Brian Clarke was exhausted the first time he met Mariana Ranz in 2015. By the time they were married on May 11, he had cause to feel frazzled again.
On May 8, two days before their surprise Zoom wedding planned in Central Park, they hit a snag securing an online marriage license through New York City’s “Project Cupid.” So instead of throwing one socially distant wedding, they scrambled to put together two: A ceremonial one in the park, and a legal one a day later.
Ms. Ranz, 34, is the community arts partnership manager at Ballet Hispanico, a New York City dance company. Mr. Clarke, 37, is a financial analyst at Deutsche Bank. Their first date, on May 8, 2015, was an attempt by Mr. Clarke to regain some energy after a week of 14-hour workdays in a city then unfamiliar. “I had only been at Deutsche Bank a couple of weeks when they sent me to New York to take on a two-week training assignment,” said Mr. Clarke, a native of Jamaica who was living in Jacksonville, Fla. A former roommate, Shirley Godefroy, connected them. “She knew I needed a break and someone to show me around.”
Ms. Godefroy, who had grown up with Ms. Ranz in Bolivia, wasn’t playing cupid. “She’s just a connector,” Ms. Ranz said. “We both knew that, so we had no expectations, and that made it a lot lighter and a lot easier to get to know each other.” Over drinks at Tao Downtown, they talked about their love of food, family and their experiences as immigrants. By midweek, after back-to-back get-togethers before Mr. Clarke’s May 15 return trip to Florida, their dates were becoming marathons.
He was enchanted by Ms. Ranz, then a dance teacher. But “I thought she was way out of my league. She’s got a much better personality than I do, and she’s way better looking.” He hid his feelings.
“I was getting the feels for him, but he would not give me any sign at all,” Ms. Ranz said.
The night before he flew home, she kissed him in a photo booth at the Standard Hotel. A New York-Florida romance was born, and lasted until 2017, when Mr. Clarke successfully petitioned his bosses to move him to New York. Weeks after his arrival, Ms. Ranz left her home in Inwood and moved in with him to an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, where they still live. On May 10, 2019, a proposal on the High Line sealed the deal.
Then came March, and social distancing, and uncertainty about whether to cancel the wedding in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, that they had planned for a year to the day after their engagement.
“My dad is almost 90,” Ms. Ranz said. “I didn’t want to postpone.” They decided to keep the date, with a twist. With a wedding planner she had already hired in Bolivia, Ms. Ranz cooked up a surprise wedding for the couple’s 80 guests disguised as a Zoom happy hour.
At 5:05 p.m. on May 10, after all their guests had logged in, Ms. Ranz’s cousin, Natalie Robbins, made an announcement on the Zoom call. In both Spanish and English, she said, “It is my honor to welcome you to Brian and Mariana’s wedding.” Though the union, which took place in Central Park at Hallett Nature Sanctuary and led by their friend Anthea Song, wasn’t legal, the gasps and tears of their loved ones as they said their “I do’s,” watched later that night via recording, made it feel like nothing was missing, Ms. Ranz said.
Securing their license and filing the paperwork one day later with the help of a different officiant, Joshua Alex Preston, a friend ordained through the Universal Life Church, was less romantic but a relief. “This definitely wasn’t what we planned,” Ms. Ranz said. “But we did it. And it exceeded our expectations.”