Some people go to the mall to exchange an impossible tie for a passable shirt.
But last weekend, Vinicia M. Bruce and Laurence S. Adler went to the mall to exchange the vows of marriage--for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, from New Year's Day white sales to post-Christmas bargain specials.
Before about 150 shoppers toting bags and reining in unruly children at the Janss Mall in Thousand Oaks, the couple agreed on Saturday to "love and cherish" one another "from this day forward."
The Adlers then danced in front of an athletic-shoe store to music from a portable public address system and served wedding cake next to a pet store in the midst of a sidewalk sale on dog food.
"Only in California," observed David Bee, a financial planner who attended the wedding as a friend of the groom's family.
Adler, 26, said the event allowed customers of the hamburger stand he manages in the mall to attend. "This way, everybody gets to come," he said.
His 22-year-old bride acknowledged that the idea at first left her cold. "I just thought it was kind of weird," she said. "I always thought it would be a little get-together with a few friends and family, not in a mall with millions of people."
The groom's family appeared to take the arrangement in stride.
"He's happy, they're happy and that's what's important," said the groom's father, Steve Adler, a salesman who had flown in from Parsippany, N. J., for the ceremony.
The bride's mother, Sally Maynard, was more pragmatic. Maynard, a school-bus driver in Fontana, said local merchants donated more than $4,000 in goods and services for the event.
The wedding's decidedly nondenominational location also solved the nettlesome problem of uniting two families of mixed faiths. Adler and his family are Jewish; the bride and her family are Christian.
"It isn't any different than getting married at Raging Waters," Maynard said, referring to a recent ceremony at the San Dimas amusement park.
Yet for all its liberties with convention, the double-ring ceremony dripped with tradition. The bride, an accounting assistant for a Ventura company, wore a full-length, white lace gown with a flowing veil, while the groom sported not just a tuxedo but a walking stick and top hat.
Tug at Heartstrings
And the display appeared to tug as much at heartstrings as any conventional ceremony.
A resounding "Aaaaaahhhhh" rose from the crowd when Adler hugged the bride's 5-year-old daughter, Patty Jo, after exchanging vows and a gold ring with her too.
"I'm marrying them both," he said.
The mood infected Billie Buzan, a retired telephone operator who was helping a friend pick out a handset at the Phone Mart when the activities began.
"There's something about a wedding even if you don't know the couple," she said.
While some of the wedding's guests happened upon the event just as Buzan did, many said they had seen newspaper announcements about it and decided to pay their respects to, in the words of one onlooker, "that nice young man at Frank's Charbroiler."
"I don't know him," said Doris Solway, a retired hospital worker from Thousand Oaks who said she planned to send the couple a card and a check. "But you get good vibes. He's polite. He's courteous."
An affable fellow who urged his customers to sign the guest book and offered cake to passers-by, Adler presides over a coffee klatch of Thousand Oaks merchants who meet every morning in front of his restaurant.
"They call him 'the mini-mayor of Thousand Oaks,' " said his mother, Lois Sandmeier, a sales manager for a Woodland Hills caterer.
Chuck Fieweger, a klatch regular and the operator of a stationery store in the mall, suggested the wedding. "Originally, they were going to run off to Vegas and I thought, 'Shoot, that's cold,' " he said.
The event realized a dream that Fieweger had entertained for 20 years, he said. But it does nothing to satisfy a fantasy that came to him after visiting a local rest home filled with "90-year-olds who hadn't had any attention in their lives."
"I always wanted a funeral in the mall," Fieweger said. "If nobody'll recognize 'em, we will."