It might not appear so at first, but there were happy endings for both Long Islanders Tuesday night on the season-1 finale of Lifetime’s “Love at First Flight.”
The reality show -- in which couples paired by matchmakers embark on a month of flights across North America, getting to know each other with the choice to marry at the end of filming -- concluded with Wantagh accountant Michael Naccari, 31, proposing to patient advocate Alma Lopez, who turned 32 Wednesday. Babylon wedding singer Stephanie Ver Eecke, 29, did not fare the same with her designated partner, Ryan Pinter, 27. In the finale, Pinter demanded she phone an ex-boyfriend and demonstrate she really was over him. When the ex claimed -- in an exchange condensed onscreen and not using the ex’s real voice-- that he, not she, had ended things, Ver Eecke went on an expletive-filled tirade and Pinter immediately broke things off.
In retrospect, Ver Eecke told Newsday, she feels great relief. “Looking back on it,” she says, “I’m not saying Ryan was an abuser, but he was not the nicest person to me.” So why did she profess love at the end? “I think when you’re in a situation when you’re with one person for 30 days, you like the idea of them.”
Naccari, for his part, says of the experience, “We had a great time and I’m really fortunate everything worked out. I couldn’t ask for a better partner,” he says of Lopez, who after the October and November production of the show moved from Chicago, where she grew up, to take a job in Nashville. “We started this as getting to know each other with few expectations, and I think that helped foster a real relationship. There was no fakeness.”
The onscreen wedding was a little fake, he concedes. He did propose, there was an officiant, and the couple did exchange rings and vows. But the ceremony was symbolic: Obtaining marriage licenses, he says, would have created a public record and thus a spoiler. “I’ve had to keep this under wraps,” he says. “I couldn’t tell my family and friends. But now that it’s finally aired, it’s better, because I’m a summer-wedding guy. Who doesn’t like an outdoor cocktail hour?”
And perhaps Ver Eecke, whom Naccari and Lopez came to know and like during media events for the show, will be invited to the wedding. “I’d better be there!,” Ver Eecke, who is currently unattached, says laughing. “I hope I catch the bouquet!”