Bay Ridge

Narrows Botanical Gardens founders tie the knot in Redwood Grove

April 28, 2023 Helen Klein, Special to the Brooklyn Eagle
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BAY RIDGE — Two decades after planting a ring of redwood trees at the heart of Bay Ridge’s Narrows Botanical Gardens, two of the oasis’s founders were wed within that enchanted circle.

James Johnson and Richard Haugland were married in the garden, at Shore Road and Mackay Place, on Saturday, April 22, Earth Day, surrounded by members of their families and close friends as well as by the plants they have nurtured so lovingly over the past 27 years in this small but precious portion of Shore Road Park.

“It’s like a druid’s circle, a magical grove,” Johnson said. “We got to get married in the redwood grove we planted. What gets better than that?”

James Johnson and Richard Haugland were married Saturday in the Narrows Botanical Gardens they helped found nearly 30 years ago. Photo courtesy of James Johnson

The trees, which filtered the morning light, were hung with crystals which sparkled as the pair exchanged their vows. The officiant was another Bay Ridge resident, Janine Graziano, a close friend to both grooms, who gave each other rings embellished with glistening opals and meteorites, combining “the earth and the moon,” said Johnson. Enhancing the occasion was haunting music by the Brooklyn Nomads, whose specialty is traditional Arabic melodies.

Johnson and Haugland, who have been “together for three decades, on and off,” had been talking about getting married for about a year before they decided, “Let’s just do this,” as Johnson put it. It was Haugland’s idea to have the ceremony in the redwood grove, Johnson said.

The newly married pair. Photo courtesy of James Johnson

The ceremony was simple but moving. “It was quiet, intimate and short. We didn’t want any gimmicks,” Johnson said.

“It was very sweet,” noted Greg Ahl, one of the guests at the nuptials, who has known the newly married couple since 1997, when he volunteered to screen movies in the gardens for NBG. Ahl was particularly taken with the rings that Johnson and Haugland exchanged and which he said represent the love the duo shares – “It goes to the moon and back,” Ahl explained.

In everything, the magnitude of the moment shone through.

“I wanted to say out loud in front of my friends and family that I love and care about, and that love and care about me, that I love Richard Haugland, and I did,” Johnson confided. “I cracked in the middle of it and began to cry, and then everyone was crying. For Richie and me to be two out gay men and say in public that we love each other was a surreal feeling. For thousands of years, a gay man could never have said that. I am very grateful and humble that Richie and I could do that.”

Richard Haugland and James Johnson plighted their troth with the exchange of opal and meteorite wedding bands. Photo courtesy of James Johnson

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