By Carina Livoti
Michelle McManus and Rachel Esposito exchanged teary vows under a flowered arch in the flower-and-tinsel decorated Huntington Town Hall on Saturday. The Centerport couple was one of 15 to tie the knot during Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia’s Valentine’s Day Wedding Marathon that day.
The couple said they had been talking about getting married for a while, and when they heard they could do it right at town hall on Valentine’s Day, they thought it was a great idea.
Esposito and McManus met 19 years ago in Manhattan and have a 23-year-old daughter, who stood as one of the witnesses for the ceremony.
The newlyweds were not the only ones who thought it was a great idea, as this Valentine’s Day marked the 20th anniversary of the marathon, which has gained popularity over the years. According to Raia, the whole things started as an accident when one year a couple wanted to get married on Valentine’s Day.
She had an opportunity to offer the couple candy that day, and “things took off from there,” she said.
Raia invited a photographer and started soliciting participation from Huntington merchants, paying careful attention to include vendors from all parts of the town, especially the east end.
Two decades later, the town clerk continues the tradition, filling a room with food, decorations and gifts. She and her staff came in the night before to put up with flowers, banners and decorations.
Michael Oke and Liz Albospino used Skype to allow his brother to watch the wedding from London and her sister to see from Paraguay—a first for Raia after all these years.
The couple met in the Petco where she worked and he had his dog groomed.
“She’s the groomer and he’s the groom,” Raia joked.
This year’s turnout was the second highest ever; Raia’s record is 16 on marathon day. Even with the high number of couples, she managed to rearrange the schedule to allow two couples who forgot their marriage licenses to go back and get them, demonstrating her commitment to celebrating what she described as “love’s greatest holiday.”
2015 Wedding Marathon Contributors
EAST NORTHPORT: Beckman’s Florist, Everbest Bakery, Hummel-Hummel Bake Shop, Laura’s Floral Elegance.
GREENLAWN: Decker’s Florist
HUNTINGTON: A Rise Above Bakery Shop, Reinwald’s Bakery, Wild Flours Bake Shop, A Tisket A Tasket Anything In A Basket, Inc., Bon Bons Chocolatier, Flowerdale by Patty, The Flower Petaler, Funky Flower Shop, Main St. Nursery, Good2Go Deli, Herrell’s Ice Cream, The Marketplace at Southdown, Waldbaum’s, CVS, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Stella Blue Bistro, Value Drugs and Wild By Nature
HUNTINGTON STATION: Flowerdale by Patty
MELVILLE: Bunny’s Floral, Photos by Thomas Pesce
NORTHPORT: Copenhagan Bakery, Fashions in Flowers, Hengstenberg’s Florist
COLD SPRING HARBOR: Sweetie Pies on Main