Wedding Photographer

A love story sealed with seals



A decade-long friendship, a first kiss in the ocean and a post-wedding photoshoot in the presence of a group of seals. Chelsea Bruck and Cyril Bennouna’s love story reads like a fairytale romance, with a modern twist.

The couple first met as teenagers at New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY, when Mr. Bennouna randomly sat behind Ms. Bruck in an art history class. Although it wasn’t love at first sight, the two hit it off and quickly became friends.

“I’ve always seen Cyril as this amazing person,” Ms. Bruck said, and although life took them in different directions, the two stayed in touch as they experienced what Ms. Bruck described as ” parallel lives “.

Both moved to the Midwest for college, then overseas. Mr. Bennouna, 31, graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2011 before moving to Morocco, where his father is from, to trace his roots and prepare for his father’s semi-retirement. At this point, Ms Bruck, 33, had already graduated from Northwestern University and was living in South Korea teaching English. Both have blogged which were inspired by each other, one day prompting Mr. Bennouna to contact Ms. Bruck.

“When you travel and you are so lonely, you start to think about all the people who matter in your life, and she has stuck with me,” Bennouna said. “I remember writing to her something like ‘I hope one day we can live together in the same town again so that we can be very close friends, because you are one of my favorite people. . ‘”

That hope came true when the two returned to New York City in 2012 to work in the restaurant industry. Romance blossomed soon after when the couple met for dinner one August evening and spontaneously decided to take the train to Coney Island around midnight. There they rushed into the water, shared their first kiss, and spent the rest of the night on the beach.

“After that we really started hanging out all the time,” Bennouna said. “I was at her house when Hurricane Sandy hit and spent the entire time there with her. It kind of sealed the deal.

“I feel like I embarrassedly knew soon after we started dating that Cyril was me,” Ms. Bruck said. “It was just so natural and so right from that August night.”

Mr Bennouna felt the same, but marriage was another issue the couple ended up discussing for several years. Mr. Bennouna wanted to be with Ms. Bruck, but felt that marriage was an institution that commodified women and favored “traditionally married people”. He didn’t want to participate in what he saw as a celebration of inequality.

Ms Bruck understood her point of view, but believed that the institution was changing and wanted their marriage to be not only an example of equality and respect, but also a symbol of what Ms Bruck described as’ doing of my chosen family my legal family ”.

Ms. Bruck was surprised and delighted when Mr. Bennouna made his request to her on the morning of December 30, 2018, at Prospect Park. The couple had wanted to get married in June 2020 in the Scotland Borders, but changed their plans because of the pandemic. They tied the knot on June 8, 2021 in a rental property overlooking Nauset Beach in Orleans, Massachusetts, in a ceremony broadcast live with seven guests in person. The wedding incorporated elements of the two couples’ heritage, including a homemade chuppah and a menu featuring Arabic cuisine.

After the ceremony, the couple were taking photos on Nauset Beach when a group of seals surfaced. Their photographer asked them to run into the ocean. “We hadn’t realized it until then, but it was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s come full circle,’ Ms. Bruck said.

“It was so important to us,” added Bennouna. “And then the seals right there are looking at us. It fit in so well with the ceremony.



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