This Valentine’s Day, 14 couples will be married on the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observatory, and a local couple will be among them.
Catherine Fiehn Malat, of Milford, and Eric LeStrange, a former Monroe resident who lives in Shelton, dated in the early 1980s and eventually lost touch and married other people. Later divorced, they connected on Facebook, and after a few months, they rekindled the flame.
Now, after 32 years from when they first met, they are excited to tie the knot.
Malat is a Milford-based photographer and actress. With a studio on New Haven Avenue, and as the official photographer for the Miss Connecticut and other pageants, she is well known in Milford.
LeStrange is a media professional, now working in advertising sales.
The two dated briefly when they were studying at Sacred Heart University in the 1980s. She, now 52, and he, now 54, were in their twenties then, and they both worked on the school newspaper.
While they enjoyed each other’s company, family issues and logistics kept their relationship short. Even so, they both have special memories of those years, which include attending the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan.
Malat said she had lost touch with LeStrange until recent years when she sent him a happy birthday message through Facebook. He responded, and as they were both divorced, they soon were corresponding by email.
They hadn’t gotten together in person, but on Easter of 2014 LeStrange confessed that he was alone that holiday. Malat invited him to meet her at her New Haven Avenue studio, and from there they walked to the Seven Seas Restaurant in downtown Milford to share a meal.
While there, he wrote her a short poem on a napkin about renewing love, and she was hooked.
Last year, they picked out a sapphire engagement ring together at a shop on 47th Street on their way back from an Electric Light Orchestra concert in New York. They became officially engaged on Sept. 21 at Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford, where Malat took the engagement photo she had envisioned, using a timer on her camera.
The couple hadn’t planned on a Valentine’s Day wedding or an Empire State wedding, but friends started telling them about a contest to be married atop the building.
The Empire State Building soars 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan, from base to antenna, and has been described as the “World’s Most Famous Building.”
Since its opening in 1931, the Empire State Building’s observatory has been the setting for countless on-screen romances and is the perfect site for couples to wed, according to representatives of the Empire State Realty Trust, which owns the building.
One day of the year, Valentine’s Day, select couples are chosen through a contest to get married there.
Malat decided to write an essay for the contest and officially enter.
With a feeling that she should wait to start making plans for a wedding, which she initially thought would be next year, she waited to hear back about the contest. First she heard that she and LeStrange were finalists. About a month ago they learned they were among the winners.
As a wedding photographer, Malat has been at many weddings, and she said she was happy to say “yes” to the Empire State Building ceremony because it would be different than all the ceremonies she’d photographed over the years.
“I was very excited,” she said.
The couple will be married at 12:45 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. She will wear an Art Deco style dress, and he will wear a black suit with red shirt for Valentine’s Day. Malat’s hair will be adorned with the flowers from her grandmother’s 88-year-old wedding gown that was worn just shortly before the Empire State Building was built.
After the ceremony, all 14 couples will get to enjoy one-night complimentary accommodations at the Grand Hyatt New York and will be treated to an exclusive continental breakfast at State Grill and Bar, located in the lobby of ESB. Each couple will also receive a Bulova timepiece from the Diamonds Collection.
After being wed, the couple will live in Shelton.
Together, they have three grown children: Malat’s daughter is Mary Kate Malat, 22. LeStrange has a son and daughter, Carrie LeStrange, 23 and Tim LeStrange, 24, and a four-year-old grandson, Jakob Siclari.