- Zeena Hernandez, 27, and Lisa Yang, 28, have gone viral after they lifted a 253-pound barbell together on their wedding day.
- Hernandez told Insider that the moment — which was captured by photographer Eileen Meny — was both a symbol of unity, and a statement to show that “together, we are stronger.”
- The New York couple first bonded over their shared love of fitness when they met on OkCupid five years ago. Now they are both Olympic weight lifters.
- While the brides can each individually deadlift more than 253 pounds, they selected the weight because they wouldn’t be able to warm up and also needed to accommodate their wedding dresses.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
From lighting candles or planting trees to drinking wine or pouring sand, couples have found plenty of creative ways to celebrate their new union on their wedding day.
But Zeena Hernandez and Lisa Yang took their unity ceremony to new heights when they lifted a 253-pound barbell together after exchanging vows.
A photograph of the New York brides, standing in the middle of the aisle and lifting the barbell together in their wedding dresses and veils, has since gone viral.
“It was meant to not only be a symbol of unity, but also a statement,” Hernandez told Insider. “Individually we are strong, capable women — but together, we are stronger.”
Zeena Hernandez, 27, and Lisa Yang, 28, quickly bonded over their shared love of fitness when they first met on OkCupid five years ago
“Lisa accidentally liked my profile,” Hernandez said. “I thought she was cute so I messaged her first, and the rest is history.”
Both Yang and Hernandez, who currently owns Good Reps Physical Therapy in Brooklyn, were passionate runners. But they wanted to get stronger, trying out CrossFit before they began Olympic weight-lifting.
It was when Hernandez and Yang were interviewing a potential wedding DJ that they first came up with the idea to lift a barbell together during their ceremony.
“We were joking about doing a tandem deadlift,” Yang told Insider. “At the time it seemed ridiculous, because we’re Olympic weight lifters and deadlift isn’t even our main sport.”
“But none of the usual ceremony rituals really spoke to us,” Hernandez said. “So we really had to think, ‘What’s the common denominator for both of us?’ It wasn’t tree planting or drinking. It was weight lifting! I loved the idea from the start.”
While Hernandez and Yang can both lift 253 pounds on their own, they knew they needed to be smart about the weight.
“A snatch or a clean and jerk in dresses might be a bit dangerous, so we settled on three deadlifts,” said Yang, speaking of different Olympic lifts.
“We knew we were going to lift a weight without warming up, and we knew we would have a harder time keeping the bar close and maintaining good form because of our wedding dresses,” Hernandez added. “So, we decided to go light.”
Hernandez and Yang ran the idea past their wedding planner Elodie Duyker, of Tall and Small Events, and said she was “super supportive.”
“She is all for doing your wedding your way,” Hernandez said. “She made sure we thought about all the details, like who was going to set up the bar, was there going to be a rug, and who would transport the weights to the venue.”
Duyker also connected the couple to photographer Eileen Meny, who loved the idea as well.
“It’s awesome to see couples personalizing their weddings to represent their relationship, and not blindly follow the classic wedding formula,” Meny told Insider.
On their wedding day, Hernandez and Yang’s weight-lifting coach brought the necessary equipment from their gym to the Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn, New York
Their weightlifting team set up ballistic mats to make sure the barbell wouldn’t damage the dock, and placed an oriental rug and the barbell on top.
When it came time for the ceremony, Yang said she and Hernandez weren’t thinking much about the deadlift.
“We were more anxious to see each other,” she said. “We didn’t know what the other was going to wear. I was excited to see my bride in her gown.”
Meny said she was initially nervous about the lift when she saw Yang and Hernandez’s wedding dresses, but her nerves disappeared when they took off their shoes before stepping onto the rug.
“As the bar was being set up, their friends started to cheer,” Meny recalled. “I fell into a bit of a trance and focus mode and didn’t move my camera away from my face.”
After completing their three lifts, Hernandez and Yang returned to the altar to exchange rings and say “I do.”
The photo of their deadlift has since gone viral, which Hernandez believes could be for a slew of different reasons
“Some people see the deadlift and they see novelty,” she said. “Some people see two women deadlifting and see novelty. Some people only see two women getting married and see novelty. Some people see two women of color deadlifting and getting married.”
“I think it challenges people’s beliefs,” she added. “Beliefs about exercise, deadlifts, and marriage. Some are inspired, some are quick to judge, some are just fascinated with the novelty. Whatever it is, it evokes a reaction — which people like to share.”
As a photographer, Meny said it has been fun to watch people get excited over a wedding picture that centers around a meaningful moment rather than “beautiful things.”
“Weddings have been around for a long time,” she said. “It’s exciting to see couples update this old classic and make them more personal. I love that people are excited by an action at a wedding, and not simply an object.”
At the end of the day, it wasn’t about going viral or lifting weights for the newlyweds.
“It was important for us to have a wedding that truly represented us as individuals and as a couple,” Hernandez said. “It wasn’t so much about weight lifting. It was more about being ourselves.”