-stained joggers, the love-affirming vitality of putting on a gown or tuxedo feels imperative. Maybe it’s a statement on how long we can cling to a collective national pain. But at least for this year, Sept. 11 is ready for romance.

“I think most people are like, ‘Come on. There are a lot of horrible things happening in the world, and we’re so exuberant that we got through the pandemic,’” said Marcy Blum, a wedding planner. “This year, people feel like they have a pass and whatever you need to do is fine.”

Or as Björn VW, another wedding planner, put it: “Everyone wants to celebrate something.” He quickly grabbed the evening of Sept. 11 at a Brooklyn venue for a client who was supposed to tie the knot in 2020, fearing any fall date would be gone if he waited even a few weeks longer. And if the guests can see the Towers of Light, the annual memorial display of twin beams that shoot four miles into the Lower Manhattan sky, it’s fine with him. “I’m just happy now that my couple will be able to turn a negative experience into something positive for them that looks to the future,” he said.

Cary Gitter, 34, and Meghan VanArsdalen, 31, have channeled a similar hopefulness instead of squirming each time a friend asks in the high-pitched key of judgment: “You’re getting married on Sept. 11?!”

Ms. VanArsdalen, who said she probably wouldn’t have picked that date for her Detroit wedding any other year, spent time alone pondering the meaning of a Sept. 11 anniversary. “I’ve been thinking about the importance of being together with friends and family on a day that took that opportunity away from so many other people,” she said.

Suzie Cohen, 39, already had some positive associations with the date, which she reluctantly accepted when no other options were available at her venue in Houston. Her brother’s birthday is the same day, and it would have been her grandparents’ 72nd anniversary. Ms. Cohen’s 92-year-old grandmother, Julien Epstein Rosenthal, who plans to be in attendance, even gave her own wedding ring, engraved with “September 11, 1949,” to wear that evening.

But when Ms. Cohen first mentioned the date to her fiancé, Brian Zager, 37, who was in the midst of interviewing 9/11 victims’ children for a podcast, his response was, “What else do they have?” As the date approaches, he’s coming around to the idea. “A lot of the podcast ended up being about the things that helped these children shed the raw emotion of the day,” Mr. Zager said. “Everyone is making the best of a situation. Everything has been put in a new perspective.”

Jazmin Castro, 22, had hoped she would embrace a similar sentiment after she booked the last available date in 2021 at her Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., church. She said her friends repeatedly offered affirming advice — “Change the energy around the day,” “Make it a positive” — but it didn’t help.

“It made me feel good that people around me approved,” she said, “But I didn’t agree with them. I just felt like what they were telling me to do couldn’t be done.”

Even now, every time someone asks her when she’s getting married, Ms. Castro dreads answering. “Some people won’t say anything directly to me about the date, but I can see it in their reaction when I tell them,” she said. “It’s uncomfortable every single time.” Ms. Castro was so conflicted she sought out advice from other brides online and came away with one tip she’s using: “Say you’re getting married on the 11th of September instead of saying Sept. 11.”

Indeed, plenty of couples have found community, if also a dollop of criticism, in the angsty chats of wedding sites. One thread on WeddingWire is titled “Moving wedding from September 12, 2020 to September 11, 2021 bad idea?” Redditors have asked whether getting married on 9/11 would be “weird” or even qualify one as a jerk (using slightly more colorful language). The Knot, for its part, offered an answer to their questions in its list of wedding dates to avoid in 2021.

“I think I’ll be OK on the day, but it’ll still pop into my mind, and I’m sure it’ll still be mentioned by some guests,” Ms. Castro said. She is debating how to acknowledge the gravity of the day in the midst of a celebration. “I was thinking of doing a moment of silence kind of thing,” she said, adding that she plans to talk to the officiating pastor about incorporating a prayer for victims.

Melissa McNeeley, a wedding planner, said she would support a plan like Ms. Castro’s. “You can honor the day in a wonderful way, with a moment of silence during the welcome speech or a donation to some sort of relief or fire department,” she said. “Or you could really embrace the whole New York of it all and have a Manhattan as a signature cocktail.”

Ms. Blum would advise couples not to directly call out 9/11. “If anything, perhaps say, ‘We lost a year from the pandemic and that’s why we’re getting married today,’ and let everybody draw their own conclusions.”

Ms. Disante is planning to make a donation to a 9/11 memorial fund but says she doesn’t feel compelled to talk about the tragedy of the date. “Everyone will honor the day in their own way,” she said. “Like my fiancé, he always does the Tunnel to Towers run,” she added, referring to the annual 5K from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to the site of the Twin Towers.

Even this year? “No,” she said, laughing. “I told him he has to take this year off.”


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