Maybe it’s the pollen count or the influence of the summer solstice or who knows what, but something about June makes it the annual mating month, that time of year when couples promise to love, honor and split the household chores. On the weekend of June 6 and 7 PEOPLE asked to join the revelry staged by some of this season’s romantics. Our quest led us from the hills outside Rome to the fields of Iowa, where college sweethearts Brian Grant, 25, and Ruth Ann Snyder, 22 (left), married in a white wood church at the 600-acre Living History Farms near Des Moines. “It feels kind of natural being married,” Grant said, a sentiment echoed by other newlyweds on these pages. Here’s a toast to one June weekend’s brides and grooms.
When Joseph LoMonaco, 30, planned his medieval-style wedding to Vicki Morgan, 29, he pictured himself arriving on a white steed and sweeping his new bride off her feet. It didn’t exactly work out that way. The chunky armor weighed 50 pounds, and instead of a white steed, he moseyed in on a three-months-pregnant brown mare with a sagging belly. None of this mattered much to the two deputy sheriffs from Norwalk, Calif. as they pulled off their $18,000 extravaganza in a rented mock castle high above the sunbaked beaches of Malibu. Flutists and minstrels roamed the courtyard outside as guests in bosom-baring peasant blouses sashayed by on the arms of bird-legged lords in tunics and tights. Friar Tuck, a minister also going by the name of Oscar, made it official when he took a huge sword and gently tapped each principal on the shoulder.
The couple met 10 years ago, but each went on to marry someone else. They divorced, and Joseph and Vicki met again a year ago on patrol. Infatuated with medieval history, LoMonaco says, “I would have been a knight back then. It’s similar to being a policeman. I still carry out the laws of the land. All that’s different are the clothes.”
With a boost from a propane tank, Cindy Ross, 28, and Michael Billingslea, 36, of Portland, Maine, exchanged vows 550 feet above ground in a hot-air balloon. Billingslea, who owns a floor covering store and is a recreational parachutist, jumped at the idea. Not so Ross, who is afraid of heights. But after a trial ride Cindy gave in. Guests gathered on a school playground to watch the lift-off. A justice of the peace, who was on board, began the ceremony, and as the couple rose skyward, Cindy’s mom issued her toast: “I think you’re nuts.” But 25 minutes later they landed in a field five miles away. Cindy declared her flight from singledom “perfect.”
When you are 90 minutes late for your own wedding, you’d better have a good excuse. Chicago bank employee Novona Garrett, 24, did: The nine bridesmaids’ dresses weren’t finished. Novona had hired an aspiring fashion designer pal to design the gowns, but when the dresses arrived they needed more work. So Novona and her bridesmaids grabbed some thread and started stitching. The groom, Mulbe Diliard Jr., 25, a bricklayer foreman for the city, kept cool in his beloved University of Michigan Wolverines cap, which he wore prior to the vows. “It makes me feel loose,” he explained. When the women finally showed up at Chicago’s Haven of Rest Missionary Baptist Church, Mulbe just flashed a big smile. The pair was hitched before 300 guests by his uncle, the Rev. Melvin Dillard, and partied at a lavish country club reception.
Both had wanted a large, formal wedding, and this one had all the formality that $8,000 could buy. “People who have done it at City Hall say it doesn’t feel like they were married,” says Novona. At the reception they danced to their favorite song, Anita Baker’s You Bring Me Joy. Raves Novona: “Mulbe told me early on he knows how to make me happy, and so far he’s doing a good job.”
Lovely British actress Kristin Scott Thomas, 26, Prince’s co-star in 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon, had her heart set on marrying Paris physician François Olivennes, 28, at home in Dorset, that beautiful but definitely windswept patch of England made famous by novelist Thomas Hardy. Sure enough, gale-force winds whipped across the countryside during their civil service at the Blandford Forum registry. Fortunately, the bad weather cleared by the next day, when they had another ceremony before a rabbi and a priest. (He’s Jewish; she’s Catholic.) The pair met in a drama class in Paris and went to see Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris, starring Brigitte Bardot. “We’ve been more or less inseparable ever since,” says François. The Paris-based couple is putting off a honeymoon trip to the U.S. until François completes his residency and Kristin wraps up a movie she’s making in West Germany. Although invited, Prince was not among the 50 guests. “The wedding was on the weekend of Prince’s birthday,” explained the bride. A surprise guest did show up—the town crier. Dressed in 17th-century garb, he met the newly-weds outside the registry and began ringing his bell, intoning official wishes: “May your marriage be bright and your disappointments light.”
Californians Celeste Claxton, 33, and Gregory Collins, 39, met last August at a “Power and Success” seminar. “I like your eyes,” she told him, not yet knowing that his baby blues were enhanced by tinted contact lenses. Celeste knows that now, and a lot more—for example, that Greg, a tool and die manufacturer from Santa Ana, Calif., has been married twice before and has three children (a daughter, Kim, 18, and two sons, James, 10, and Glen, 8). But after an eight-month courtship, Celeste, a marketing analyst, was undaunted and accepted Greg’s mumbled proposal last Christmas. After all, she had lived with men twice for a total of nine years, “so I felt as if I’d been married myself.” Greg’s children live in Southern California and visit regularly, and son James was best man at the wedding, held at the home of Celeste’s aunt. The pair is confident this matchup will stick. “This marriage will be my first—and his last,” vowed the bride. More power and success to her.
Appropriately enough, this being Texas, Missy Pitlik and Frank Tydlacka met in 1985 while welding a barbecue pit in a class at Texas A&M University. “I was really drawn to the good ole country boy in him,” says Missy, 21. Boasts Frank, 24: “I’d always heard when the real thing came along, you would know. Well, I did.” Since both students are of Czechoslovakian heritage, they wed in a Catholic church in Frenstat, Texas, an old Czech settlement. The $7,000 affair was rowdy and rollicking. (Let’s just say no one thought badly of the bride for sipping a beer before heading down the aisle.) Customs from the old country were in evidence when guests lined up for the the wine dance. Both Missy (her real name is Melissa Ann) and Frank hoofed it up with partners who paid for the honor and got a glass of wine in return. Later, as the couple drove off in Frank’s 1984 pickup, with tin cans jangling behind, a groomsman hollered, “Y’all drive careful, Frankie John!”
Dolores and Robert Eskridge met as teenagers in St. Louis but didn’t become serious until they began exchanging letters during World War II. When Bob returned after the war, they wed and resettled in California. Forty years later, Bob, 63, and Dolores, 61, renewed their vows at La Venta Inn, the banquet house they run in Palos Verdes Estates. “We’ve lost so many friends lately,” says Dolores. “We felt this was the right time to do this.” Adds Bob: “Not only has it been a very happy marriage, but it keeps getting better.” Daughter Susan, 36, who is divorced, looked on admiringly. “They are a tough act to follow,” she says.
The Chapel in the Wildwood where Bobbie Rogers Jr., 29, and Janis Arnds, 35, were married, is nestled on a tree-lined street in Upland, Calif., where settees swing lazily on the shaded porches. The scene is as cozy and down-home as any out of Mayberry, RFD. The Rogers-Arnds story, on the other hand, is like an episode of The Young and the Restless.
The couple met a year ago at a drug rehabilitation center. She was doing volunteer work while recovering from an addiction to alcohol and tranquilizers; he was being treated for using alcohol and cocaine. “I was an upper and she was a downer,” jokes Rogers, and their differences didn’t end there. Arnds, who spent two years in college and is from a well-to-do family, has a 6-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Rogers, a housepainter, had never married and has a high school equivalency diploma. Family and friends of both were opposed to the union at first, and Arnds was not immune from the second-guessing. “A doctor or lawyer type—that’s what I was trained to look for in a husband,” she says. Encouraged by their ability to communicate, their friendship blossomed, even during the 62 days that Rogers was jailed for earlier drunk driving and battery convictions. “When they took him away, I knew then I couldn’t live without him,” she says. Bobby proposed from jail over the telephone. “She answered pretty quick,” he adds. “When I got out I asked her again to make sure.” She was sure, but suffered some mild wedding day jitters. When the music began, Janis muttered, “Oh, my God.” But she has no doubts about their decision: “I don’t think many people have something as strong as what we have.”
Baci, baci,” the guests insisted. That’s Italian for “Kisses, kisses,” and newlyweds Paola Antonini, 23, and Renzo Lolli, 24, enthusiastically obliged the hometown crowd in Poggio Nativo, a picturesque village some 35 miles from Rome. While some rural Italian women maintain the tradition of providing new underwear for their grooms, thoroughly modern Paola refrained. “I only bought Renzo his wedding day shirt,” she reports. Paola’s family runs the local coffee bar, while Renzo’s parents own a combined gift and kitchen equipment store. As respectable local business families, they were expected to put on an opulent show; otherwise tongues might wag. No one was disappointed. After the one-hour, late-morning Catholic wedding ceremony at a 15th-century church, the 200 guests moved to a local roadhouse, where they feasted on a nine-course meal that included antipasto, egg soup, spaghetti, stuffed cannelloni, breaded veal cutlets with artichokes, brains fried in batter and a six-tier cake. By 6:30 p.m. shoes and jackets were off, and the bride’s veil lay crumpled on a table. As they sipped final cups of good strong espresso, all agreed it had been a splendid day. “Viva gli sposi!” they cheered. “Long live the newlyweds!”
Atlanta teacher Denise Robertson thinks it’s never too early to learn about love. So for Valentine’s Day, Robertson decided to play out the happy consequences of love by preparing for a classroom wedding. The nearly two dozen 3-to 5-year-olds in her class at Northside Hospital Child Care Center spent four months on research: They brought in their parents’ wedding pictures, made tissue paper bouquets and even wrote a ceremony in which they promised to take care of each other whether they were sick or happy.
The names of the bride and groom were plucked from a hat. Bride Crystal Caesar, 4, wore a white ruffled dress donated for the occasion. Groom Garry Bowden, 5, rented tails. But on the big day, as the 16-member bridal party joined beaming Garry at the altar, a wailing sound was heard over the music. Crystal had had a change of heart. “I don’t want to be a bride,” she said. Exhibiting the flexibility that is the cornerstone of any great marriage, the entire wedding party marched back up the aisle. Crystal took off the wedding dress; Jasmine Hurley, 4, slipped it on and the ceremony went smoothly after that. There were no post-nuptial recriminations. Said one mother later: “She’s not the first bride to have misgivings.”