Vow Renewal at Lighthouse

Jean Muchanic (left) pours champagne for Doug and Jessie Scholder of Galloway in the Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City before couples renewed their wedding vows in a ceremony.

Ben Fogletto

ATLANTIC CITY - The February "snow moon" shone brightly Friday night as some - but not all - of the 21 couples renewing their vows climbed to the very top of the Absecon Lighthouse to gaze out over the shimmering waters.

"It's amazing," said Mike Devaney, of Northfield, who had braved the 228 steps with his wife, Kate. "It just took us 30 years to get here."

The Evening of Romance and Renewal was one of the many events that lighthouse director Jean Muchanic has developed to attract visitors to the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey - and locals such as the Devaneys, who have long lived in the shadow of the lighthouse but have never been, are some of the very people she's trying to bring in.

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"I go around talking to people, and if I had a nickel for every person who says, 'I grew up by the lighthouse …'" Muchanic said. "I say, 'Come back and see it!' … As I keep saying year after year, if I could just get locals to take an hour out of their day and come down …"

While there have been such Valentine's Day events in the past, this year's event was the first de facto successor to the group wedding and vow renewal held at Boardwalk Hall from 2008 to 2013, at which Muchanic often officiated.

Though there would be no first-time vows this year, couples new and - let's not say old, let's say classic - gathered Friday night to renew vows and mark another year of marriage.

"It's something romantic, something different, something fun," said Doug Scholder, of Galloway Township, there with his wife, Jessie.

Jackie Chain, who arrived in a bridal headpiece, laughed when asked if she was here for the ceremony.

"What gave it away?" she said.

"It's just a regular Friday night for us," joked Jonathan Chain.

The Chains, of Haddon Township, were celebrating a special anniversary.

"We met 10 years ago today," Jackie said. "And we've been married for eight years."

Colleen and Tim Larkin, of Glenolden, Pa., were celebrating an even bigger number - Friday was their 25th wedding anniversary, and the ceremony was at the very hour they got hitched.

"We love Atlantic City," said Tim, as Colleen continued, "and I was searching for what was going on for Valentine's Day."

However, they didn't climb up the lighthouse - "Tim doesn't like heights," Colleen explained.

Patrick and Margaret McGowan said the lighthouse was a perfect idea for Valentine's Day.

"We have an old sea captain's house in Northfield," Patrick said. "And it all ties in. Though it doesn't take as long to get to the top."

Muchanic, before she left to change into her officiant robe, talked about some of the other events she's planning for this year, including a "Doggies Do AC" pet fashion show in June designed to take advantage of all the dog-friendly casinos nearby.

Though who knows, judging by the reactions from first-timers, they may have some tenants by then.

"We love it," said Tim Larkin of the lighthouse. "If we get enough money, we'll retire up there in the (keeper's) quarters."

Contact Steven Lemongello:


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