A global pandemic has derailed the wedding plans of many engaged couples this year, but love wouldn’t let bestselling author, fashion editor and Project Runway judge Elaine Welteroth and her musician fiancé, Jonathan Singletary wait. With a pivot that prioritized safety, the Brooklyn-based couple found a ridiculously romantic and very neighborly way to still marry on their chosen date, May 10, while respecting the rules of social distancing.
The former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief and her groom first met as adolescents in their Bay Area church in the late ’90s. When Singletary relocated to Welteroth’s adopted city of New York in 2013, the two met again and instantly clicked, eventually becoming engaged in December of 2016.
“He tasted my fried chicken. The rest is history!” Welteroth told American Vogue, which published the details of the couple’s engagement and wedding, as well as an extensive photo montage. The nuptials took place on a very special date, as the couple initially planned to wed at a family friend’s Northern California estate on Mother’s Day.
Once they selected the date—May 10, 2020—they really started to get excited. “There was so much symbolism in this sequence of numbers [5-10-20] that only come together once in a lifetime,” Elaine explains. “Also, it fell on a Sunday—the day we met as kids and saw each other every week growing up. But it wasn’t just any Sunday, it would be Mother’s Day!” ... “It all felt divinely orchestrated. So, we leaned into all that meaning and wove it into every aspect of the wedding.” The creative brief was for it to be “an elevated—literally, by the hills of Mount Diablo—Sunday-gospel-brunch wedding with elegantly plated soul food and a festive black-tie dress code.”
Clearly, the coronavirus outbreak had other plans, and the couple reluctantly realized they’d have to pivot from the glamorous ceremony they’d planned in detail with celebrity planner Mindy Weiss.
“[B]oth of us realized that we actually felt more ‘married’ to our date and to each other than we did to our big, exciting plans,” Welteroth told Vogue, later adding: “So I woke up one day and walked into Jonathan’s home studio and said, ‘I am marrying you on 5-10-20. It may have to be right here on our stoop. And I might be in sweats. But we are still doing this, come hell or high water.’”
She may have meant it as a joke, but the couple’s stoop ultimately became the ideal wedding venue as Welteroth and Singletary pivoted to a #LoveLockdown-themed ceremony on their Brooklyn block.
“I woke up one morning with this whole vision of how we could do it,” Welteroth explained. “In my mind, I saw the faces of people we love from afar surrounding us on iPhone screens and a small group of our local friends in white lining the sidewalk with gloves and masks on. I envisioned transforming our stoop into an altar glowing with pretty lighting and gorgeous florals. I had no idea if any of this was even possible in the middle of a pandemic, but I was excited about having a new wedding vision to work towards.”
With help from floral designer Lewis Miller Design and a talented inner circle, the couple’s city-perfect ceremony and socially distanced block party-style reception centered around their flower-festooned Brooklyn stoop, which had become a precious spot while sheltering in place.
“For New Yorkers without rooftop access, a backyard, or a weekend home upstate to escape to, a stoop becomes your coveted slice of outdoor space—your one refuge for fresh air and sunlight,” Welteroth explained. “Whenever we need to clear our heads and get out of the house, we sit—or dance—on our stoop together.”
“The neighbors next door and the little kids across the street started coming outside to dance with us from their stoops,” she added. “It brought us all so much joy to smile, and wave, and dance—together, apart—with neighbors who had been merely strangers to us before the quarantine.”
Appropriately, the neighborhood was also on hand to celebrate the couple’s marriage, performed via Zoom by Dr. Stanley Long, founding pastor of the South Bay Community Church, the home church their families share in California. And though the venue might’ve been unconventional (let’s call it something new), at least a few aspects of the traditional ceremony remained: in addition to the luscious florals (which included something blue), Welteroth wore a 3-year-old white gown from her own closet (something old), paired with her mother’s wedding veil (something borrowed).
“Since the mantra we set for our stoop wedding was, ‘Do the best you can with what you have,’ I decided to not overthink my dress,” she explained.
Doing her own makeup in the backseat of a car and styling her hair via a live tutorial from celebrity hairstylist and good friend Vernon François (who’d been booked to do her hair for the big day), Welteroth rocked braids and bohemian waves as she walked down a Soul Train-inspired, safe social distance-marked sidewalk “aisle” to meet her groom.
“It was Jonathan’s suggestion to create a ‘Soul Train aisle’ by inviting our live guests to stand in two lines—spaced out over 10 feet apart—on our sidewalk,” said Welteroth. “Boom. Just like that, I got my aisle! And anyone who knows me knows how much I love a Soul Train line, so it was my literal dream come true to get married in one.”
In addition to 200 guests via Zoom, friends in attendance included Lupita Nyong’o, supermodel and Project Runway host Karlie Kloss, photographer Micaiah Carter (who helped capture the day), and close friend and designer Aurora James of luxury footwear label Brothers Vellies (who custom-designed Welteroth’s white woven leather, ankle-wrapped heels). Each guest was furnished with a white parasol, mask and gloves, bubbles, flower seeds, mini tambourines and brownies made from a family recipe—and each was paired with a “FaceTime buddy” they were responsible for during the ceremony.
“Each person in the aisle became a physical portal for our closest loved ones from afar,” Welteroth explained. “And in doing so, the people we love most made new connections with each other. It was really, really special, and so emotional for everyone.”
After the ceremony, Brooklyn-based musician Adeline Bolden deejayed a socially distant street party, where the bride and groom, who’d shared their wedding party playlist beforehand, dropped it low at a safe distance from their guests.
“All while maintaining the necessary socially responsible distance, we wanted to give our whole block a reason to dance despite all the devastation in the world around us,” Welteroth explained, later recalling the moment a police van cruised past the party: “[W]hen they saw that everyone was wearing masks and maintaining a safe social distance, they passed by without stopping—and the entire block went into an uproar...Then the DJ started our first dance song over, by Snoh Aalegra [“Find Someone Like You”], and we got to do it over, the way we planned—this time with all the love and energy of our whole community cheering us on. It was nothing short of magical.”