A trip to the jeweler is a necessary part of the wedding ritual. But now some jewelers are taking it a step further by offering not only wedding jewelry but also a wedding service.
At Albert’s Jewelers in Schererville, Ind., it started 12 years ago, when owner Joshua Halpern’s parents were celebrating their 30th anniversary and wanted to redo their vows. “A judge friend said, ‘Why don’t you get married in the store,'” he remembers. “We’ll do it as a publicity event.”
That led the store to open it up to other couples. Soon a tradition was born.
Every year since then the store has invited local couples to get married or renew their vows free of charge on Valentine’s Day, in front of a local magistrate, followed by a makeshift celebration [see box]. Dozens have taken them up on it; the record is 36 couples. And the event has become a big one on the store’s calendar. “Every time, after New Year’s, the inquiries start coming in,” says Helen Garrison, the store’s special events coordinator.
The couples run the gamut—some come in with street clothes, others in full wedding regalia. A few arrive by limousine. Albert’s had a couple of Steelers fans get married with their guests in Steelers garb.
The tradition has been taken up by other stores, notably Ben David Jewelers, of Danville, Va. Owner Mack David considers it a way of giving back to the community. “[The couples] can go to the courthouse and have a cold kind of wedding, or they can come here and have a nice wedding in front of a fireplace with nice music and flowers,” he says. “They have a great time. They thank us over and over again. They are so thankful they can have a wedding in a nice atmosphere.”
The event is popular with the stores’ employees—some have even gotten married in the store themselves. “It’s probably our most fun day of the year,” says Garrison. “You get involved with each couple and you hear all the stories. It absolutely feels like a real wedding. We’ve had people stand up there and cry.”
Both stores say that weddings only “sometimes” lead to jewelry purchases. “Men come in, and sometimes they need a wedding band,” says David. “But it’s really not meant to make a sale off of. The purpose is to have an experience at Ben David’s.”
Halpern notes it regularly gets newspaper and TV news coverage. “It’s made my Valentine’s Day unbelievable,” says Halpern. “Mother’s Day used to be better than Valentine’s Day for me, and now Valentine’s Day is much better.”