Thanks to the annual Wings of Love contest produced by the Empire State Building, two gay couples will say "I Do" atop one of the most iconic structures in the world this Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day is much more than chocolates and Hallmark hoopla for two gay couples this year. Stephanie Figarelle and Lela McArthur from Anchorage, Alaska, and Phil Fung and Shawn Klein from New York City, will be saying I Do, along with two other heterosexual couples, atop one of the world's most iconic structures—the Empire State Building.
The annual multi-wedding Wings of Love contest partnered with celebrity event planner Colin Cowie to create four private, personalized and lavish wedding ceremonies. Couples from across the country submitted videos describing their love stories and why they should be chosen to marry or renew their vows at this landmark on the most romantic day of the year. After 16 semi-finalists were selected by a panel of experts from the recently launched ColinCowieWeddings.com, Empire State Building, Estée Lauder, Kleinfeld and Christian Oth Studio, the public voted for their favorites on Facebook. With this upcoming Valentine's Day being the first since the marriage equality bill passed in the state of New York, LGBT couples were encouraged to enter for the first time in contest history. And two won.
As part of the prize package, Lela received a designer gown from Kleinfeld, shoes from Nina Shoes and will have professional hair and makeup done by Estée Lauder. Steph, Phil and Shawn will be outfitted by Men’s Wearhouse and De Beers has provided wedding bands for each. All will enjoy a two-night stay in Manhattan's exclusive Pierre Hotel, where the Colin Cowie Weddings team of editors, stylists and photographer Christian Oth will prepare them for their special day. Couples will celebrate with private ceremonies and receptions with four unique looks featuring Dom Pérignon and Godiva Chocolatier. Some of Cowie’s favorite vendors, including Mary Giuliani Catering & Events, Swarovski, Cake Opera, Resorce One, Inc., Luxury Linens, Grymes Cannon Designs, Premiere Talent Entertainment, Classic Party Rentals, Red Bliss and Levy Lighting, will come together create an unforgettable experience.
Steph and Lela, who have trekked from the windy wilds of their home state to visit the Big Apple for the first time, have managed to keep their eyes on the true prize throughout the whirlwind of events. "We have a couple of friends tell us to make sure we don’t get caught up in the glitz and glamour and media stuff, and to make sure we’re focused on the fact that we’re getting married," says Steph. "First of all, we can’t legally marry in Alaska so our biggest motivator is our marriage to one another. Whether we get married outside or in the subway, I don’t care. All that matters is that I’m married to Lela and all of this is just extra, a bonus.”
Inspired by their submission video, which featured the adorable couple standing on a hillside, with snow falling in the background and beautiful birch trees encompassing their woodsy surroundings, Cowie set out to give their wedding a winter wonderland theme featuring shades of grey, silver and white. "Swarovski crystals add sparkling elements to the snow, as well as the chandeliers and the serpentine-shaped aisle has a beautiful dusting of white flowers along the sides," explains Cowie. "The tabletop centerpiece is a long mirror with white orchids and candles."
Phil and Shawn, who met at the legendary New York City nightclub The Roxy over 18 years ago, was waiting for their 20th anniversary to tie the knot, but when the contest opportunity arose, they couldn't resist. “It’s pretty impressive to have Colin Cowie, who’s known for his celebrity events to plan your wedding day,” says Phil. “And, to have your wedding planned by him on top of the Empire State Building ... what more could you ask for?”
Because Phil has an Asian background, Cowie gave their wedding an Indochine vibe. "It's Indochine meets Hermes, if that makes sense," he says, featuring exotic colors and an aisle runner made of a deep burnt orange felt. "They’re two guys who have been together for 18 years … I don’t think they’d want to walk down a traditional white aisle, you know what I mean?” says Cowie. "When you are dealing with gay weddings there are different parameters to the usual wedding. We really design to the personality."
Steph and Lela are the first of the four couples to tie the knot tomorrow at 8 a.m., followed by Phil and Shawn at 11 a.m. and, of course, Equally Wed will be there to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime experience with the couples.
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