High Over East River, Among Strangers, Couple Make Vows
BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | “Marriage” and “guerilla” don’t normally belong in the same sentence — but for two Manhattanites, swiping their MetroCards and staging an impromptu wedding on the Roosevelt Island Tramway made perfect sense, not to mention memories to last a lifetime.
Jennifer Dreussi Hansen and Wesley Hansen, who live in Penn South on the West Side, recently talked about their December 2015 wedding over cheese blintzes and coffee at a local diner.
“When we decided to get married, we were going to go to City Hall — and, then, I don’t know, I kind of wanted to do something a little more funky,” Jennifer explained with a laugh. “It was my idea: Why don’t we try to get married on the tram?”
Wesley and his parents had lived on Roosevelt Island at one point, and after Jennifer moved to the city, he had taken her there.
“Roosevelt Island has always been a little special to me because of the time I spent there,” Wesley said. “It’s changed quite a bit over the years… so when I was showing Jennifer around, she was curious about the places I had lived.”
Jennifer fell in love with the tram, and their photographer, Jenny MacFarlane, happened to be married to an officiant, the Most Reverend Matt Levy. Neither had done a tram ceremony before.
“We emailed them, and they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’d love to do this,’” Jennifer said.
Levy had sent the couple what he calls a “love questionnaire” to fill out before the ceremony so he could prepare what he would say as he officiated.
“We didn’t want to know what he was going to say,” Jennifer said.
The day of the wedding, Levy started the ceremony at the plaza below the tram near the 59th Street Bridge.
Jennifer said the ceremony was funny and heartfelt, with Wesley adding, “It was tailor-made to us.”
After they got the ball rolling, the couple and their guests used their MetroCards to get on the tram.
Without a permit or asking for any kind of okay, the couple hoped for the best — saying their vows while the tram went over the East River.
More than 35 people — tourists and commuters — were on the tram with them during the nuptials. To keep everyone on a positive note, Wesley said, the couple had prepared bags filled with candy — Nerds, Smarties, and Hershey’s Kisses — along with a magnet emblazoned with “Greetings from Roosevelt Island,” and handed them out to people.
“Some people got really big smiles and everything,” he said.
“One woman told me, she was like, ‘This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in New York,’ ” Jennifer recalled.
Afterwards, the couple traveled to Brooklyn to take photos in front of the Bushwick Collective, a “nonprofit outdoor street gallery,” according to its Facebook page. The Hansens have three cats — Banana, Female, and Kevin — and made sure to take some pictures in front of cat artwork. They then had dinner at El Quijote, a Spanish restaurant on West 23rd Street.
Wesley and Jennifer’s romance began when they met in 1993 in Hanover, New Hampshire.
“I just saw him come through the door,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t think that he would speak to me, and he just kind of sauntered over and slid into the booth next to me.”
At the time, Wesley was working for Big Apple Circus, and was on tour.
“That’s when we first met,” he said. “We spent time together, but I was only in town for a week. It was just a few days, but we made a big impression, obviously.”
Over the years, they kept having what Jennifer called “weird chance encounters,” including a near car accident in Hanover.
“She ran a stop sign and almost ran me over,” he said.
“I did not run the stop sign,” she countered.
“It’s a point of contention,” he said.
Jennifer said she was ready to scream after she got out of her car, but then they recognized each other and spent the rest of the day together.
The pair got together for good in 2008. Wesley had moved to Penn South at the tail end of 2007, and as he was unpacking he found some letters from Jennifer.
“I had sent him some letters that he — I never got a response from, but he’d kept them,” she said.
Wesley said, “I was going through stuff and I found the letters and was wondering what Jennifer had been up to because she had been in my thoughts. And so I started looking for her on the Internet. And then I found a Suzanne Vega fan site… and I had remembered she was a big Suzanne Vega fan.”
They were long distance for a bit, and spent stretches of time visiting one another before Jennifer moved to New York City about two years ago. The couple got engaged at the end of 2011, on New Year’s Eve.
Both feel lucky to live in Penn South.
“When I first started coming here, I had this vision of this crazy city,” said Jennifer, a Texan who moved to Burlington, Vermont in the mid-1990s, and began making forays to Manhattan during her courtship period. “I thought that it was going to be much different than what it is –– that it would be anonymous.” Living in Penn South, it turns out, “reminds me of Burlington — a lovely community, and people really pull together. Chelsea is awesome. We have the Hudson and Chelsea Piers less than a five-minute walk, and historic buildings on every street that we love to look at and read about.”
Wesley concurred. “There’s a stronger sense of community in this co-op than I’ve experienced in any apartment setting anywhere,” he said, “whether it’s in Brooklyn or Queens or uptown.”
Wesley, who was born in New Jersey, said that his mom encouraged him to get on the list for Penn South, and he waited about five years for an apartment.
“It’s the ideal neighborhood in Manhattan,” Wesley said.
“I wouldn’t want to live in any other place,” Jennifer added.