55 couples get married

February 14, 2008 1:46:21 PM PST
Hoping to get lucky in love, a diverse group of couples will descend on the Boardwalk Thursday to get married, renew wedding vows or join in civil unions during a mass Valentine's Day ceremony. Among those getting hitched in Boardwalk Hall will be a gay woman and her teenage daughter each being united with their partners, and an 18-year-old marrying her Iraq-bound Marine boyfriend.

All told, 55 couples will say "I do" in a free ceremony - which includes wedding cake and photo ops - in the cavernous concert hall.

"We decided the group wedding would be fun," said Nicol Sterner, a 36-year-old nursing assistant from York, Pa. who had been looking for a place to have a civil union ceremony with her partner, Carolynn Hill, 40, also of York.

Sterner's 18-year-old daughter, Sierra, thought the same thing.

She'll be entering into a civil union ceremony with her 23-year-old partner, Daniella Beatty, whom she met at a family Thanksgiving dinner when a cousin brought Daniella as a guest.

This is the first Valentine's Day that same-sex couples can legally be joined together in New Jersey; a law authorizing the unions took effect a few days after Valentine's Day last year.

Among the other participants will be Alyssa Stewart, 18, of Little Egg Harbor, and her fiancee, Dominic Genzano, 19, of Tuckerton.

"I'm real excited, but I'm nervous," Stewart said. "It's a great day to get married, but I have some butterflies. It's a mass wedding, so I won't be the only one there. It could be fun."

Her fiancee is a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune who is bound for Iraq in a few weeks.

"I'm very scared and nervous about that," Stewart said. And they won't have that much of a honeymoon; he's due back at the base Friday night.

The pair have known each other since sixth grade, but didn't start dating until two years ago.

"I truly fell in love with my best friend," she said. "I could tell him anything, and he could tell me anything. We were meant to be together."

Of the 55 couples who have registered to participate in the ceremony, 32 will be getting married, 19 will renew their vows, and four will enter into civil unions, said Courtney Birmingham, a spokeswoman for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.

Elsewhere in New Jersey, Newark says it could join as many as 125 couples in marriages or civil unions at municipal court Thursday.