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  • Karla Villar

Claris & Mela's Top of the Rock NYC Elopement

Updated: May 11, 2020

Photo by Judson Rappaport • Officiant: Karla, Once Upon A Vow

Location: Top of the Rock

Butch/femme Asian couple; masculine presenting bride kissing the cheek of her femme presenting bride; both are smiling and have their eyes closed simply enjoying this moment post ceremony performed by queer officiant at Once Upon A Vow.

The Appeal of the Big Apple

New York City can be quite a romantic metropolis! Our museums and theaters and restaurants and sprawling green spaces can keep lovers endlessly busy; there are plenty of options to date and woo and play.

The classic architecture and modern towers that sculpt our skyline reflect both our appreciation for history and our ambition to reach new heights as we forge ahead into the future. It is an incredible backdrop for any story offering unique landscapes, spectacular views and a variety of perspectives and flavors to consider, savor, and enjoy.

Getting married in the Big Apple to mark a new beginning in your love story is special and fun and it doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a fortune! There are options for everyone and our elopements are the perfect way to celebrate what matters most without the eye-popping price tag.


Mela and Claris, lovers of travel and adventure and tall buildings, chose NYC for their destination wedding, which also doubled as the starting leg of their mini honeymoon vacation in the United States.

Although both are originally from the Philippines, Claris and Mela reside in the Middle East; that’s where they met, fell in love, and chose to build a life together. While they may not be able to get legally married there or live their lives as an openly queer couple, they can access opportunities that allow them to create a home for themselves and provide support and stability to their families back in their native country.

When the time came to take their commitment to the next level, they had to decide if and how they would affirm their union. And if their marriage could not presently be recognized in either their country of origin or their adopted nation, they figured they’d make it legal in a place that holds much symbolism given who they are; so, they headed to the epicenter of global migration and the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement - NEW YORK CITY!!

They chose to hold their ceremony at the Top of the Rock in Times Square specifically because they wanted a place that reflected their overall feeling of 'being on top of the world' when they’re together.

Tall Buildings & Hot Royals

When I first met with Mela and Claris via video conference, I was struck by their chemistry and candor. Mela, being a bit on the shy side, let Claris take the lead in sharing much of their story, jumping in mostly to clarify or elaborate on certain details. They had a sort of instinctive rhythm and playful banter that highlighted their compatibility in an incredibly endearing way.

They gave me a lot to work with, including the specific reading they wanted as part of their ceremony, which was the Thought Catalog article titled “What the Person You Deserve is Like,” which Mela memorized and recited at the top of the Burj Khalifa tower (the tallest building in the world), as a declaration of her love and commitment to Claris.

According to Mela, she took her to that tallest building and surprised her with this romantic aspirational assertion of her love because she wanted to make Claris feel as ‘high’ as she does in her presence. Mela wanted to let her know that she was ready, willing, and able to do the work she needed to do to become the person she wanted to be; the one deserving of Claris. She felt she wasn’t there yet; had a long way to go even, but she was eager to go on that journey for and with Claris.

As they both tell it, it wasn’t always easy. They had their moments of struggle and doubt; times when they did not show up as their best selves. Still, just like the grand, magical times they share, they know the hard times also pass. All those moments simply become a collection of memories that make them grateful for what they have - a teammate with whom they can navigate life and love - the good, the bad, the ugly, and sad.

Claris shared that Mela showers her with attention and grand romantic gestures like nobody else has; "she makes me feel like a queen," but more importantly, she’s demonstrated herself to be a true partner. She listens and supports her in ways she never expected, which makes it easy for her to do the same. Claris may be more subtle in demonstrating her affection, but it’s a consistent daily outpour of love according to Mela. She enjoys indulging Mela with yummy home-cooked meals and all the creature comforts that make her feel like royalty.

Their sexy fun vibes were obvious via video and their chemistry quite palpable in real life. Both of them, without hesitation and with much pride, spoke of how their spark of attraction turned into passion that could not be ignored or tamed and how after 5 years, their flame continues to burn bright and HOT!!

Promises of Love

Mela and Claris showed up to the Top of the Rock looking radiant in their custom-made wedding outfits with fresh white sneakers (smart choice for travelers/city explorers). Claris’ mom joined them along with much of their chosen family, long-time friends who traveled from all around the world to bear witness.

All together, the whole crew was a happy vibrant bunch. And although clouds that morning obstructed the views, it did not hamper their outlook or deter their brilliance from shining through.

The focus was on Mela and Claris - their love, their story, their vision for a shared tomorrow as a married twosome. On this day, they were affirming that they are family and that home, regardless of where they are, is in each other’s hearts.

They exchanged their vows and rings, promising that they would be there for one another in life and in love, but they didn’t stop there. They knew they were fortunate to have some of their loved ones present and wanted them to directly engage in the ceremony. So, after they said “I DO,” we added a section that asked if the collective would support, care for, and uplift their union, to which they responded with a resounding “WE DO!”

For me, this intimate ceremony stands out as a powerful testament to the power of love and how it can transcend distance and time, culture and tradition, law and circumstance, and every other human imposed barrier if we choose to let it. And here, in NYC, a microcosm of the world, love definitely wins. That is why we promise to honor and celebrate LOVE in all its forms and expressions ALWAYS!

Kind Words from Claris and Mela:

Upon numerous contacts with possible celebrants for our elopement, Once Upon A Vow was the most appealing to us and we made the right decision trusting our guts and going ahead with them because Daniela and Karla really made our day seamless and special. Since we are located overseas, our meeting was done over the phone and they took the time to really know us, our background and our story. They were constantly in touch to guide us with the whole process from booking our accommodation, ceremony and reception location, photographer, and of course, the most important part, the marriage license.

We never felt lost - Karla, especially, is always one step ahead of us, keeping us on track with the planning. What we appreciate the most is that they were both very responsive – there’s no small or big question – everything gets answered swiftly, with complete and extra information. The day before our elopement, we were given a list of reminders and a rundown of what’s going to happen which really helped us feel at ease. And on the day, Karla is just a star! She has tailored the ceremony according to our story and we were both in tears because it’s like a playback of what our whole relationship was about and a glimpse of where we want it to be.

Everything was personalized and prepared for us and she made sure that our attendees were part of it too. Thank you so much from the bottom of our newly married hearts. We didn’t hire our elopement team, we just earned friends with you!!! Keep doing what you’re doing, you guys are amazing!!! We LOVE you!!!


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