NEW YORK – Twenty years ago, Patricia Byrnes surprised her then-fiancé, Kevin, by entering them into a contest to be married at the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.
The contest, organized by Kleinfeld Bridal, was only in its fourth year. Patricia and Kevin, both working for the New York City Police Department, had met four years prior at an Emerald Society party. They were separately singing karaoke and someone had the idea that they should perform a duet. On stage, singing “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole, was when Patricia and Kevin first met. One of their first dates was at the Empire State Building.
After telling their story to Kleinfeld Bridal, the couple was selected to be married on the 80th floor of the iconic skyscraper.
“We were looking at venues and we weren’t sure what we were going to do,” Kevin said. “I was excited about it. I thought it was pretty cool.”
On Valentine’s Day in 1998, both Patricia and Kevin were sergeants in the NYPD. Patricia retired as a lieutenant and Kevin retired as a detective sergeant. They moved to Yorktown in 2001.
As their 20th anniversary approached, Kevin thought it was his time to surprise Patricia by once again entering them into the contest. This time around, thanks to the internet, there were many more submissions than in 1998.
“I wrote our story and I saw there were hundreds of entries,” Kevin said. “I didn’t think we had a shot.”
Kevin and Patricia were among 11 couples selected from around the country to be married on the 86th floor observation deck.
“I gave her a little advance warning,” Kevin said. “She was happy about it. She was caught off guard, but she was happy about it.”
They were treated to a night at the Grand Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan, and Patricia was able to spend up to $3,000 on a wedding gown from Kleinfeld Bridal.
On Valentine’s Day, there were 11 ceremonies held at 15-minute intervals, beginning at 8:15 a.m. The Byrnes’ ceremony was held at 9:15 a.m. They were joined by family and friends, including their three children: Brendan, Kevin III, and Kaitlin. Kevin’s daughter, Elizabeth, who was 6 when he married Patricia, was the only other person to attend both ceremonies.
“Last time around, I think we were the first couple,” Kevin said. “They escorted us up there. The ceremony itself was quick, but I didn’t feel rushed.”
In his letter to Kleinfeld Bridal this year, Kevin detailed their 20 years of marriage, including his wife’s bout with breast cancer in 2013.
“Good times, bad times, sickness and health—we’ve lived it all and we’re glad to be going back to renew our vows where it all started,” Kevin said.
More than half of the couples were from out of state, traveling from California, North Carolina and Wisconsin to participate in the ceremonies.