Those smiling people in the center of this photo, the ones looking straight at the camera, are Jayne and PJ Kim. And they're in love. Photo: Michelle Naim
Ah, love is in the air. Valentine’s day brought all sorts of celebrations to the heart of the city — weddings, surprise proposals, and even a large-scale vow renewal ceremony. Couples from diverse backgrounds were brought together in the center of the city to celebrate in the name of one commonality — love.
The festivities began on Thursday morning in Duffy Square at West 46th Street and Broadway, where this year’s special Valentine’s installation (there’s a different one every year) evokes the universal symbol for a kiss. The giant X, made by Reddymade, an architecture and design company, has words such as “democracy,” “equality,” and “love” displayed on the inside.
Couples flocked around the illuminated X on Thursday evening, taking photos with their significant others. One couple said they weren’t even in love when they got engaged. Rudra and Kripa Joshi were married in India, where it was the norm for parents to arrange a marriage. Kripa, a freelance makeup and hair stylist, said the lovely red dress she was wearing had been gifted to her by husband of six years. Although the couple got married in India, she and Rudra came to “The City of Love” for their anniversary because, “We are keeping the love alive ... I’m still in red after six years.”
In all, 331 couples registered online with the Times Square Alliance to renew their vows that Valentine’s evening. Of those couples, 63 said they have been married for more than 20 years, according to TJ Witham, the Times Square Alliance director of communications.
Some couples have been renewing their vows in Times Square for years, like Upper West Siders Jayne and PJ Kim, who were married there on Valentine’s day in 2014, and have been back every year since to reaffirm their love. They even named their youngest daughter Valentine.
When they first met, PJ said, Jayne couldn’t stop talking to him, but she was so “unspeakably beautiful” he couldn’t muster up the courage to speak a word to her until a few hours later.
A mother of two (Emilie, 14, and Alexandra,12) at the time, Jayne was very protective of her daughters. In the initial stages of their relationship, she would even make PJ sit outside of her apartment while they spoke. And if he he got thirsty, she would bring out a glass of water. Eventually, she wanted to be a role model for her girls: “I thought they deserved to see what it was like to feel really loved and to love. [I kept thinking] ‘Where has he been my whole life?’ As a partner, and as a friend ... I never knew it could be that easy.”
When the couple first heard about the opportunity to get married in Times Square, Jayne thought “That’s really insane, but it sounds like fun, let’s do it! And we just applied.” After they were selected, Jayne bought wedding bands from a jewelry repair kiosk in a New Jersey shopping mall and purchased a wedding dress two days before the wedding.
Both Jayne and PJ recalled the day of their wedding with utter joy and flashing red hearts in their eyes. “In the moment,” PJ said, “it really did feel like fate ... Time seemed to slow down. We made our vows and it felt like it was just the two of us in the world.”
February 2014 was also the month that brought a heavy snowstorm to the city. But, Jayne said, “It stopped snowing [the night before the wedding] ... It was freezing, that’s what everyone else says ... but I didn’t feel a single bit of coldness ... It was beautiful, crystal, and clear.”
Valentine’s day has become a special part of the Kim family’s life. Since she was young, Jayne remembers her own mother buying her flowers and small Valentine’s cards. And now, the couple’s anniversary is on Valentine’s day, and their first child together is named Valentine. Naming their daughter Valentine was “pretty much a no brainer for us just because it represents love ... And then when we saw her ... we thought ‘She’s our Valentine,” Jayne said.
“When we got married on Valentine’s day,” she added, “it not only was this day of love, but the day that our family joined together as one.” As PJ, Jayne, and their three children descended the steps above the TKTS box office to renew their vows as a family, it was difficult to envision a more picturesque moment. Two people began their journey of love in the City of Love, with those whom they love, and every year, they get to relive it all over again.