Their mothers brought them together. The loss cemented their bond.

In a way, the story of Charmaine Lopez Gomez and Joseph Alexander Contreras began as a story of two dresses.

Their mothers, Rizaly Brownfield and Somary Contreras, had been friends for eight years, but their children had never met. Woman. Contreras, who was a day teacher, is also a sewing genius. In May 2012, when Ms. Gomez needed an altered dress for a high school prom, she and her mother went to Ms. Opposites.

That day her son Joseph was in and out of the kitchen where the fitting was taking place. He recalls thinking, “Wow. She looks good in that dress.” But Ms. Gomez, now 27, and Mr. Contreras, now 30, exchanged little more than a hello as both were in relationships at the time.

Woman. Gomez and her mother returned to the Contreras family home again the following May so his mother could alter another dress, this one for prom.

“Joseph happened to come down the stairs to get his dog and I came out of the bathroom in my dress,” said Ms. Gomez, who was single at the time. “We met eye to eye and smiled at each other while our moms joked that Joseph should take me to prom since I didn’t have a date.”

“I definitely thought he was cute,” Ms. Gomez said. “But he was in a relationship.” Years later, the two joked about how they both had the idea but were both too clumsy to go ahead.

By next spring, Mr. Contreras was single, and Ms. Gomez, then a freshman at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, received a follow-up request from him on Instagram. He lived at home two hours away in Howell, NJ

Woman. Gomez asked to follow him back. “I remembered that he was super cute,” she said. “Although I wasn’t exactly interested in a relationship.”

They also connected on Twitter. On April 13, 2014, when Mrs. Gomez tweeted something about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “he finally slipped into my DMs,” she said. “We got talking and realized that we had very similar interests and a very similar taste in music.”

But it would still be a month before he asked her out. “He wasn’t sure if he was ready for a relationship,” Ms. Gomez said.

Mr. Contreras said he wasn’t sure what would come of it when he finally asked her out. “But I decided to muster up a little courage, and well, here we are.”

They went on their first date on May 16, 2014 to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Both are fans of Marvel movies and comics. “Going to the movies was perfect for semi-clumsy people because it gave us a chance to honestly not talk that much,” Ms. Gomez said.

“That started a summer of dating,” she continued. “On our second official date, my mom literally ran out of the house and said, ‘You better be careful with him. It puts my friendship with his mother at risk.’”

as Mr. Contreras responded to another tweet by writing “That’s why… we’re best friends,” it became “a running joke in our families that he put me in a friend zone.”

But it wasn’t long before Mr. Contreras asked Mrs. Gomez as his girlfriend. As Ms. Gomez said to her mother, “She was happy but also said, ‘No, no, no. You better be safe Don’t break his heart. That’s my friend,'” Ms. Gomez said.

The two dated long distance calls. He took the bus from Howell to Manhattan almost every weekend, and Ms. Gomez sometimes came home to visit on weekends.

Binge more vows columns here Spirit Read all of our wedding, relationship, and divorce coverage here.

Then tragedy struck. In January 2015, Ms. Gomez’s mother was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. That spring, Ms. Gomez moved back home to be with her mother. But on 1/25/2016, Ms. Brownfield lost her battle with cancer.

For the fall semester of 2016, Ms. Gomez went back to New York City. She made the trip practically every weekend to spend time with Mr. Contreras and his parents. But the time and expense began to add up, and to save money, Ms. Gomez decided to move in with Mr. Contreras and his family in December 2016. She kept taking the bus into town for her classes.

Woman. Gomez said she knew Mr. Contreras was “the one” when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. “Anyone who knows me knows that my mother was my everything,” Ms. Gomez said. “Her diagnosis was hard on me, but not as hard as her eventual loss.”

It was the same experience that shaped Mr. Contreras’ feelings for Ms. Gomez. “I felt like I finally found that part of me that I knew was missing,” Mr. Contreras said. “When her mother died, it was the hardest thing our relationship has ever endured. But I think it also gave us the strongest foundation.”

Once when Mr. Contreras was alone in the hospital with Ms. Gomez’s mother, Mr. Contreras said she told him, “You have to make me a promise. Take care of my Charmaine.” This promise has accompanied me every day since then.”

Today Ms. Gomez is Senior Marketing Manager at Editorialist, a luxury fashion editorial company in New York. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Promotional Marketing Communications from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was born in Cebu, Philippines and immigrated to the United States at the age of seven.

Mr. Contreras was born in Bayonne, NJ and raised in Howell, NJ. He has an associate degree in liberal arts from Brookdale Community College and is a photographer specializing in wedding, engagement and family photography.

They currently live in Howell with his parents and are hoping to buy a house next year.

Because Christmas is the couple’s favorite holiday, Mr. Contreras proposed on the 12th 25th, 2020. Mr. Contreras hated Ms. Gomez last opening a particular gift, a huge box filled with other boxes, each containing different gifts for her.

But the last box was empty. “I looked up completely forgetting that his brother was standing there with the camera on a tripod, and when I turned around he was on one knee,” Ms. Gomez said. “I yelled in front of his whole family.”

The couple married in a Christmas wedding on Dec. 15 at Hamilton Manor, a venue in Hamilton Township, NJ “Our venue was my senior prom. We always joke that Joseph was supposed to take me to prom,” Ms. Gomez said. Instead, a wedding would have to do.

Joseph Schmidt, ordained by Universal Life Church, officiated with 100 guests in attendance.

The couple observed a minute’s silence during the ceremony to honor Ms. Brownfield and set up a memorial in a chair for the ceremony and a place for her at the dinner table.

At the reception, Christmas hats were distributed to the guests on the dance floor; The venue was decorated with Christmas trees and winter flowers including red roses, anemones, Clooney buttercups, pine cones and privetberries.

During the couple’s first dance, a cloud of smoke provided by a dry ice machine surrounded the pair. “I was begging Joseph to do the dancing in the clouds thing,” Ms. Gomez said. Mr. Contreras had initially rejected the idea. “I always told her, no, that’s not in the budget,” he said. “So I surprised her with it at our first dance to Leon Bridges’ ‘Coming Home.'” Woman. Gomez was delighted. When it came to dancing, “we were very much in our own little bubble,” she said.

When: December 15th, 2022

From where: Hamilton Manor in Hamilton Township, New Jersey

Cute Sneakerhead: Mr. Contreras is a big sneaker collector, so he swapped the Gucci loafers his bride gave him for Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG Chicago Lost and Found sneakers for the reception. He gave each of his groomsmen a pair chosen just for them.

Playful pastries: “Our cake topper was very fun and very we”, Ms. said Gomez. It featured her in Minnie ears because she loved Disney and stopped Mr. Contreras by the collar from playing his favorite video game: Destiny 2.

Cultural connection: The couple incorporated the bride’s Filipino culture with three ceremonies. They had a coin ceremony at which Mr. Contreras’ aunt and uncle, Silvia and George Contreras, the couple’s wedding godparents (a Filipino tradition), presented the official with 13 coins to give to the couple for the couple’s share of worldly goods. They had a veil ceremony signifying humility and God’s promise to help the couple shoulder the future, for which Mr. Contreras’ mother placed the veil on the shoulders of the bride and groom. They also had a cording ceremony where the groom’s father, José Contreras, and the bride’s stepfather, Craig Brownfield, bonded the couple’s love by placing a silk lasso over the couple’s heads. said Gomez.

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