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Love blossoms amid pandemic’s roar

‘To hold your hand, be at your side, love you.’

Pierre-Antoine Geslin smiled at his wife Yuan Guo as she wiped her tears away after they are wed at a lake-side Gazebo in Wakefield.
Pierre-Antoine Geslin smiled at his wife Yuan Guo as she wiped her tears away after they are wed at a lake-side Gazebo in Wakefield.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

WAKEFIELD — The calendar insisted it was mid-May, but the chilly wind that blew across Lake Quannapowitt made it feel decidedly more like March.

If the bride and groom noticed the bracing wind that blustered through the old waterfront bandstand the other day, they did not show it.

Pierre-Antoine Geslin looked into the eyes of the woman he loves — the woman who within moments would become his wife — and smiled sweetly.

And Yuanyuan Guo, resplendent in her ivory wedding dress, brushed back her black hair and smiled right back.

“We’ll take the wind over the rain, right?’’ Doreen Breland of Melrose, the wedding officiant, asked them just before the scaled-down ceremony began.

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The chill? The wind? Small details when compared to mileposts that marked the journey this bride and groom traveled to exchange their matrimonial vows.

Pierre-Antoine Geslin and his new wife Yuan Guo held onto their face masks.
Pierre-Antoine Geslin and his new wife Yuan Guo held onto their face masks. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Those details were even smaller when measured against a deadly global pandemic that explained why their closest relatives were watching thousands of miles away across the globe via laptop computers.

Why just a handful of friends stood by as witnesses.

Why this mutual pledge of everlasting love suddenly seemed so urgent. And so poignant.

“We’ll always have a great story to tell our children,’’ Pierre-Antoine told me before the wedding ceremony.

Yuan nodded knowingly and then added: “If you find someone who can stand all this confinement together, then marry him!’’

As a global death toll climbs, as fear heightens, as COVID-19’s economic wreckage is measured in the billions, there is a blessed universality in the marriage story of Geslin and Guo.

It’s there in the way they look at each other. You can hear it in the readings they selected for their ceremony. It was the essential ingredient that propelled their relationship across cultures and national boundaries.

It’s simply this: Love.

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And it began simply, too: At laboratories in Japan.

Pierre-Antoine Geslin smiled with his new wife Yuan Guo after they wed at a lake-side Gazebo in Wakefield.
Pierre-Antoine Geslin smiled with his new wife Yuan Guo after they wed at a lake-side Gazebo in Wakefield. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Pierre-Antoine, 33, the second of two children born to social worker parents, grew up in eastern France, near the German border. His academic interest was material science. He was building models to describe the behavior of metals.

Yuan, 30, was born in a small town near Beijing, and was raised by her mother and grandparents. Her classroom work would propel her to a concentration in biomedical engineering. She is now a visiting research scientist at MIT.

Their love of science would lead to love itself.

It happened in late December 2017 at a dinner party when both of them worked at the Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences at Tohoku University in Japan.

“We kind of caught each other’s eye, do you know what I mean?’’ Pierre-Antoine said.

First, a friendship blossomed. They liked the same things. Climbing. Surfing. Diving.

“If we want to do something, we can do it together,’’ Yuan said.

On New Year’s Day 2019, they were in France together. It was Yuan’s birthday.

“After lunch,’’ he said, ‘’we decided to kiss. And that’s how it started, I guess.’’

Yuan smiled and then laughed at the story. “He’s French,’’ she giggled, by way of explanation.

But the attraction that began that day grew and matured.

“For me,’’ Pierre-Antoine said, “she’s one of the prettiest women I had ever met. I was really attracted to her. But not only based on her appearance. I knew her based on our friendship and I knew we liked the same kind of things. I knew we could make a great couple.

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“She’s really my soulmate. She’s so good. So nice. I love her.’’

That’s how Yuan feels, too.

“He’s very calm,’’ she said. “We can do many things. If I want to do something, we can do it together.’’

And, now, they will.

Friends recorded vidoes during the wedding officiated by JP Doreen Breland.
Friends recorded vidoes during the wedding officiated by JP Doreen Breland. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Inside the lovely 135-year-old bandstand here the other afternoon, a clutch of their closest friends smiled and toasted the new bride and groom.

There was Eve Sullivan, in whose North Cambridge home Yuan stayed in 2015. Sullivan brought “just-cut” lilacs for the occasion.

“I just feel so blessed to be standing here in the place of parents,’’ said Sullivan, who worked at MIT for nearly 30 years as a senior editorial assistant for a theoretical physics journal. “You want to see your children through life’s passages and you can’t do it in this day and age with all the travel restrictions.’’

Just feet away, Cindy Wang prepared for the ceremony with her boyfriend, Saviz Mowlavi, a longtime friend of the bride.

“Usually, on their wedding day, the bride just does her makeup, her hair, and everyone just revolves around her,’’ Wang said. “But she was in the kitchen earlier today making food for everyone. She’s taking care of everyone else.’’

And then, the old bandstand that was built in 1885 for $2,500 turned solemn as Breland took her place in front of the bride and groom and began the marriage ceremony.

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Sullivan read a meditation on love by Khalil Gibran.

Pierre-Antoine Geslin poured glasses of champagne after marrying his new wife Yuan Guo.
Pierre-Antoine Geslin poured glasses of champagne after marrying his new wife Yuan Guo.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

“Let these be your desires: to wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks to another day of loving.’’

Dressed in a black robe, Breland reminded the bride and groom that they were making a mutual promise of a future together.

“May you always need one another, not so much to fill the emptiness as to help each other know your fullness,’’ she said.

The couple nodded together in agreement.

And then it was their turn. Their time to exchange the vows of a lifetime.

“Long distance across continents wasn’t easy, but we’ve come this far,’’ Yuan told Pierre-Antoine. “You’ve made me happier than I could ever imagine being and more loved than I ever thought.’’

“I don’t like to be the center of attention, but being together gives me the full courage to stand here today,’’ she said. “I would like to hold your hand, be at your side, love you, understand you, and support you for our whole lives, wherever love takes us. I love you.’’

Pierre-Antoine told his bride she is the most beautiful person he’s ever met. A good start.

“Yes, we are from different cultures but I see this as an invaluable treasure, far beyond any material wealth,’’ the groom told the bride. “Since we are together, my life got a lot happier and richer.’’

Geslin held up his family via video chat to meet his new mother-in-law.
Geslin held up his family via video chat to meet his new mother-in-law. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

“Yuanyuan, I promise to take care of you and to love you in good and bad times, in joy and sorrow. I promise to always understand you and to support your decisions. I promise to be your true friend, to be honest and forgiving and to love you the best I can.’’

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Timeless vows. Vows of love and commitment.

There were hugs and kisses. Back slaps and high fives. There was champagne and refreshments.

And, for just those few moments, no one on Lake Quannapowitt’s bandstand stood in fear of the dark-and-cold medical storm that was nevertheless racing around the world.


Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at thomas.farragher@globe.com.