The ways we’ve had to adapt since the onset of COVID-19 have been significant and varied. From concerts to fashion shows, we’ve seen some pretty inspiring innovations, but by far, The Glow Up’s favorite pandemic pivot to date was bestselling author and Project Runway judge Elaine Welteroth’s socially distanced, flower-festooned stoop wedding to Jonathan Singletary in Brooklyn on May 10.
The couple’s streamlined yet seriously romantic nuptials were a major change of plans from the lavish event they’d initially planned in their native California—including a virtual guest component—but it was perhaps even more gorgeous for the effort. We chronicled the now-viral ceremony, beautifully captured on film and broadcast on social media, in May, just days before the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers would catalyze protests across the country and reinvigorate the ongoing movement for Black lives. It was with this added context that bridal magazine and site The Knot now revisits the all-white-attired yet unambiguously Black wedding, featuring Welteroth in all her bridal beauty on the cover of its Fall 2020 issue, which hit digital newsstands today, July 21, and will land in print next Monday, July 27.
“One thing we’ve been talking about is this term ‘Black Life Matters’ as well,” Singletary tells the magazine. “This thing is loud right now, but African-Americans and Black people have been dealing with tragedy and trauma and finding ways to smile through it, laugh through it, dance through it, celebrate through it, connect to our communities through it as our only way of surviving and being resilient.
“We’ve literally been told that our wedding was one of the brightest moments in a dark time that kind of got darker,” he continues—and we wholeheartedly concur. “It definitely was for us. People are able to kind of hold on to that memory—and we’re able to hold on to that memory—and I think those moments fuel you to be able to get through darker times like this.”
“I think we can’t only ever say ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the context of Black bodies—Black dead bodies,” Welteroth adds. “We need to understand deeply, every single day, ‘Black Life Matters,’ and that’s what this fight is for. It is for Black life, it is for Black love, it is for Black joy, it is for Black peace. Not more Black pain, not more Black trauma, not more Black murders and hashtags...It’s why celebrating Black love is important because we still have to defend why Black lives matter,” she continues. “I think when you see examples of Black love in this time, it helps to contextualize. It helps bring us all to the table, and it helps us see each other in this.”
If seeing Welteroth and Singletary unabashed celebrate their Black love was the highlight of your spring, it’s worth noting that it almost didn’t make it to the public. “I was not sure that I wanted to share [it],” says Welteroth. “But it felt necessary to share now.”
But while we’ve recounted the ways in which the couple made the ceremony safe and adaptable for both their in-person guests and loved ones from afar amid a pandemic, there was one moment that didn’t make the ‘gram–but one Welteroth believes “really illuminates what it is like to be Black in America every day—trying to celebrate your love, trying to exist joyfully, trying to create a moment of celebration for our lives.”
[Elaine:] [R]ight at the moment when our pastor said, ‘You may kiss the bride,’ his voice was drowned out by the sound of sirens—a police van. It pulls up and starts going in on his...
EW: And he’s yelling.
JS: Like, ‘Clear the streets!’
EW: ‘Clear the streets. Disperse.’ It was aggressive. Literally, the police interrupted the moment where we were supposed to kiss—have our first kiss as husband and wife. I just thought, ‘What do we do?’ And I almost forgot to kiss him. In that moment, all of the most terrible things that I’ve seen take place between the police and Black bodies flashed before my eyes, and I could just feel the panic flood my veins. And I’m just like, ‘Have I put my community in danger? Have I put myself in danger?’
So, even in the pinnacle of a joyous moment, it tears at the very core of our humanity, and it reminds us that we are not afforded the same pursuit of life, love and happiness—that’s not afforded to so many Black people. And our love, our joy, it is fragile. Because in a moment, you can go from being celebrated and on a high and feeling joyful and being in a state of love with your partner to being...to honestly being flat-faced on the ground with someone’s knee on your neck...To have to contend with that and even just go through that emotion and the thoughts of that [during our wedding], it threatened to steal our joy. It threatened to steal our moments and rob us of this celebration that we had painstakingly preserved.
The incident—and the anxiety, dismay and other complicated emotions attendant to it—are among several candid and detailed revelations the couple share about what many of us perceived to be a fearless display of Black love and joy.
“It was so special and yet so marked by some of...the deepest traumas that we carry with us every day as Black people,” Welteroth shared, explaining that the moment itself not only caused some PTSD but compelled her to share her wedding story with the world. “It illuminates this idea of what it’s like to be Black in America in a way that words can’t.”
The Knot’s Fall issue, featuring Elaine Welteroth and Jonathan Singletary, is available online now.
Corrected: Tuesday, 7/21/20 at 5 pm, ET: An earlier version of this article credited the cover photo to Belathée Photography. The photographer was actually 2020 Glow Up 5o honoree Micaiah Carter.