They Fell in Love Fighting the Opioid Crisis, Then Threw a Street Party Wedding Under the El
The whole neighborhood was invited.
Here in Philly, it’s easy to be big on city pride—and to show it off at your wedding. From Dilworth Park to Race Street Pier and back to Reading Terminal, we’ve got plenty of iconic open-air backdrops to choose from.
Of course, these aren’t the only options. We are a city of many stories, and with that comes many different points of significance. For Wilfredo Laboy and Cristina Pintor, that place was on the streets of Kensington, right underneath the El and a few blocks away from Prevention Point, the nonprofit that offers harm-reduction services to drug users where they first met during an overdose training in 2017.
Laboy knew that he wanted to be with Pintor the first time he saw her, but they both had a rule about not dating co-workers. At the time, Laboy served as Prevention Point’s certified recovery specialist, helping clients with treatments and recovery, while Pintor was (and still is) the director of human resources. (Laboy currently works as a hepatitis C navigator for the Health Federation of Philadelphia, which is housed in the same building as Prevention Point.)
“From day one, I knew it,” says Laboy. “There was something special about her, and there still is something special about her.”
Difficult childhoods in the same neighborhood where they met were certainly a bonding point. As they told the Kensington Voice, which first documented their story, each had their traumas, and each had prior issues with substance abuse as well.
Though other relationships ensued—Laboy was even engaged to someone else at one point—the pair seemed to find their way back to each other in times of need. After an emotionally draining Prevention Point staff retreat last March, Laboy canceled a date so he could take a hurting Pintor to the movies. Ten months later, he proposed in Penn Treaty Park.
With the help of six co-workers turned close friends, it took the couple six months to plan their wedding. They met a few times a month for wedding preparations. “We would go over everything. How much food we were going to provide, what activities we are going to have, and the layout of the street,” says Pintor.
They couple decided to get married under the El near Prevention Point during their interview with reporter Jillian Bauer-Reese, while they were posing for pictures in the building’s upstairs stained-glass sanctuary.
“Cristina and I looked at each other. We said, ‘You know what? This is where we want to have it.’ Not up here in the sanctuary, but out in the streets. And we agreed to it right on the spot,” says Laboy.
The couple opened their wedding to the community they serve by posting flyers and sending out invitations made by Pintor’s daughter. On the guest list: clients at Prevention Point and other nearby shelters.
“It’s the same faces we see every day, and it’s them we wanted to do this for,” explains Pintor, who wanted their guests to know they’d be able to use the bathroom and eat. “What are the chances of any of them being invited to a wedding this year?”
The couple selected the location of their ceremony—underneath the El at the intersection of East Monmouth Street and Kensington Avenue—because of its close proximity to Prevention Point. Laboy and Pintor knew that if an overdose were to occur at the wedding, they’d have the resources to help nearby. The wedding, after all, wasn’t only for them, but for the community around them that they both care so much about.
Laboy and Pintor both wore white shirts and white pants, and asked others to do the same so no one would feel uncomfortable or left out. “We encouraged people to wear white because I wanted people to feel equal,” she explains.
Laboy reached out to childhood friend Rita Cain, owner of My Jenny’s Creations, to help decorate for the day. Cain outfitted the street with pink and white chairs, flowers, table linens, and centerpieces, while Rabbit Rabbit Crew created the colorful balloon installations.
“[Cain] had lights streaming over area where people danced. We had a live band, we had a DJ, and we had a photo booth,” says Pintor.
The couple served Famous Dave’s BBQ buffet-style to over 300 guests. For dessert, Wilfredo’s niece prepared a cutting cake and hundreds of cupcakes.
After the wedding ceremony, Laboy surprised Pintor by arranging the flower girls—all of whom are volunteers at Prevention Point—to stand in front of the couple to release beautiful butterflies.
“It was pretty amazing to see that happen,” she says.
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