In Sickness and In Health, and Then, a Wedding

When Mtamanika Colisse Beamon and Marc Anthony VanSchaick were both working at WABC-TV in New York — she as a producer and he as a photojournalist — in 2007, neither was interested in meeting the other, despite the encouragement from a colleague.

Mr. VanSchaick, 47, had a son from a previous relationship, “so all of my weekends were spent with my child,” he said. “I didn’t do a lot of dating.”

Ms. Beamon, who goes by Nika, had her own reasons: “I heard he was a jerk, so I never went out of my way to meet him.”

Her mind was also on other things at the time. “When we met, he did not know how sick I was, nor did I, because I did not have a name for what I had,” Ms. Beamon, 51, said.

It would take a total of 17 years until she was properly diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called IgG4-related disease, or IgG4-RD, a chronic inflammatory condition that can cause masses and lesions leading to the dysfunction and destruction of multiple organs. Ms. Beamon described it as being similar to lupus or multiple sclerosis, “because it causes inflammation in any joint it chooses.” She takes medication every day to manage her symptoms.

As Ms. Beamon battled her condition, the two grew close as friends. “I used to go by her desk and just goof with her to get her to laugh,” Mr. VanSchaick said. They would often grab a burger or a beer, always as friends, until one summer day in 2010 when Mr. VanSchaick invited her to go with him to see their favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, at Fenway Park.

It was after that trip that they realized that if they spend all their time together anyway, they might as well date. So they did.

Mr. VanSchaick grew up in Bay Shore, N.Y. He learned television production and studied communications at Eastern Suffolk BOCES in Patchogue, N.Y. Ms. Beamon grew up in Riverdale and Scarsdale, N.Y. She graduated from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Two and a half years later, on Christmas Day 2013, Ms. Beamon, Mr. VanSchaick and his 7-year-old son, Marc Jr., had finished opening presents at Mr. VanSchaick’s home in Orange, Conn., when Marc Jr. pointed to the base of the tree and shouted, “Santa left something on the train!” Ms. Beamon discovered a small box sitting in the caboose. Inside was an Irish Claddagh ring: a band depicting a heart clasped by two hands and topped by a crown.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

“She didn’t want diamonds,” Mr. VanSchaick said. “She wanted something that means something, and that ring symbolizes our love and commitment to each other.”

But the couple was in no rush to have a wedding. “We just never got around to it,” Ms. Beamon said.

Last September, on a group trip to Las Vegas, one of their friends nudged them, saying, “Why wait?” They realized it was a good question: In the previous few years, both had suffered major losses in their families with the death of close relatives, and they decided they needed to act while others were still alive.

They were married in a three-minute ceremony on Sept. 5, 2022 at the Little Church of the West wedding chapel. Their officiant was Judith C. Laughman.

On Mar. 4, the couple, who lives in Newark, recreated their vows with Steve Mitchell, an Elvis impersonator. (Ms. Beamon had wanted an Elvis impersonator at their wedding in Las Vegas, but couldn’t get one at the last minute.) There were 130 guests in attendance.

The celebration was held at the Manor in West Orange, N.J., a location that the bride’s mother, Gloria Beamon, assisted in choosing before she died in 2020. Even the rice that was thrown during the event had been bagged years earlier by Ms. Beamon’s mother, which Mr. VanSchaick said “was a nice way of knowing she was still there with us.”

The two blended their backgrounds in the ceremony by “jumping the broom” in a nod to the bride’s Black heritage and by using a “wish tree” in lieu of a guest book as a nod to the groom’s Dutch heritage.

At one point during the reception, Ms. Beamon’s leg suddenly locked up — a symptom of her disease. Mr. VanSchaick was there without hesitation. “All I had to do was look at him and he immediately stuck out his arm and got my cane and led me to my seat,” she said. “He can see what I need without me needing to say it — that’s the point we’ve gotten to in our relationship.”

For Mr. VanSchaick, her disease has been both a blessing and a curse: “These are things we didn’t ask for, but they can’t help but bring you closer.”