Kashleigh and Emmitt Johnson wanted to renew their vows, but they didn’t want the hassle of planning a ceremony.
Ten years and three kids after they first got together, they found the perfect opportunity as Miami Beach hosted a mass wedding and vow renewal Monday on the sands of South Beach as part of its centennial celebration.
“There was no stress,” said 39-year-old Emmitt Johnson, smiling. “We just had to show up.”
About 50 couples turned out for the nuptials, staged on the beach under a bright sun with a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. The aisle and altar were adorned with flowers donated by local shop Karla Conceptual Experiences. A few hundred family, friends and curious beachgoers watched as the Rev. Eddie Rodriguez and Mayor Philip Levine officiated.
“This was very Miami Beach,” said Kashleigh Johnson, 38.
Indeed, witnesses wore everything from guayaberas and shorts to sweat-stained linen suits and sundresses. A drone even buzzed overhead to capture the view from above, which included a few floppy straw hats and umbrellas for shade. Clad in bikinis and swimming trunks, tanned tourists lounging on South Beach jumped up from their towels and beach chairs to see it.
“I think it’s really neat,” said Emily Sesti of Massachusetts. The 22-year-old was taking advantage of a beautiful beach day when she noticed the wedding. “I’m seeing a lot of different kinds of couples and all ages. It’s all about diversity here.”
Same-sex couples, older married pairs and younger lovebirds held hands as they walked down the aisle, with a string quartet cover of U2’s Beautiful Day playing over loudspeakers. “It’s all about love,” said the mayor. “It’s all about bringing people together.”
Once all the unions were sealed with kisses, the party moved to a reception in the tent near a large stage erected for this week’s festivities, including the marquee centennial concert Thursday.
Collins Park neighborhood residents Ray Breslin, 68, and his new husband Patrick Pecoraro, 67, had waited 37 years to get married in Florida. With gay marriage recently legalized here, they decided to make it official in the city they’ve called home for years.
“We already know it’s for better or for worse,” Breslin said. “So why not make it legal? We no longer have to be the lady and the tramp.”
Gina Tedesko, 30, arrived in a long white dress and veil holding a small bouquet of mauve flowers in her hand. Her groom, 40-year-old Jason Thomas, wore a tux and sunglasses. The couple drove from Naples to tie the knot on a romance seven years in the making.
“We’re traditional, but we’re unconventional,” he said, adding that their nearly two-year engagement had led to complicated wedding planning lately. The mass wedding made things easy.
“It’s serendipitous,” she said.
The day carried another significance for the couple. Thomas pulled a small box out of his pocket. It was stuffed with small baby figurines that would later be placed on the rims of cocktails they and their families would consume at a celebratory lunch — the newlyweds’ way of making an important announcement.
“We’re pregnant,” she said.
Other centennial festivities
▪ 2:30-10 p.m., Miami Beach Centennial Tennis Celebration: The event includes a USTA tennis clinic for 100 Miami Beach kids, a pro-am competition and a tennis expo presented by CAA Sports. Limited free tickets to Miami Beach residents are available at City Hall.
▪ 5-8 p.m., The Jackie Gleason Show Marathon: Free admission and open to the public at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.
▪ 8 p.m., ‘Miami Vice’ pilot: A screening of the popular TV show’s first episode. Free admission and open to the public at SoundScape Park.
▪ 10:30-11:30 a.m., naturalization ceremony for 100 new U.S. Citizens: Free at Eighth and Ocean Drive.
▪ 5-10 p.m., Food Truck and Music Festival: For the centennial’s North Beach event, a food truck festival will feature Spam Allstars performing a 20th anniversary show, along with a performance by the Beethose Beatles Tribute Band. Free at the North Shore Bandshell, 72nd Street and Collins Avenue.
▪ 5 p.m. to midnight, Hard Rock Rising Miami Beach Global Music Festival 2015: Andrea Bocelli, Barry Gibb, Gloria Estefan and Flo Rida will headline a concert that also includes performances by Wyclef Jean, Jon Secada, Ky-Mani Marley, Dave Mason and more. Free general admission tickets for residents are available at City Hall with proof of residency. Seated tickets can be purchased at http://miamibeach100.com/.