They Married at City Hall (But Didn’t Toss the Bouquet)

Latasha McMickle, 41, dressed in a black shirt and black jeans, strutted down the two-block length of the Manhattan Marriage Bureau in New York as if she were in a fashion show. The stone-tiled floor was her runway. Brides, grooms and their family and friends, who sat on the faux lime green leather banquettes, became her spectators. A red rose bouquet was in one hand; a blue marriage certificate folder in her other.

Last May, the CityStore at the Bureau, where 300-plus ceremonies, often called City Hall weddings, are performed weekly, switched from selling real flowers to renting silk and synthetic arrangements of sunflowers, white roses and calla lilies, among others. Ms. McMickle is one of three salespeople who help showcase them.

“We used the same flower vendor for eight years, but he closed down his business. Wedding season was approaching and we needed to have an offering for the brides,” said Dana Rosario, 42, the director of CityStores, which operates from 141 Worth Street. Since its inception, more than 900 couples have rented bouquets, each costing $6 per hour. Before the holidays, the shop was averaging approximately 35 rentals per week. During the holiday season that number increased to 20-plus a day.

Ms. Rosario, the brainchild behind the program, is also the creator of the bouquets. “The display was empty since the real flowers were gone, so I went to the flower district and bought fake ones,” she said. “Then I made bouquets to fill the space.”

Almost instantly people inquired about purchasing them.

With an investment of less than $200, and in one day, Ms. Rosario replicated the originals, offering a total of 18 bouquets. Some, like the red roses, are duplicates. Each offers eight to 10 flowers.

“People were captivated by them,” she added. “Not everyone likes flowers or can afford a $40 bouquet. These become the bouquet they didn’t know they wanted until they hold it. It’s rewarding to know we offer something that becomes a lasting memory.”

To date, only one bouquet has gone home with someone, “And one bride tossed hers in the air after getting married and it landed in a chandelier,” Ms. Rosario said. “But we got it down.”

According to Ms. Rosario, red roses are the favorite. “They’re more traditional and classic, and represent romance,” she said.

On Dec. 13, The Times followed three couples, who opted to rent flowers for their wedding, and all of whom were married by Angel L. Lopez, a staff member of the New York City Clerk’s Office.

Beatriz Hernandez and Jeremy Bell

Time 10:30 a.m.

Rented bouquet Red roses

BEATRIZ HERNANDEZ, 29, and her fiancé, Jeremy Bell, 30, met three years ago and were engaged for only a month before marrying. They stood with Ms. Hernandez’s sister and her wife, eager to wed.

“It’s a coincidence my sister and her wife are here today,” said Ms. Hernandez, who, like Mr. Bell, was born in Mexico, where both are citizens. (Mr. Bell has dual citizenship in the United States.)

“My sister was the one who said I should have the flowers,” she said. “The roses are pretty and basic. They make me feel special.”

Neither Ms. Hernandez nor Mr. Bell had expected to meet anyone significant in 2015, when each was invited to a friend’s barbecue in Los Cabos, Mexico.

“Jeremy was standing by the beers talking with friends,” she recalled. “My friend told me to go over and speak to him,” Ms. Hernandez asked him if she could have a beer. “He said yes, then he went back to talking with his friends, so I walked away.”

Mr. Bell, who realized he might have appeared impolite, tried to talk with Ms. Hernandez again. This time things went better. They spoke until 4 a.m.

“Jeremy was interesting and funny. He had opinions and was smart,” she said. “I liked him a lot.”

Their first date was a week later on Valentine’s Day. Again they talked into the early morning. Additional dates followed. In August, Ms. Hernandez moved to New York to pursue a career as a professional dancer; Mr. Bell went to Nevada to attend college.

“We were Skyping once or twice a month, but it wasn’t a relationship,” she said. “Neither of us were ready to be serious. I wanted to be with him, but he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He needed to find himself.”

Ms. Hernandez got a job as a nanny and joined a dance troupe; Mr. Bell left college and began construction work. Two years went by. Neither forgot about the other, and neither lost hope of rekindling their connection.

In March 2017, Ms. Hernandez had enough of the dating scene in New York. She missed Mr. Bell and invited him to visit. He agreed.

“I thought about him all the time,” she said. “We liked each other and never had the chance to really give it a try.”

Mr. Bell felt similarly. He stayed for five days and discovered a passion for New York, and for Ms. Hernandez. When he returned home, he quit his job, sold his truck and moved to Brooklyn to join Ms. Hernandez, where they currently live.

Things were not easy. He attended community college, but he couldn’t find work. Ms. Hernandez carried the financial responsibilities. Their relationship became strained.

“I made the commitment to love him,” she said. “He can be tough. We are not always on the same level. But we never gave up.”

During these hard months Mr. Bell saw how much she cared about him and was committed to their relationship. He knew he had to stick it out — for her.

Things became easier when he secured a job at BierWax, a new bar in Prospect Heights. He saved money and bought a ring. In November 2018, he brought Ms. Hernandez to the Observatory at One World Trade Center and proposed.

“It was very sweet,” the newly wedded bride said. “He was so nervous I had to remind him to put the ring on my finger after I said, ‘Yes.’”

Giorgiana Sascau and Edgardo Gallardo

Time 12:45 p.m.

Rented bouquet Peonies

“I THOUGHT THESE were natural flowers at first,” said Giorgiana Sascau, 39, as she looked at the bouquets when the couple applied for their marriage license. “I dislike that real ones die right after. We have plans for dinner and want to walk around the city. It’s inconvenient to carry them around where they could get damaged. At a regular wedding everyone hands you what you need. This is more spur of the moment.”

“Peonies are very fragile and expensive,” she added. “I looked up real ones on the web and they cost between $60 and $90.”

Ms. Sascau met Edgardo Gallardo, also 39, on a Norwegian Cruise Line in 2011 where both had jobs. She is from Romania; he is from Mexico.

That summer “Swan Lake” was performing in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the locations where the boat was docking. Ms. Sascau wanted to see it. She told a co-worker to invite other staffers. When she passed by Mr. Gallardo, who was seated with his colleagues, she thought he had already been told about the event, and said, “You’re going, right?”

He nodded a yes.

Mr. Gallardo was not originally attending. He thought Ms. Sascau was asking him out, and so he accepted.

After the performance, the group went for dinner and drinks.

“I thought he was nice, but I didn’t think I would marry him,” she said. “He was very quiet, serious and confident.”

Mr. Gallardo liked her, and continued to ask her out. Other dates followed. Yet Ms. Sascau didn’t hold much stock in cruise romances.

“It’s a fairy tale while you’re on the ship; it’s different when you’re back on land,” she said. “You’re here for a few months, then you go home. Then you’re on a different ship when you come back. Relationships don’t really last.”

Still, they stayed in touch. When she invited him to travel with her as her guest during her next stint, as he was not working during those months, he agreed. They had a great time. But their next job found them on different ships.

“That’s when it kicked in, I missed him,” she said. “When you’re separated you either fight harder or you give up.”

They decided to fight.

When Ms. Sascau’s father became ill and then passed away, that’s when they grew closer. They Facetimed, texted and called each other constantly.

“I felt a lot of support,” she said. “He sent me letters and postcards. I felt he was very special.”

In 2012 they found themselves working on the same ship, again.

At the time, she was an excursions manager; he was chief officer.

Their relationship continued to grow. In the summer of 2013 the couple bought a home in the suburbs of Bucharest, Romania, and Mr. Gallardo bought a ring. A year later, while on a puddle jumper in Alaska, one of Ms. Sascau’s favorite places, he proposed. Ms. Sascau quickly said yes.

“New York is my other favorite place, so we wanted to get married at City Hall,” she said. The photographer, whom they met outside and hired, doubled as their witness the following day, on Dec. 14, when they returned, 24 hours after picking up their license. After the ceremony, the newlyweds walked around the financial district and had dinner at the Plaza Hotel. “I’m extremely lucky to have met him and to be building a life together,” she said. “We are both very fortunate. We have a beautiful relationship and great things ahead of us.”

Jazmine Parham and Sean Kovach

Time 1 p.m.

Rented bouquet yellow roses and peonies

“I’M ALLERGIC TO flowers,” said Jazmine Parham, 25 who was seated next to her fiancé, Sean Kovach, 26. “Everyone mentioned I should have flowers. I saw the stand and I thought, ‘Well, if I can get some that would be nice.’ It completes the outfit and the idea of what a wedding should be. And they’re pretty. It’s a good option to have. And it’s convenient.”

Her parents, aunt, cousin, and Mr. Kovach’s mother were waiting with the couple.

The pair met randomly on Plenty of Fish, an online dating site, in 2016, and quickly began texting. Two weeks later, Ms. Parham, who was feeling lazy, wanted a ride to the mall to buy a Mother’s Day gift. Mr. Kovach, who lived only 10 minutes away from her in Newark, volunteered to drive her. “I was a little nervous. I remember thinking, ‘I hope you’re not an ax murderer. I hope we don’t end up arguing and he leaves me stranded,’” she said. “But once we started talking it was like we had known each other our whole lives.”

Actually, they sort of did.

They discovered they had gone to the same grade school, and as children, lived a block away from each other.

Mr. Kovach turned out not to be involved with axes in any way, and Ms. Parham was having such a good time she created an extra item she “needed” so they could continue shopping.

“When he drove me home, we sat outside my house in his car and just talked for hours — neither one of us wanted to part ways,” she said.

They became closer over the next several months. There were phone calls, dates, and introductions to one another’s families. In September, Ms. Parham helped Mr. Kovach celebrate his 24th birthday.

“I took him and my cousin to Red Lobster, his favorite place, and bought him some video games — we’re both fanatics — and some sweaters. He was so touched, he teared up, and that really touched me,” she said. “I really felt appreciated. It was our first major thing together that we celebrated. I always found myself in past relationships where you give and it’s not respected or appreciated. This is someone who recognized me and what I was giving.”

When Mr. Kovach used the restroom, Ms. Parham told her cousin she was going to marry him.

Two years later she did.

“It’s like we’re the same person,” the bride said. “I’ve never had anything come together so organically with another person.”

The marriage was somewhat spur of the moment. Mr. Kovach proposed spontaneously in Atlantic City on the boardwalk over the summer.

“We would have gotten married next June, but I’m pregnant and that’s when I’m due,” said the bride, who now uses the surname Parham-Kovach. “We wanted to be married once the baby got here. I wish I had a traditional wedding. My grandmother and sister aren’t here. But the experience is still special. I never saw myself getting married. I never planned a wedding in my mind. This is the next best thing.”

In earlier version of this article, a bride’s surname was misspelled in some instances. She is Beatriz Hernandez, not Hernanadez.


When Dec. 13, 2018

Where Manhattan Marriage Bureau

The Real Dealer For those who want real flowers, George Taxi, 47, has been selling flowers arrangements in front of City Hall for the past five years. He seemed unfazed by the new competition. “There’s enough business for both of us,” he said. Mine can cost $30 to $35 or more. Theirs is cheaper, and couples might be on a budget.” During the week, Mr. Taxi said he can sell 10 to 15 bouquets and 20 to 25 on Fridays.

Inside City Hall “To get married, a couple must obtain a marriage license which costs $35,” said Michael McSweeney, the New York City clerk. “We require each applicant to bring one form of photo identification. Citizenship papers are not required. Once the couple obtains a marriage license they must wait a full 24 hours before the marriage ceremony can be performed. The ceremony at the Marriage Bureau costs $25.” He added that a New York City Hall marriage is, “recognized in all 50 states and in numerous jurisdictions around the world subject to the laws and requirements of the jurisdiction.”

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