He Admired Her ‘Grit and Grace.’ She Was Struck by His Kindness.

September 5, 2023

Photo Credit: Khaki Bedford

Editor’s note:

Sometimes, love stories stand out not just because of the love itself, but the unexpected twists and unwavering hope they bring. Bri Scalesse, a model and disability advocate, and Sheldon Nguyen, a pharmacist – were an unlikely pair whose love story defied the odds. Their journey began with a chance encounter, unusual distances, and blossomed into a love story filled with hope and determination.  Here is an excerpt of their unique love story, from a not-so-typical first date to a wedding that celebrated love and inclusivity. Bri and Sheldon’s story featured in the “New York Times”, is a testament to the power of hope, resilience, and love that can conquer all obstacles.

When Bri Sophia Scalesse, model and disability advocate, decided to use the Hinge app to start dating in Manhattan in January 2019, she kept the settings she’d had while living in Norwich, Conn., years earlier, with the “maximum distance” of potential matches set to roughly 35 miles.

Within a few weeks, the app connected Bri with Sheldon Thien Nguyen, 31, a pharmacist living in New Brunswick, N.J., which was at least an hour’s drive from where she lived.

“Bri didn’t realize that Manhattan was something like two or three miles wide, so she had her radius set really huge,” Sheldon said.

And good thing she had.

“It’s the reason we met,” Bri said.

“I got a cup of coffee to warm my hands, and he wrapped his hands around mine,” Bri said. She felt the spark immediately. “I had been going on many dates at the time, like three or four a week,” she said. A lot of them were mediocre, she added, but this one felt different. She knew there was something special between them.

“At the beginning of a relationship, how disability plays a role and how this person handles it has always been the biggest thing for me,” Bri recalls. (Bri was injured in an auto accident at age 6, that left her with paraplegia.)

“She’s been a fighter her entire life, through physical and emotional hardships,” Sheldon said. “And she does it all with charisma and warmth.”

Bri and Sheldon were ultimately married June 2 at Rule of Thirds, a Japanese restaurant and event space in Brooklyn, in front of 181 guests.

Photo Credit: Khaki Bedford

Eight of their guests were in wheelchairs, so the couple worked with their wedding planner on a smart layout for the ceremony. “Making sure it was accessible for wheelchair users and anyone who’s disabled was really important to us,” Bri said. They decided on a semicircle of guests on one side, and the traditional seated rows on the other side.

With that configuration, “we felt so surrounded by loved ones in a way I couldn’t have imagined,” Bri said.

For Sheldon and Bri, one of the most touching moments of the wedding was hearing the vows the other person had written.

Photo credit: Khaki Bedford

“Bri’s vows meant the world to me,” Sheldon said. “She’s an incredible storyteller.”

“Sheldon wrote a letter to my childhood self, my present self, and my future self,” Bri said. “I could cry every time I think about them. If I ever need to cry on command, I’ll think about that.”

Intriguing Wedding Day Details

Accessories For All One of Mr. Nguyen’s favorite accessory items — pearls — was the theme of the evening. “We bought lots of different pearl accessories, put them all in a box and had guests choose a piece to wear at the wedding when they came in,” Mr. Nguyen said.

That Can Only Mean One Thing As the wedding party came down the aisle, some guests noticed that the music accompanying them was an instrumental version of “Hotline Bling” by Drake, one of the couple’s favorite songs. “Very few people caught on, but the few who did were like, ‘Is this actually happening? Am I really hearing this?’” Ms. Scalesse said.

Flowers and Metal Kelsey Ledezma-Rebollo, a florist based in Southern California who is a wheelchair user, designed an arrangement of flowers to be woven into the spokes of Ms. Scalesse’s wheelchair. The wedding’s florist, A Lily Among Thorns, executed the design according to Ms. Ledezma-Rebollo’s instructions. “It was very important to me that she was the one who designed it,” Ms. Scalesse said.

Source: The New York Times, by Valeriya Safronova, August 25, 2023

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