Photo: marie-11/Creative Commons
Berkeley will hold a mass outdoor wedding downtown on Valentine’s Day. Photo: marie-ll/Creative Commons

Forget a mere box of chocolates or a bouquet of red roses or a pretty pink heart. The Downtown Berkeley Association has much bigger plans for Valentine’s Day.

To celebrate love, and the first Valentine’s Day since the repeal of Defense of Marriage Act and the overturn of Proposition 8, Berkeley will be holding a mass outdoor wedding for gay, straight and other couples on Friday. Everyone who decides to say “I Do,” at the 5:00 p.m. celebration near Berkeley BART also gets the chance to win an instant mini-honeymoon in downtown Berkeley.

“What better way to celebrate the first Valentine’s Day since the repeal of DOMA and Prop 8 than a mass wedding for all?” said John Caner, the CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association. “Our merchants were thrilled to donate mini honeymoon packages for three lucky couples.”

The three winning couples, one gay, one lesbian, and one straight, will be treated to two nights at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza, a late Friday night dinner at Eureka!, the new hamburger restaurant on Center Street, breakfast in bed at the hotel, Saturday lunch at BUILD Pizzeria Roma, dinner at FIVE restaurant, Saturday night tickets to The House that will not Stand at the Berkeley Rep, and Sunday matinée tickets to Endless Love at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas.

Other downtown merchants are also providing month-long specials during February for all lovers, couples and friends.

The three winning couples will be selected by popular vote, said Caner. Every person participating or watching the mass wedding will have the chance to cast one vote for the couple they would like to see win the honeymoon. So the more friends in attendance, the better chance each couple has to win, he said. Ballots will be drawn from three containers, one for gay couples, one for lesbian couples, and for one straight couples.

Once the winners are selected, everyone at the mass ceremony is invited to eat wedding cake and drink champagne (for a small fee) at Hotel Shattuck Plaza. DJ O Aces will spin romantic tunes for the couple’s first dance.

Valentine's Day mass wedding

There will be three licensed officiates: Berkeley city councilman Darryl Moore, Berkeley School board member Judy Appel, and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong.

“Berkeley was the first city to recognize domestic partnerships and the first to include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination policies,” said Moore. “We still have a long way to go towards equality throughout the U.S., but in this city and state, we have a lot to celebrate.”

Added Appel: “I am deeply honored to be officiating these weddings in Berkeley on the first Valentine’s Day since we won back marriage equality. “This is a chance to celebrate the love of the committed couples who choose to get married, and what better place than in the heart of Berkeley?”

City councilwoman Susan Wengraf and her husband Mark Berger have decided to renew their vows at the ceremony on Friday.

Couples who are interested in getting married and winning the honeymoon package must register in BART Plaza between 3:30 and 4:30pm on the day of the event, bring valid IDs for both parties, and bring a valid marriage license issued within the last 90 days.

So far, the weather forecast is calling for clouds and temperatures in the mid 60s. There is a 10% chance of rain.

To find out more visit the ceremony website. The Twitter hash tag for the day is #DTBerkeleyis4Lovers

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...