Volume 77, Number 27 - December 05 - 11, 2007
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Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Newlyweds Ellen Parker and Alain Alvarez of Brooklyn settle in for the film version of “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding” at the IFC Center right after their marriage onstage.

Speak now or forever hold your popcorn

By Will McKinley

The posting on Craigslist said it all: “Get married for the price of a movie ticket at The IFC Center!” For Alain Alvarez, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“It’s not the most romantic thing in the world,” the tuxedoed 23-year-old conceded, as he prepared to tie the knot with his girlfriend of two years, prior to last Friday’s opening night screening of the film version of “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding.” “But who else can say they got married in a movie theater?”

His fiancée Ellen Parker, also 23 and wearing a lovely white and black wedding dress, agreed on both counts. “When he suggested it I was like ‘yeah right,’” she said with a laugh. “But we wanted to just go for it and do something different.”

Moments later, Alvarez and Parker were hand in hand, walking down the aisle. Of a movie theater. At midnight. In front of a room filled with strangers eating popcorn.

The whole enterprise was an elaborate publicity stunt designed to promote the long-delayed release of the film, which features “That ’70s Show” star Mila Kunis as Tina and former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre as Tony. After its premiere at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival, the movie sat on the shelf until last weekend, when it magically transformed into a “midnight movie” at the very same theater (then known as The Waverly) that gave birth to the movement three decades ago with its raucous screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Apparently, the marketing ploy was successful, because the weddings — ordained by Reverend Debra from rentareverend.com — will continue this weekend before the Friday and Saturday night screenings of the film. And the marriages themselves? That’s up to the participants, but they are 100 percent legal.

“I’m ordained and I’m also licensed with New York City,” said the Staten Island native, a self-described wedding officiant with big hair, big nails and an even bigger accent. “We usually charge $49, so the people who come tonight are saving money. And what better place to do it than in a theatuh?”

Alvarez and Parker shared their nondenominational midnight mass with Louie and Florenda Padron, a seventy-something couple who decided to renew their vows with the spiritual assistance of Reverend Debra.

“We were originally married in the Philippines on December 7, 1957,” Mr. Pedron said with pride, as he clutched the hand of his beautiful bride of nearly fifty years.

The well-dressed couple — he in a smart blue suit and she in a gold gown with pearls — seemed somewhat out of place amongst the hoodie-clad undergrads at the IFC Center. Further questioning revealed that the Pedrons had been “invited by their son,” who appeared to be in the employ of the distribution company releasing the film adaptation of the long-running off-Broadway hit. So much for serendipity.

As the happy couples stood together beneath the big screen, Reverend Debra began the proceedings.

“We are gathered here tonight to join these couples in the bond of holy matrimony,” she intoned. “It must be entered into reverently and soberly.” At that moment, giggles erupted from beneath the veil of the bride-to-be. Undaunted, Reverend Debra continued.

“To youse grooms,” she said. “Do you entuh into this marriage of your own free will?” Both men nodded to the affirmative, repeated their vows and then promised to “look with joy down the path of our tomorrows.” The brides did the same, and Reverend Debra’s husband, Antoine the guitarist, played the happy couples down the aisle Hendrix-style, to the delight of the small but boisterous crowd.

Alvarez and Parker returned to their seats near the back of the theater and the bouquet was tossed to a friend in the row behind them — by the groom. Clearly, it was a night to flout tradition.

“Anyone else wanna get married?” Reverend Debra asked the assemblage. One young couple appeared to be game, but may have lacked the required marriage license, which must be obtained at least 24 hours prior to a ceremony.

“New York only makes you wait one day. New Jersey wants three days,” the Reverend explained. “They call it a cooling off period.”

Next, the happy couples were escorted to the café next door, where they participated in a cake cutting photo opportunity that will inevitably end up as a special feature on the DVD.

Mr. and Mrs. Pedron then returned to the auditorium to watch the movie. Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez did not. Perhaps they had something better to do — like call their parents.

“They don’t know yet,” the happy couple confessed in unison. And then they both looked at each other and laughed, which is not a bad way to start a marriage.

Reverend Debra officiated at a third wedding prior to the Saturday screening and, if it were up to her, she’d do this every weekend.

“I hope that word spreads and that the movie gets the cult following they have with the live show,” she said. “I cherish my interactions with these people.”


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