Eight is Orlando and Latosha Reese’s lucky number, so the couple decided it would be a perfect fit to join other couple and get married in a unique ceremony at the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse Thursday.
Eleven couples got married, or renewed their vows in the case of three couples, in the Two Become One Mass Wedding at the historic courthouse. The event was held at 1:18 p.m. on Thursday, offering the novelty of couples having a “1-18-18” wedding date.
If that wasn’t enough eights for Orlando and Latosha Reese, they were also one of eight couples participating in the ceremony who were exchanging vows with each other for the first time.
“She has a Chinese friend who said eights are good,” Orlando Reese said. “It means good luck so it’s a good marriage day to have more than one eight and we have multiple eights in this date.”
The wedding ceremony tied into the county’s year-long bicentennial celebration as a reference to 1818, which was the year Gwinnett County was established.
The ceremony was presided over jointly by Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Hammer Blum and Probate Judge Christopher Ballar, who added cravats — similar to what judges in the late 18th and early 19th centuries would have worn — to their robes for the occasion.
Blum said she and Ballar often work together on special weddings and enjoy coming up with quirky dates and times to hold mass weddings. They once married 35 couples at 10:11 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2014 — giving them a wedding time and date of 10:11 a.m. on 12/13/14 — for example.
“Every year, we try to come up with a free wedding event for the public,” Blum said in an email a few days before the ceremony. “Because the county is celebrating 1818 all year, we had the idea to kick off Gwinnett’s next 200 years by creating some new anniversaries.”
The date had an extra significance for Buford residents Oliver and Vivien Rayam though — it was their fourth wedding anniversary.
The couple had been looking for a special way to celebrate their anniversary and then they got a community update email from the county. The email listed several bicentennial-related events.
“I call it divine intervention because I open up my email and saw the Gwinnett County email, and so I looked at it and see that they’re doing a mass wedding at 1:18 p.m., and I thought ‘Well, I guess that’s what we’re going to do for our anniversary,” Vivien Rayam said.
Lawrenceville residents Sandra and Harrison Bradford, who hadn’t reached on a decision on a wedding date until they heard about the mass wedding, also liked the date. It was their first time exchanging vows to each other.
“(It was chosen) because of the novelty of 1/18/18 as your wedding date because of the bicentennial,” Sandra Bradford said.
Harrison Bradford said, “That way, you can’t forget it.”
Lawrenceville residents Chad and Dawn Royer said they had planned to get married in Florida in September, until they heard about the mass wedding.
“We saw the flyer for this event and we just decided to go ahead with this date, the bicentennial date, and cancel Florida,” Dawn Royer said.
Chad Royer said, “Most of our friends are here, and to get them to come to Florida was too much.”
They’ll now do a reception in May at the courthouse.
Some couples, including Winder residents Abrahim and Nerrisa Mahaboob and Atlanta residents Katherine Bolling and Amy Ferrero, came from other counties to participate in the ceremony.
“We liked the idea of the history and the date and we wanted to be a part of something, and besides it wasn’t planned long in advance,” Nerrisa Mahaboob said.
Meanwhile, Katherine Bolling said she and Ferrero thought it would be fun to exchange vows on that date along with other couples.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “This courthouse is lovely. I read before we came out that it was the 200th anniversary and I think that’s great, and I think they did a beautiful job.”