Woman who captured photo of intimate sunset wedding tracks down newlyweds with inspiring love story

A woman tracked down a newlywed couple on social media after taking the only photo of their intimate ceremony. (Photo: Twitter)
A woman tracked down a newlywed couple on social media after taking the only photo of their intimate ceremony. (Photo: Twitter)

Nevona Friedman was enjoying an evening bike ride on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York on Sunday evening when she came across an intimate wedding ceremony taking place at sunset. While other bikers and walkers were zooming past, Friedman decided to snap some photos on her phone of the couple and their wedding officiant to capture the sweet moment. But it wasn’t until biking away that Friedman realized she didn’t have a way to get the photos to the couple, so she took to social media.

“I saw how [the photos] turned out and wanted to see if I could find a way to get them to [the couple]. It didn't seem like they had a photographer or family there taking pics,” Friedman tells Yahoo Life. “So I jumped on Twitter and started tagging some local news outlets.”

The social media post immediately started gaining traction from followers in awe of the beautiful and intimate moment — although not from the couple at the center of the photo. Friedman remained hopeful on Monday afternoon, however, that she would find the newlyweds.

“A lot of people are at home online right now and will hopefully recognize the bride or her tattoo,” she explained. “Moments like this always make me realize New York City is smaller than we think it is. It feels like everyone's only a few degrees away.”

Luckily, after posting the photo to her Facebook page as well, Friedman was finally put in contact with the couple on Monday night. And with an update on Twitter, Friedman revealed that her photo is the only picture that exists of the wedding of Nikolina Kovalenko and Stefan Ponova — a couple with a love story as serendipitous as Friedman’s encounter.

Kovalenko tells Yahoo Life that she and Ponova met a year ago in Cali, Colombia, while the two were both separately backpacking through South America and ended up dancing together during a night out.

Related: Massive wave hits couple posing for wedding photos

“When Stefan invited me to dance, we immediately felt an incredible connection and were dancing and chatting through the evening,” Kovalenko shares. “The next morning, I had an early 6 a.m. bus to go to another Colombian town, San Augustine. I said half jokingly that if we want to continue the conversation he could meet at the bus station and join me, and I wasn’t sure if he will come. But when I got to the terminal, Stefan was already there waiting.”

She explains that their first date was a 10-hour bus ride to the small village where the two ended up exploring together and strengthening their connection. By the third day that they had known each other, however, their journeys were leading them to different places.

“By that time it was the end of his journey and he already had tickets to go back to Romania in three weeks after two and a half years of traveling, and my South American trip was just beginning,” she continues. “This could have been the end of the story, but we couldn’t stop texting and chatting over the next couple of days. Stefan packed his backpack and took a 24-hour bus ride to catch up with me in Quito, Ecuador. It felt amazing to see him again, and we spend three weeks exploring Ecuador and Peru together.”

Ponova then had his flight back to Europe to go home to Romania, while Kovalenko’s parents were flying in from Russia to join her on the next leg of her trip. There, the two said a tearful goodbye before Ponova surprised Kovalenko with the news that he would be flying out to join her in Patagonia, Argentina in a month and a half.

Stefan Ponova and Nikolina Kovalenko share their love story after their wedding photo went viral. (Photo courtesy of Nikolina Kovalenko)
Stefan Ponova and Nikolina Kovalenko share their love story after their wedding photo went viral. (Photo courtesy of Nikolina Kovalenko)

“This is when we understood that our journey together was just beginning,” Kovalenko says. “Since then we didn’t part even for one day.”

The two continued to travel and ultimately made the decision to start a life together in New York, where Kovalenko has already been living for eight years. Just one week after they had arrived, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“The quarantine started, and unlike many couples who felt like their relationship was on the rocks from spending unusual amount of time in the closed space, we felt that our connection and love for each other was growing stronger every day,” Kovalenko says. “When Stefan proposed to me, we both felt like it’s the most natural thing.”

An intimate ceremony without a big celebration is what the couple decided on as a result of the pandemic and not being able to fly family and friends out to New York City. And with just the two of them and their minister, they felt that the Brooklyn Bridge was the perfect romantic venue. Little did they know that so many others would agree.

“We felt like starting together on one side of the bridge holding hand and crossing it together to another side already married is a beautiful symbol of going through life together,” Kovalenko explains. “We didn’t know Nevona took the picture until the next day, when several of my friends forwarded it to me on Facebook. We were so surprised and humbled to see how much the photo resonated with people, maybe it was a welcome reminder that love prevails no matter what.”

”We're all craving these emotional, intimate moments after being so isolated for so long,” Friedman tells Yahoo Life, adding on Twitter, “I'm not usually sappy but this is exactly what I needed right now.”

According to responses to the social media saga, some even believe that Friedman was meant to be there.

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