The St. Louis Arch will provide a romantic backdrop on Wednesday for close to 100 couples who plan a Valentine’s Day wedding. The mass wedding is sponsored by a country radio station, WIL-FM and its morning disc jockey, Cornbread, according to the radio station’s Web site.
Ninety-two couples will get the complete package – flowers, reception, free legal ceremony, photographs and even rings. (The number coincides with the radio station’s spot on the dial.) Hundreds of other couples are still expected to show up and be part of the ceremony, although they won’t get the extras. The radio station chose the winners through Web site entries. The 92 couples chosen get the entire treatment, but any other couple is welcome to join the station at the Arch on Feb. 14, 7 a.m., to be legally wed. (Couples may also choose to renew their vows.)
Mass weddings will take place in several places around the world, but they’re still a new phenomenen in the United States. Many cities, like St. Louis, are considering them a way to provide an economic boom at a time when tourism is down. The mass weddings attract couples and friends to the town, generating far more income than the cost of the event. Plus, as in the case of the St. Louis radio station, the publicity generated can be, well, priceless.
Last year, the trend even reached into cyberspace, with 30 virutal couples being wed at Linden Lab in the cyber world of Second Life. According to the SecondLife Herald, the ceremonies were performed at the Linden Opera House, a virtual building that was in reality a special Valentine’s Day wedding group.. Each couple were allowed to invite two guests to serve as witnesses. The marriages were only valid in the world of Second Life.
In foreign countries, mass weddings are popular due to fact that the government is really to pick up the tab. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church married 10,000 couples in a stadium ceremony on Valentines Day, 2000, according to the BBC. An annual Valentine’s Day Mass Wedding in Thailand draws thousands of couples, many from the country’s impoverished areas. The ceremony, held in the nation’s capitol of Bangkock, began in 1990. The bride and groom don’t get much in the way of a celebration. They are treated to pizza and soft drinks, which is reportedly a treat for many of the nation’s more impoverished lovers.
In the Philippines, organizers of Baguio City’s mass wedding this year were overwhelmed by the response. Over 500 couples have signed up so far to wed in the center’s center on Feb. 14. To handle the crowd, a second time on the same day has been added.The event is referred to as the “Blooming Hearts Day” on the Philippines
In the United States, mass weddings are still viewed as a gimmick, with many who participate renewing their vows instead of tying the knot for the first time. Mass weddings have a long way to go before they are viewed as legitimate, special ceremonies that they are in other countries. Fathers-of-the-bride, though, might become big supporters once they look at the cost of paying for traditional wedding ceremonies. Mass weddings are usually free, sometimes with bonuses like weekend trips thrown in.
Meanwhile, the traditional cost of a wedding in the U.S. has grown to over $26,000, according to a survey by the Fairchild Bridal Group.