The LOVE statue might not be in LOVE Park right now, but it was at a wedding over the weekend.
Guests to the wedding of Indy Hall co-founder Alex Hillman and Di Bruno Bros executive chef Patterson Watkins got to party with the statue on the premises.
“People wanted to make up all sorts of stories about how it was there,” Hillman told Billy Penn. “A lot of people didn’t even know LOVE Park was being redone. And people are used to seeing replicas around. So people were like, ‘Cool, they got a LOVE replica.’”
Nope. Not a replica.
The statue found a temporary home in Dilworth Park when LOVE Park renovations began (government name: John F. Kennedy Plaza), but the sculpture was removed the day after Valentine’s to get refurbished.
Materials Conservation, one of the companies handling the restoration process, rents studio space on the 1700-block of Mascher Street in Kensington. Hillman and Watkins picked their spot for the big day, viewing it as the ideal, unconventional space for their nuptials.
“Our original plan was to do something like a block party. [But] we found out about John’s studio through a bunch of mutual friends,” explained Hillman. He’s referring to John Carr, principal conservator at Materials Conversation. “His studio is just filled with neat Philadelphia artifacts.”
Carr said they host events at the space, but this ceremony was a first. “We’d never really done a wedding,” said Carr. “It’s a workspace. It’s not really at all a venue. I was surprised that anyone would want to get married there, but I was surprised that anyone would want to get married on April 1st.”
Carr told Billy Penn that work hasn’t begun on the statue yet, which will soon be repainted.
The couple didn’t know about their “unexpected guest” until the day before. Carr surprised them when they came by to set up the space.
“It was in the room next door from the wedding, and I rolled it in for them.” He remembered presenting the sculpture like, “Wouldn’t it be great for April Fools? …We’ll just be mum about whether it’s real or not.”
But, this being one of the iconic Philly pieces of public art, the couple did not in fact stay mum. When you have the real LOVE statue at your wedding, you tell people. Carr also suggested a no-photos policy; guests did not observe that. The selfie appeal was too strong.
The statue was not the only unique feature. Hillman and Watkins opted for a Quaker ceremony, which allowed them freedom for the ceremony’s format. Rather than a formal officiant, they had an emcee. Rather than vows, they shared memories from their most cherished moments together. To celebrate, there was a 21 Nerf gun salute.
“It was anything but ordinary,” said emcee Adam Teterus, who coordinated a call-and-response between the couple and guests, and read aloud Boyz II Men lyrics.
Hillman and Watkins paid nothing for sculpture’s surprise appearance. They did not rent the iconic sculpture, and you can’t either.
“It was just a fluke,” said Carr, describing it as a right place, right time occurrence. “I hope it’s not a controversial thing, because it was more a gesture on a great day.”
Hillman described the statue being there as “surreal.”
“I can’t think of a more perfect symbol,” he said. “It was that bit of luck and serendipity… The kind of thing that I will never be able to pull off again. That makes an already special day even more special.”