City Hall Happiness

Recently I attended my first city hall wedding. My friend Jess (the one I got naked with at Spa Castle) and her longtime boyfriend, Kerry, decided to get hitched on a Friday afternoon and asked me and Jess’s sister, Casey, to be witnesses. (My flexible freelancer schedule had a lot to do with it, but I was honored just the same.) We all met up at New York's City Hall in Manhattan and waited for Jess and Kerry’s number to be called. I was expecting a dull, bureaucratic, office-y scene, but it was just the opposite. The place was filled with dolled-up couples surrounded by their family and friends, some even with whole wedding parties in matching garb. I know it’s a cliché, but the excitement and joy in the room were palpable. People were smiling and laughing, hugging and and kissing. Some folks got their photos taken in front of a wallpapered City Hall backdrop, while others shopped for last-minute bouquets and veils in the gift shop. There were young couples, old couples, gay couples, couples with kids. It was a damn love fest!

When Jess and Kerry’s number was finally called we went into a room with the justice of the peace, who rattled off the marriage spiel in about nine seconds: “WearegatheredheretodaytowitnesstheexchangeofmarriagevowsbetweenJessandKerry….” Just as quickly as it had begun it was over. Casey and I cheered as the newlyweds kissed, and the justice of the peace ran to the next room to marry two more people. (What a crazy job!) Afterward, we went for a celebratory brunch at their favorite diner, where the owner gave us warm champagne on the house and husband and wife ceremoniously fed each other fried pickles. It was a magnificent day.

A few weeks later, Jess and Kerry surprised their friends with the news of their nuptials at Kerry’s band’s Halloween show by doing vows up on stage officiated by their oldest mutual friend. I made them a Halloween wedding cake with skeleton bride and groom salt-and-pepper shakers as a cake topper. Jess told me that night, “This is how I always dreamed my wedding would be.” I said, “I know.” I’ve never seen her so happy.

To all the couples out there who are feeling the pressure from society/relatives/religious leaders/whathaveyou and wish that they could just do it their way: Jess and Kerry are proof that you can. They saved themselves a boatload of money, got married on their own terms, and had a freaking blast in the process. I was privileged to be a part of it.


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© 2021 by Katie McDonough