Nerves, no-shows mark Valentine’s Day weddings at City Hall
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Mon., Feb. 14, 2011
The aisle runner was down, the reception table was spread and the strains of Purcell’s “Trumpet Voluntary” drifted from a CD player. The groom was there – but where was the bride?
Where else? She was stuck in traffic on I-95 North, on her way from New York City to her Valentine’s Day wedding.
Prospective groom Jameson Alcena of Norwich sat waiting quietly in his black suit, as city officials in their Sunday best paced the floor around him. “Not for anything, I don’t like to be late,” he said. But his bride-to-be, Fidjie Destine had assured him via cell phone that she was on her way.
“I’ve known her forever,” said Alcena. “We pretty much grew up together.”
The couple was one of 11 scheduled to be married on Valentine’s Day in an evening of specially-scheduled ceremonies that included all the trimmings – an elegant setting, flowers, a justice of the peace, music and a reception table laden with sweets. Total cost per couple: the $30 fee for the marriage license.
Along with Alcena’s ceremony delay, at least one couple bailed out at the last minute, leaving city officials with a 45-minute lag time. They had planned nuptials at 15-minute increments but scrambled to reconfigure their schedule as later wedding parties began to arrive.
This is the third year for the free ceremonies, said city clerk Sandi Greenhalgh. “We saw (a similar story) in a paper somewhere and it sounded very romantic,” she said. Local businesses donated the food, flowers and décor, while city council members and employees served as justices of the peace, baked cupcakes and donated their time after hours to run the show, she said.
Ten other couples who had registered for the event had to be turned away, Greenhalgh said.
City Councilor Tucker Braddock, a JP for just 11 months, said he was performing his first wedding ceremony that day. It showed: as he read the vows to Steven Anthony and Dusty Lockamy to repeat, he choked up a bit and had to stop and compose himself.
“You came to me as two single people; you leave united as a married couple,” he told the pair, flanked by Anthony’s daughters Joelina and Julianna Whitford-Anthony. He encouraged the newlywed pair to share “your cares, worries, pleasures and joys.”
“Please talk with one another,” he said. “Have candid conversations, and don’t go to bed angry.”
When jokingly asked if the new JP would know what he was doing during his first marriage ceremony, Braddock gestured toward the next couple in line. “I hope they know what they’re going to be doing,” he said.