By Frances Dinkelspiel
Forget a mere box of chocolates or a bouquet of red roses or a pretty pink heart. The Downtown Berkeley Association has much bigger plans for Valentine’s Day.
To celebrate love, and to mark the first Valentine’s Day since last June’s Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, Berkeley will hold a mass outdoor wedding for gay, straight and other couples on Friday. Everyone who decides to say “I Do” at the 5 p.m. celebration near Berkeley BART also gets the chance to win an instant mini-honeymoon in downtown Berkeley.
“What better way to celebrate the first Valentine’s Day since the repeal of DOMA and Prop. 8 than a mass wedding for all?” said John Caner, the CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association. “Our merchants were thrilled to donate mini-honeymoon packages for three lucky couples.”
The three winning couples — one gay, one lesbian and one straight — will be treated to two nights at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza, a late Friday night dinner at Eureka!, the new hamburger restaurant on Center Street, breakfast in bed at the hotel, Saturday lunch at BUILD Pizzeria Roma, dinner at FIVE restaurant, Saturday night tickets to “The House that will not Stand” at the Berkeley Rep, and Sunday matinee tickets to “Endless Love” at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas.
Other downtown merchants are also providing monthlong specials during February for all lovers, couples and friends.
The three winning couples will be selected by popular vote, said Caner. Every person participating or watching the mass wedding will have the chance to cast one vote for the couple they would like to see win the honeymoon. So the more friends in attendance, the better chance each couple has to win, he said. Ballots will be drawn from three containers, one for gay couples, one for lesbian couples, and one for straight couples.
Once the winners are selected, everyone at the ceremony is invited to eat wedding cake and drink champagne (for a small fee) at Hotel Shattuck Plaza. DJ O Aces will spin romantic tunes for the couple’s first dance.
There will be three licensed officiates: Berkeley City Councilman Darryl Moore, Berkeley school board member Judy Appel, and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong.
“Berkeley was the first city to recognize domestic partnerships and the first to include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination policies,” said Moore. “We still have a long way to go towards equality throughout the U.S., but in this city and state, we have a lot to celebrate.”
Added Appel: “I am deeply honored to be officiating these weddings in Berkeley on the first Valentine’s Day since we won back marriage equality. “This is a chance to celebrate the love of the committed couples who choose to get married, and what better place than in the heart of Berkeley?”
City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf and her husband, Mark Berger, have decided to renew their vows at the ceremony on Friday.
Couples who are interested in getting married and winning the honeymoon package must register in BART Plaza between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. on the day of the event, bring valid IDs for both parties, and bring a valid marriage license issued within the last 90 days.
So far, the weather forecast is calling for clouds and temperatures in the mid-60s. There is a 10 percent chance of rain.
To find out more, visit the ceremony website. The Twitter hash tag for the day is #DTBerkeleyis4Lovers
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