“I wasn’t looking for a relationship,” says Christine D’Ercole. “My focus was on getting my daughter to graduation, and my own healing. If someone did come along, I certainly didn’t expect it to be a man.”
As a cycling instructor at Peloton, Christine and her fellow instructors scan the leaderboard for interesting member names to shout out. #Breathenitrox was a curious one. “Hi! What is #BreatheNitrox? Is that what dentists use?” she asked, before moving on to the next one.
#BreatheNitrox turned out to be Brian Hicks – a home rider in San Francisco who took class at 7:30 a.m. regardless of who was teaching. After the shoutout, he sent Christine a Facebook message explaining his username. Dentists use Nitrous Oxide. He was also a scuba diver and underwater photographer. Nitrox is a gas mix that allows him to stay underwater longer to photograph nudibranchs, or sea slugs. Christine thought he sounded cool.
“It was an uncanny ease of being.”
“Scuba diving was on my bucket list,” she adds. “Getting a road bike was on his. And I was a cyclist. Conversations began, and over the course of many months a real friendship developed. It wasn’t only our many shared interests (food, wine, good knives) that kept our conversations rolling; it was an uncanny ease of being. It became clear that we would be forever friends.”
Christine is a woman who was not interested in men; so she was caught off guard one day, when she was in line at the grocery store and heard a voice in her head say: “He is just great. I love that guy.” She felt a tug at her heart as the voice grew louder: “I LOVE that guy.”
“In spite of myself, I was falling in love with him,” she recalls. “Little did I know, the same was happening for him. Neither said a thing. Over a glass of wine, I shared what was in my heart with my friend, Rachel. ‘I know this sounds crazy, but I keep hearing in my head – I AM GOING TO MARRY HIM.’ Her wine spewed right out of her nose. ‘How on earth was that going to work!?’ she asked, with me being gay and him being a man. I said I don’t know, but I think it’s going to be okay.”
A few days later, Christine and Brian were hanging out when she decided it was time to speak her truth. She told Brian, “We need to talk,” and he excused himself for a moment to go to the restroom. In reality, he was rehearsing another conversation he had anticipated. A conversation that involved Christine saying, “Nothing is ever going to happen here. Remember, I’m gay.”
As soon as he returned, however, Christine blurted out: “I am in love with you.” Brian lit up immediately. He replied, “That’s not at all what I was expecting! I’ve spent months preparing for the other conversation, where you tell me to back off. I, too, am in love with you.” And so it began.
The couple worked through their bucket lists together with Christine learning how to scuba dive and Brian riding up Haleakala on a bike. When musing about what could be next, Christine admitted to Brian that she’d like to be married to him by her 50th birthday. Brian responded with, “I think that can happen.”
“Then nothing happened,” says Christine. “I teased occasionally that he really should marry me. He’d smile and squeeze me. Then the pandemic hit. His office moved to the sofa. His computer sat open on the arm. I couldn’t help but notice his cookies pop up in diamond advertisements. I said nothing. Finally, around my 49th, I said ‘I saw your cookies.’ We laughed. ‘How do you want to do this? Surprise or together?’
We sketched our design, full of symbolism. Catherine Angiel made it real. By December, he had the ring. It would happen ANY DAY NOW. Christmas? New Years? Valentines? Nope. He took me to Per Se for Mothers’ Day. Nope. When we signed on our new house? Vulnerable, I said, ‘Please tell me what you’re waiting for. I fear you’ve got cold feet.’ He said, ‘When the time is right.’”
Having accepted that Brian would propose “when the time was right,” Christine had no expectations by the time her 50th birthday approached. The couple celebrated at Aska in Williamsburg, and soon found themselves alone in the courtyard. “I could be locked in an apartment during a pandemic with you forever,” said Brian. Finally, he got down on one knee and proposed.
The wedding day was pure theatre, taking place at the Weylin in Brooklyn.
“Every detail was considered,” Christine describes. “My daughter dropped feathers for my father’s memory. Ribbons from Ukraine tied to place cards reminded us that tomorrow isn’t promised and to celebrate life now. Viola Brand dazzled with bicycle dance. Octagons everywhere represented the wisdom of the octopus, a symbol of mindfulness for us. And we wrote our vows around my mantra: I AM, I CAN, I WILL, I DO.”
The experience also extended beyond the wedding day to include the creation of a beautiful photo story. When discussing the videography for the big day with Jody and Zach Zorn, Christine shared an idea she had.
“There’s a big difference between a wedding and a marriage,” she says. “A wedding is theatre. A marriage lives in the everydayness of coffee grinds and grocery store lines. A wedding is a celebration full of ritual and symbol and ceremony and staging and roles to be played with lines to be read and costumes to be worn. And all of this exquisite performance serves to punctuate and confirm this moment in time, which ‘changes everything.’ But a marriage is something else altogether. It is an important distinction that we don’t hear much discussion about or attention brought to in wedding conversations.”
Christine wanted to capture the idea that “perhaps we might maintain some thread of the pomp and circumstance, the ritual, the elevated poetry and celebration of the wedding in our everyday marriage.” So, with the talented team of Jody Zorn Photography in tow, Christine and Brian set out to capture the juxtaposition of the “hyper-sacred and the everyday,” hoping to inspire viewers to be more aware of the great beauty in the mundane.”
“I want us to remember the ‘why’ of our marriages,” Christine states. “The ‘why’ is not about all the ‘stuff,’ but about what the ‘stuff’ is meant to represent. The ‘why’ is about the moment that made you want to make a promise – a promise to respect each other and ourselves, to be mindful and compassionate, to be partners in life. Working with Jody and Zach and Ever Good (on hair and makeup) was a totally connected experience. And I have to acknowledge how wonderful Brian was. It was a lot to ask of him to do all this the day after our wedding, but he respected and understood how much it meant to me to create this art, in hopes of having an impact.”
Photography: Jody Zorn Photography, Denver, CO