When Alessandra Antenucci and Nicole Marie Arias Baez first met at New York City’s famed lesbian bar Henrietta’s, neither was particularly gungho about the moment. Antenucci had just recently come out when her friends talked her into going out the day before Halloween 2015. Baez was similarly pulled into a trip to the bar by separate friends. But as the night panned out, the two soon found each other.
“The friend that I was there with was hitting on her friend so I was taking her, the third wheel, out of the equation so our friends could talk,” Baez recalls. Little did she know, Antenucci’s friend was actually straight. The attempted diversion showed signs of something magical, but Baez was set on it not going anywhere. After all, she had plans to return to the Dominican Republic in three weeks and Antenucci, for her part, had plans to relocate to Dallas a few months later.
Still, Antenucci, who is currently Fossil Group’s head of global marketing, knew Baez was worth it. She made her plans known: she was going to get her new friend to fall in love with her over the next three weeks. She eventually took Baez on a tour of New York City seeing the city through her eyes, starting at her favorite pizza place, Rubirosa.
“I went on that date thinking, Well, what do I have to lose?” Baez confesses. “I remember sitting there in front of her and staring at her and thinking she’s like a real adult, not like all of the failed relationships I’ve had in the past.”
The three week deadline was ultimately extended to five and on that last week, the pair went to Dallas together to scope out Antenucci’s new digs. Eventually, Baez returned to the Dominican Republic and Antenucci moved to Texas on New Year’s Day. They embarked on a FaceTime-filled nine-month long-distance relationship with a few Dallas trips to keep the connection alive.
“You can do the long-distance thing as long as you see the finish line,” Baez says. “But that finish line was starting to get a little blurry.” It was during this time that things began to look uncertain and the pair decided it was time to make a decision: either someone had to take a risk and make a move or they needed to both move on. So, Baez moved to Dallas.
The couple purchased a 1924 Craftsman-style home that they renovated, taking it all the way back to its bare bones before building it out. They were building their own life together. In September 2019, for Antenucci’s birthday, her friends took her out for drinks. Afterwards, they insisted on seeing the house which she describes as “a bunch of sticks holding up a roof.” Once there, she saw through the structure and spotted a flickering light in the backyard where Baez was waiting with candles, lights, the sounds of Leon Bridges, a makeshift dance floor, and a proposal spray painted on a wall — Antenucci is a lover of graffiti. The two were set to be the first gay married couple from their respective Catholic families.
“We planned and we replanned and replanned and geared up for this drama because we were the first gay wedding,” Antenucci says. “And then [the pandemic] happened.”
The pandemic halted their wedding plans. As governmental offices opened and then closed, there was a growing need to get married as soon as possible. By Summer 2020 it seemed Donald Trump could get reelected, and in September 2020 Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, throwing the power of the Supreme Court into jeopardy. Finding a way to get married, and a place to get married where the state would always affirm the license no matter what happened federally became an imperative. Then, like kismet, an upcoming work photoshoot for Antenucci was relocated to Palm Springs.
“Everything just sort of fell into place,” she says. In about two weeks they organized an October 5, 2020 elopement. With City Hall closed, they found Reverend Lisa Phillian, an ordained minister who could do the job herself, while the location and team for the photoshoot served double purpose. This meant that noted fashion photographer Tom Schirmacher photographed the Parker Hotel-hosted event. They found a pair of wedding dresses off the rack at a Nordstrom sample sale. They even popped over to the Levi’s flagship to get a pair of denim jackets they had been wanting for two years. And even though it seemed like a rush with no family on hand, the officiant made it feel personalized, meeting with them an hour beforehand to add small nuances into the ceremony.
“I think [the pandemic] made the wedding more personal because you are forced to make it a day for the two of you instead of this big thing,” Antenucci says. The over 30 friends and family who watched the ceremony over a Zoom link sent just 12 hours before to maintain the “shotgun feel” were certainly the cherry on top.