An hour before she was to marry her fiancé, Amanda Mason walked out of her house in a white lace jumpsuit and peach tulle skirt, to find chalk drawing of hearts along the sidewalk… Yep, the neighbours had joined forces!
Across the street, Scott Davis acted as a one-man street sweeper, raking leaves from the gutter into a large paper bag and bringing plants from his home to help the couple create a wedding altar. A few doors down, teenager Isabel Rebora had a friend to hoist her on his shoulders so she could wrap paper flowers around a tree. Rebora’s mother and sister had made more than 100 of them out of coffee filters and paper-mache!
When the couple clasped hands to say their vows, the bride carried a small bouquet of pink dogwood flowers and lavender that neighbourhood kids had constructed for her.
A few days earlier, Colette Marchesini, Walter Street’s unofficial “mayor,” distributed poster board so neighbors could make signs to place in front of their houses: “Happy Wedding Day!” proclaimed one, marked with toddler handprints, hanging above rose petals strewn on the front steps. “It’s a DC I Do!” shouted another. Marchesini strapped her signs to a neighbour’s car parked at one end of the one-way street, declaring it closed from 6:30pm to 7pm.
We know what you must be thinking – these people are amazing! In fact, this is not an unusual occurrence on Walter Street. Around the world, people are relying more and more on each other to contain the spread of Coronavirus, with many getting to know their neighbours for the first time. But for this narrow, close-knit street in the Eastern Market neighbourhood on Capitol Hill, asking a neighbour for help or bonding over a front porch happy hour is not pandemic behaviour. It’s what they do all the time.
The block of about 50 homes is known for its annual Halloween celebration, which Marchesini says draws more than 1,000 trick-or-treaters, and its July 4th block party, during which the north and south sides of the street compete in games such as a water balloon toss and a pop-culture-themed relay race. In December, one neighbour coordinates a Christmas tree lighting, and on the third Thursday of every month, a different neighbour hosts a happy hour on their front porch. String lights hang year-round, threading through the tree canopy and connected to a resident’s solar panels.
As far as Campbell can recall, Saturday was the block’s first wedding. “It’s a different culture,” Campbell says of the block’s friendliness, noting that “sometimes it’s too much for people.”
It’s the kind of street, resident Noah Bopp says, where you can park your car on one end at 5 p.m. and it will take you till 6 p.m. to get home, because neighbors are always out, saying hello and stopping to chat. Dogs wander off-leash and toddlers take after them. Several neighbors describe the block as Washington’s version of Sesame Street; “Gilmore Girls” fans say it feels like Stars Hollow. “It’s the friendliest place I’ve ever lived,” said one newcomer.
So when the couple told Marchesini they’d had to reschedule their April 25th wedding for November 7th, Marchesini was quick to suggest the couple keep the ceremony on the day they had planned — and do it on Walter Street. 50 guests were patched in via Zoom, including the groom’s father, who would officiate from his home, and neighbours gathered around with masks and at a safe distance, to celebrate.
Just before the ceremony, roommates Delia Antemie and Lynn Sommerville placed Trader Joe’s flowers on their front stoop. Younger guests showed up in their Halloween finest: a Spider-Man suit and Princess Elsa dress.
The couple stood in the street in front of a laptop, while reminding everyone to maintain at least six feet from those around them. In just a few weeks, the couple had revised their wedding and honeymoon plans several times — perhaps the best form of improvisation training for marriage.
As a nod to life’s uncertainty, the groom said in his vows: “I love what I know about you and trust what I do not know yet.” In turn, the bride said “Not only have we managed to survive quarantine, co-working and all the wedding changes – I think we have thrived together during this time. It is certainly a challenging yet affirming way to begin our marriage.”
With their vows complete, the groom’s father proclaimed: “You may kiss the bridddeee”, as the choppy Internet connection added extra syllables. Neighbors cheered, then Zoom guests whooped and hollered!
A neighbor hit play on an outdoor speaker and the couple began their first dance to Louis Armstrong’s “A Kiss to Build a Dream On,” but the song cut off abruptly because of technical difficulties. As they began again, Mason’s long tulle skirt got in the way. By now, this bride was skilled in improv — so she tossed her skirt and belt to the curb, leaving just her jumpsuit. Again, the neighbors erupted in cheers.
“It was phenomenal. It reminds me of Capitol Hill in general. Whenever you walk around the neighborhood, you’re always noticing something new.”Amanda Mason, Bride
Marchesini reports that the Walter Street residents had so much fun, that they’re considering putting on another event next month: a socially distant prom!
We simply love hearing these beautiful stories. Remember, Fairies – love will always find a way!
Digital Content Coordinator: Zoe Kanlis
Featured Image: Washington Post