“I do” — times 300.
Five years after the first Valentine’s Day Group Wedding at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, the number of couples getting married, joining in a civil union or renewing their vows reached its highest number ever Thursday.
“We have a record number of couples, more than 150 from 10 states,” said Larry Sieg, vice president of marketing for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority. “And, of course, all the invited guests, too. So we’re thinking it’s about 400 to 600 people.”
The participants ranged from brides in white to men with roses in their lapels to those dressed like it was any other day, all gathered beneath the bright, Zodiac-themed ceiling in the Adrian Phillips Ballroom. The ceremony was the first to be serenaded by the Kimball organ, newly restored after sitting silent for 10 years.
Maureen and Dennis Wiercinski, of Egg Harbor Township, decided to renew their vows at the ceremony for their silver wedding anniversary — their first wedding was in Cape May Court House in 1988.
“We thought it would be cool,” Maureen Wiercinski said, who was dressed in red. “25 years.”
“We live here, we’ve read about it,” Dennis Wiercinski said. “We thought it would be a swell day.”
Ryan and Pamela Gardner, of Wilmington, Del., were also there to renew their vows — with Pamela again in her wedding dress, two years later — as were Megan and Morgan Hansen, of Baltimore.
They have been married for ... how long?
“Three, right?” Megan asked her husband, who also had to stop and think. “Three in April,” she said definitively.
Meanwhile, Eddie Morgan, of Atlantic City, had performed at every group wedding reception for the past five years, so this time he decided to join in with his wife, Carolyn.
“I’m excited to be a part of it and renew our vows,” Morgan said. “And I don’t have to work today. It’s really fun.”
Then there were the ones really tying the knot. For Alex and Brian Satkowski, of Pottstown, Pa., Atlantic City was the perfect place to get married.
“We’ve been vacationing here ever since we’ve been together,” Alex Satkowski said.
For Bev Keating and Steve Veczko, of Willingboro, Burlington County, it was the second wedding for each, said Bev’s niece Jen Grimshaw.
“They both got married once the traditional way,” Grimshaw said, as the families waited in the seats for the ceremony to begin. “So for the second time, they wanted to do something nontraditional and fun.”
Grimshaw herself was bedecked in a “Maid of Honor” sash — “And I got a little tiara,” she added.
The parents of Barry Conquest and Erica Wilson, of Trenton, also sat together awaiting their union. The group included Patricia Benson (his mother) and Regina Wilson (her mother).
“This is an experience,” said Conquest’s mother, Patricia Benson. “It’s something to talk about for years to come.”
For one Northfield couple, though, the ceremony marked both a celebration of longevity and a new beginning.
“We got married!” said Gabrielle, celebrating with her husband Michael. “We’ve been living together for 29 years and together for 31. We decided to make it official. I thought it was exciting!”
So what were their last names?
“His is Leoncavallo,” Gabrielle began. “Mine is ...” She paused and smiled. “Ours is Leoncavallo.”
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