At Metro, couples will tie the knot, cut the ribbon Ceremony: 14 couples will have an unusual trip down the aisle, as they will say their vows at the grand opening of Metro Food Market's Middlesex store.

October 23, 1997|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Rick Bauer thinks the vows might go something like this: "To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part or the food coupons run out."

Bauer will officiate at a 14-couple wedding on a red carpeted stage in front of Metro Food Market Nov. 5 at 8: 45 a.m. as part of the Middlesex store's grand opening -- an unusual promotional gimmick that lured the couples down the aisles with $1,000 in groceries and a free honeymoon. The brides will be dressed in white. So will the butchers.

After they are pronounced husband and wife, they will listen to the 100-piece Dundalk High School Band play "Here comes the Bride," collectively cut the ribbon of a new grocery store and then walk down the aisles.

Bride Shelley Utz might choose the potato chip aisle, but she probably won't buy anything yet. She says she is going to save the $1,000 in free grocery store merchandise Metro is giving her to buy food to cater her reception later.

Some might question the shelf life of a supermarket marriage, but Bauer says he is expecting the marriages to last forever, in season or out.

The Harvard Divinity School graduate and minister at the nondenominational Church of Christ at Olney said he is counseling as many couples as he can before the event. He wanted to make sure "this wasn't going to be a stunt."

Bauer says that most of the couples are in their 20s, trying to save money and all seem to have the ability to be flexible, a useful attribute in marriage. He said there is a wide variety of religious backgrounds among the group.

Practical choice

For Utz, who will marry Tony Krause, the decision to get married in front of the Metro was a practical one. She had set the date in May and was about to book the Bowleys Quarters Fire Department hall for the wedding, when she heard an advertisement by Metro on the radio. She said she had already grown tired of the myriad of wedding decisions ahead.

"This is a much easier way not so much heartache," she said. She's getting a ring tomorrow and a wedding dress on Saturday.

Besides offering each couple free groceries and round trip air tickets to anywhere in the United States, one couple will also get a free wedding reception for 100 people donated by Martin's West, which also prepares food for Metro markets.

Unusual openings

In addition, they will be provided flowers, Bauer's services, an enormous wedding cake and a moment of kitschy fame from the publicity the event seems sure to generate. John Ryder, Metro's chief executive officer, who is known in the industry for his energy and ability to sell just about anything, said he thought up the idea about two weeks ago. He's never held traditional ribbon cutting ceremonies.

At the opening of one store he had a marching band parade through the aisles, at another he had a man in a yellow cape parachute out of a plane onto an X in the parking lot. The guy missed the mark. "He hit a car and scared the living hell out of me," Ryder said.

So he thought up a less risky adventure, and asked Bauer if he would be willing to do the ceremony. Bauer said he laughed then "I think I overcame all better judgment."

Ryder won't say how much this publicity campaign will cost Metro. "A mother never tells how much it is going to cost for the wedding."

In Bauer, Ryder has found someone experienced in unorthodox locations. From Pike's Peak in the Rocky Mountains to the base of the Grand Canyon, Bauer has performed weddings in many outdoor backdrops.

"In spite of the fact that it is a rather unique setting, the seriousness of the commitment is the same," he said.

Despite his seriousness, Bauer admits it's somewhat silly and indeed a promotion for the stores. Metro was going to pay $1,000 for his services, but he has told Ryder to donate it to a local food bank.

What is the worst joke going around the Metro offices? "Are we going to pay for their divorces," said Ryder. "The answer is no."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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