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Mass Weddings Mark Millennium

January 1, 2000

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Austin Cushing and Laura Boechat met in classic late-20th century fashion _ on the Internet _ and greeted the 21st as newlyweds after tying the knot in a mass ceremony in Philadelphia, one of dozens of New Year’s Eve weddings planned around the world.

``We’re so special together. We wanted to do it on a special day,″ said the new Mrs. Cushing, 29, of Kansas City, Mo.

She wore a ``Happy New Year″ party hat, while her betrothed wore jeans and a plastic derby.

``It’s the millennium. It seemed right,″ he said of the timing and his attire.

About 700 couples participated in the Philadelphia ceremony.

Twelve time zones away, 2,000 couples took the plunge at a mass ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand. Despite some no-shows due to Y2K-affected flights and fears, several hundred foreigners from Europe, North America and other Asian nations joined in the elaborate Thai wedding rites.

``We joined this ceremony because it is a time we will remember forever,″ said Alexander Hay, a 53-year-old Briton residing in Thailand.

``This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for us. This is a time of great happiness,″ said Rojana Lar-on, 30, as her groom smiled and confessed the two had already honeymooned last week on the resort island of Phuket.

Earlier Friday, on a remote island in Fiji, a Virginia couple was married at midnight local time in what an Internet site devoted to weddings dubbed the first nuptials of 2000.

Cheryl Berthelsen and Matthew Beach, both 28, of Leesburg, Va., wed on Turtle Island in a private ceremony on the beach, weddingchannel.com spokeswoman Meredith Mansfield said. Turtle Island is on daylight savings time, so it celebrated the year 2000 one hour sooner than the rest of Fiji.

Another mass wedding, of 110 couples, went off at midnight EST along the Delaware River in Wilmington, Del.

``I’m only going to be around for one millennium,″ said Kellie Melba, 29, explaining why she signed up to renew her wedding vows with her husband of seven years, Scott Melba.

Danielle McMullen, 22, and Richard Cressman, 23, were among 20 couples who were married in the final hour of 1999 in the courthouse in Howard County, Md.

Dim lights, organ music, poinsettias, candles, a two-tier wedding cake on one attorney’s table and nonalcoholic champagne made a chapel out of the courtroom where Monica Lewinsky testified in the Linda Tripp case two weeks ago.

In Las Vegas, an Elvis impersonator flanked by showgirls planned to marry about 30 couples at a wedding chapel Friday night. A larger traditional ceremony was planned for midnight.

At the Philadelphia ceremony, bride Leigh Costa, 26, of Pittman, N.J., said the hardest part about getting married with 700 other brides was the possibility of being upstaged.

``There’s a lot of competition. But there’s only one groom here I want,″ she said.

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