(NEW YORK) — As former President Donald Trump headed north to New York on Monday in his custom Boeing 757 to attend his Tuesday arraignment, Karl Diener was making his way towards the same New York City courthouses for an entirely different reason.
Hundreds of reporters waited outside New York’s courthouses and Trump Tower to report on the former president’s arrival in the city for his historic arraignment on Tuesday.
Diener’s family, on the other hand, waited anxiously outside New York Supreme Court for him to arrive with the necessary documentation — his passport he had forgotten — so that he could get married to Abby Perpich at New York’s Clerk’s Office Monday afternoon.
“They are now on the subway, and we’re hoping they’ll make it in time,” Diener’s grandmother Sally Longbotham said as she waited near a park bench in lower Manhattan. The family had one of the last marriage appointments with New York’s Marriage Bureau that day, perhaps one of the more chaotic days in Manhattan in recent memory.
The date was a coincidence, booked weeks prior before the indictment of the former president was announced.
“Because my parents were in town, the weather was great, and we’ve been dilly dallying for long enough — time to do it,” Diener said.
Diener and Perpich, along with dozens of couples with appointments to get married 24 hours before one of the largest media events in recent New York history, were unintentionally thrust into the chaos.
New York’s Clerk’s Office, which houses the city’s Marriage Bureau, shares a building with government attorneys offices and courtrooms in the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building in lower Manhattan. The main office of the New York District Attorney is housed feet away in the neighboring building.
But on Monday, there was a different energy than usual. Feet away from the entrance to the clerk’s office, journalists from across the world were reporting live about the Trump’s Tuesday arraignment. Satellite trucks lined a nearby park, with wires stretching across a city block to connect with cameras and lighting to allow reporters to do their live shots. Reporters waited on line to enter the courthouse the next day. Journalists attempted to interview the sparse protestors near the courthouse.
Before the anticipated court proceeding, a representative from the New York Clerk’s Office confirmed that marriage ceremonies were expected to continue on Tuesday despite the commotion from the arraignment.
Braulio Cuenca is accustomed to being one of the few men slinging a professional camera near the courthouses on most days. For the last 25 years, he has set up shop outside the office’s steps. Resting artificial floral bouquets on a stone ridge near the entrance, Cuenca offers to take photographs of newlyweds for a price, starting off decades ago with a Polaroid camera before he went digital.
“The people come anyway,” he said, noting that couples book appointments weeks in advance to be married.
Josh and Paige, a newlywed couple who preferred not to share their last names, did not even know what was causing the commotion.
“I was surprised,” Josh said. “We just thought that, you know, some famous person is coming or something.”
And the commotion also did little to impact the mood of the day, as the couple gleefully posed for pictures near Foley Square.
“Just holding her hand, just hugging her, just makes me happy,” Josh said reflecting on what he loves about his partner. “He just cares about me so much,” Paige said.
Other couples acknowledged the commotion but chalked it up to the typical chaos of New York.
“It looks like a typical Tuesday,” newlywed Nanda Smith said. Her husband, Scott Rubin, added that people often had a misconception of the city he considers home.
“People think that like New York is some kind of like, guns and crimes everywhere or whatever,” he said. “It’s like, that’s not how it is at all.”
Amid the stress of the moment — the dozens of reporters, cameramen, and sound techs working to broadcast news to millions — the few couples exiting the clerk’s office offered a reprieve from the historic moment. While a courthouse wedding does not elicit the grandiose image of marriage in fairytales, it arguably embodies a different kind of seemingly spontaneous and joyful love that can fill a city, or at least spread contagiously on a street corner. Even in a city famous for its nonchalant locals, random bystanders walking on the street shouted congratulations to the newlywed couples exiting the building.
“It’s special because, you know, it’s New York,” Josh added.
Marie Angide and Evans Bien waited in line in the elaborate art deco Egyptian lobby of the Lefkowitz building. The marks of a government building — security officers, a security x-ray machine, retractable stanchion belts to mark the line — seemed to fade away as they waited for their moment.
“He has a lot of affection,” Marie Angide said of her soon-to-be husband. “So that’s what got me.”
By the time Trump landed at LaGuardia airport roughly 10 miles from the clerk’s office, Diener had arrived with the necessary documentation, and together with Perpich and a few family members, they entered the line to get married.
A week ago, his family members reflected, they were unsure if the wedding would still be on due to the commotion downtown.
“When he got indicted, they looked into changing to the Brooklyn courthouse, because they they thought it might be safer,” Perpich’s mother Cathy Sulzberger said. “But then we heard it was gonna be Tuesday, so we thought we’d take a chance.”
The reports of chaos in New York worried Longbotham, who expressed concerns about safety originally, though she noted those concerns quickly faded by the time she got to New York.
“It’s a glorious day, there’s not a cloud in the sky,” she said. “And I think that’s a good omen.”
Due to limitations placed on the number of people in the Marriage Bureau, most of their family waited outside while the ceremony took place. Roughly 30 minutes after the couple entered the building and $25 dollars later, it was done.
By 4:15 p.m. when the former president arrived at his Trump Tower residence, the family was on their way back home to Brooklyn to celebrate the marriage.
“We’re both imperfect and like laughing at each other for it,” Diener reflected about his partner after the ceremony. “I’d say that,” Perpich said in agreement.
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