A “royal” wedding in Brooklyn

Until he met Princess Francis, Andy Estevez felt like the King of Lonely Hearts. “Put it this way: I was a jerk, a jerk, a jerk,” he said. “I was completely focused on being the best student when I was growing up, then completely focused on being the best professional as an adult.”

Ms Francois’ love life has also been blocked, in part by her own high standards. “I don’t want to sound proud,” she said. “But I was like, ‘How can I meet someone of the same caliber as me?’” Both are educators from Brooklyn. And the two had resigned themselves to a romantic disappointment when they met on the Coffee Meets Bagel dating app in January 2017.

Ms. François, 32, deputy director of education at MESA Charter High School in Bushwick, is a royal by name. She grew up in Flatbush with her mother, Marie Marcella François, a retired healthcare worker who immigrated from Haiti in the 1970s.

At Columbia University, Ms. Francois was in a pre-med program, but when she graduated in 2011 and volunteered for Teach for America, she gave up on becoming a doctor. Placed in the community of Flatbush where she grew up, “I felt powerful,” she said. “I enjoyed being this model of success in my own community.”

Her love life is less successful. After a two-year relationship in college, she experimented with dating apps while living with her mother and working as a science teacher at the High School for Global Citizenship in Prospect Heights. “But in my experience, you strike up a conversation with someone, and then just as you get started, they ghost you, or you meet in person and have no chemistry,” he said. she declared.

For several years, she gave up. When she met Mr. Estevez on Coffee Meets Bagel, she had recently become Deputy Principal after earning two graduate degrees, one in Adolescent Special Education from Hunter College School of Education in 2013 and the other in Educational Leadership from Bank Street Graduate College of Education in 2015. She barely paid attention to the few apps she hadn’t taken down.

“I had reached a point where I embraced being single and felt like a whole person,” Ms. Francois said.

Mr Estevez, 31, also didn’t have much hope of thriving through dating apps. It was a diversion, something that made him feel like he was at least trying to find love. But, he said, “the few dates I’ve been to, I haven’t gotten anything out of it.”

He was living in Williamsburg with his parents, Iluminada Ferreira and Ramon Estevez, when Ms Francois texted him that they seemed to have a lot in common: they were both teachers and both children of immigrant parents.

He came to New York from the Dominican Republic in the mid-1980s. After graduating in Childhood Studies from St. Joseph College in New York in 2012, he earned a Masters in Literacy and Cognition there. in 2014. By then, he understood that teaching kindergarten, his first job, was not for him.

“Now that I’m older, heavier and balder, I don’t know how I got the energy to be alone with 28 small children in a classroom,” he said. Since 2015, he has been teaching older elementary school students at Williamsburg Public School 18.

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Ms. François’ attention to Coffee Meets Bagel was welcome. But it intimidated Mr. Estevez. “I am honored to say that Princess is my first and only stable romantic relationship,” he said. “When you’re the age of me and you’ve never dated someone, you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, what’s wrong with me? I had a lot of self-doubt issues.

After switching from app to texting at the end of January 2017, Ms. François hinted that they should meet in person. He dodged to control his insecurities. “I wanted to wait at least two months. By February 2, she had exhausted him.

They met on a frosty Thursday at the Marcy Avenue subway station in his neighborhood. He had a dinner plan in place, at Patrizia’s restaurant.

“But I said to him, ‘Before I go, I’m going to take you around historic Williamsburg on foot,'” he said. Brutal cold aside, she accompanied him, impressed by his thoughtfulness. Later, he impressed her with a list of questions for the first date; he had memorized a list suggested by Google.

“I remember thinking, ‘He looks so sweet and passionate,” Ms. Francois said. “Hope this will work.” When she said goodnight to him, she felt he was reluctant to kiss her. “So, me being the more daring, I realized that I had to take a step.”

On their second date, less than a week later, they went to Max Brenner’s in Union Square – and Mr Estevez asked Ms Francois to be his girlfriend.

The result was disastrous. “I was like, ‘She initiated the kiss, so let me initiate something this time,” ”he said. When he asked, however, she hesitated. Then she said she needed time to think. “His reaction gave me extreme anxiety. I thought, ‘I’m such a fool.’ “

When she agreed to meet him for a date at Wheelhouse, a Bushwick restaurant, a few days later on February 14, he was wary: “I thought that even though she said no, at least I had a date for Valentine’s Day. ” Then came a surprise. At the end of the date, Ms Francois said: “Yes, I will be your girlfriend.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” Mr. Estevez said. “It took me 27 years, but I finally had a girlfriend.”

Mme François opened the world to him. Unlike Ms. François’ mother, who listened to Haitian radio and spoke frequently with her daughter from her home country, Mr. Estevez’s parents did not emphasize their Caribbean culture. So she started a tradition of bringing her to the Caribbean parade every Labor Day to imbue her with Dominican heritage.

When he agreed to accompany her on a vacation she was planning to visit to Portugal in July, he had only left Brooklyn a few times to visit his family in the Dominican Republic. The trip, he said, was magical: “A little old man asked us, ‘When are the wedding bells?’ “

In 2018, he knew he wanted to marry her. He also knew not to rush to ask, so he waited a year and on April 22, 2019, gathered his courage. On a spring break trip to Egypt, he knelt on the Great Pyramid of Giza.

He had chosen the setting as a nod to his name and his looks. “I saw Egypt as the land of kings and queens,” he said. “And the princess is royalty.”

“I was completely in shock, but so happy,” Ms. François said.

When Covid-19 started holding the world hostage in March 2020, Mr Estevez was still living with his parents and Ms François was renting an apartment near her mother in Flatbush. Their plans for a wedding in November fell through.

“We curled up in separate places, and it was really difficult,” Mr. Estevez said. For three months, they only saw each other through the screens; Ms François feared exposing her high-risk mother to the virus, which Mr Estevez contracted early on.

Their reunion took place in July 2020 at an emergency care center, where Mr. Estevez was being treated. He had passed out during a blood test during an antibody test.

“So many people in communities of color were dying,” she said. “Three months seemed like a small sacrifice.” Her acceptance of her caution was rewarded in January, when they moved into an apartment in Midwood and began planning the wedding that would become what she called “a true Hispaniola union”, referring to the island of the Antilles which encompasses the two countries. from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Ms. François and Mr. Estevez were married on September 5 at the Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Williamsburg; 150 guests, all masked, lined up on the benches. Before Ms. François’ mother escorted her down the aisle, attendants rolled out a white carpet. Ms. Francois, dressed in a white lace dress and tiara, walked over to Mr. Estevez, in a black suit and red bow tie.

Moments later, Reverend Jason Espinal, a Roman Catholic priest and officiant, told Mr. Estevez: “While you were smiling, while you were shaking, you all gave us that look: it’s her,” a- he said. The ceremony included readings in Haitian Creole by Reverend Jeremias Castillo and in Spanish by Reverend Schned Bruno.

Reverend Espinal encouraged Ms. François and Mr. Estevez to let go of their professional instincts, at least for the day. “As teachers, I know you like to plan,” he said. “But don’t worry about 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. Worry about committing to your vows today.


When September 5, 2021

Or Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Gaiety A reception was held that evening at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. “Buen Provecho,” which translates to “appreciate,” was printed on the menu cards. Later, a DJ played a mix of Haitian kompa and zouk and Dominican bachata and merengue.

Moving During the ceremony, Reverend Espinal congratulated Mr. Estevez on his royal proposal to the pyramids. But Ms. Francois gets most of the credit for orchestrating their ongoing adventures. Outside of school, she blogs like Franny the traveler. “It’s my passion,” she said.


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