If you've gone on social media or turned on the news this weekend, you most likely saw one of the most powerful wedding images of all time: a bride and groom standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters in Philadelphia. But the couple's wedding photographer, Linda McQueen, and officiant, Reverend Roxanne Birchfield (Rev. Roxy), say the first look was completely unplanned and hope it sends an important message in the fight for equality and justice.
"It feels unreal to me," reflects McQueen. "I never would have thought that this moment would have happened." And frankly, it almost didn't. As McQueen explains, the bride, Dr. Kerry-Anne Gordon—clad in an off-the-shoulder Sophia Tolli gown—was waiting to walk down the aisle when protesters in Philadelphia passed by the venue. "Once she saw that she asked us to go get Michael [the groom] before he walked down the aisle and he just joined the protest along with her."
In the meantime, the couple's officiant, Rev. Roxy, was already at the altar waiting for the wedding processional to start. "All of a sudden I heard a loud scream and I ran around the corner and there's Kerry-Anne standing waiting for Michael for the first look," describes Rev. Roxy. "It was a moment for me specifically where I felt my whole life flashed before my eyes, but in a good way. It was like getting married in the middle of chaos but beautiful chaos."
According to McQueen, Dr. Kerry-Anne had longed to participate in a protest in the wake of George Floyd's death but never had the chance because of her demanding schedule as a physician. "This was her omen to be part of a protest and to make a statement that Black lives matter and Black love matters."
Black lives matter but also Black families [matter]...because that’s where the values and the traditions come from.
And like McQueen, Rev. Roxy knows this incident was no coincidence. "They were chosen," she says. "The message that I hope that it sends is that Black lives matter but also Black families [matter]...because that’s where the values and the traditions come from. That’s the difference between why people have, I think, just zoomed in on this couple is because they hold hope—hope for the community and for the family."
And what a powerful statement it was. It's a wedding that will undoubtedly go down in history—we're even calling it the wedding of the year. But the message that McQueen hopes the moment sends is simple: "I hope this moment sends a message of love and unity. We’re all people and we all essentially want the same things—love, liberty, happiness and equality."
After saying "I do," the newlyweds reflected on the serendipitous experience to ABC News. "It ended up being a very powerful moment," said the bride. "Not only are we feeling the movement of the people...but I'm meeting my husband, on our wedding day, as a strong black man and a good representative of who we are as people, what our men are like, what our culture is like. It was just a very, very empowering moment for us considering all of this is happening at one moment in one time."
In more ways than one, the June 6, 2020 wedding "doesn’t compare" to any other nuptials McQueen has been a part of in the past, claiming this was the "most impactful." But like so many currently engaged couples, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the Gordons to initially postpone their original May wedding date to next year. But three weeks ago, the pair decided to plan a micro wedding set for the first Saturday in June. "They had roughly about 20 guests but all the chairs were placed six feet apart," shares McQueen of the intimate ceremony.
And what would have been just another socially-distant wedding in the thick of a pandemic became a symbolic nod to one of the most critical movements of our lifetime. Adds McQueen, "We’re united, we’re strong, we’re black and we deserve the same rights as everyone else."