The groom looked nervous, the bride radiant as sun poured through the skylight. Security guards clutched cups of rice. Shoppers wandered by slowly, eyes wide, jaws hanging low.
"Welcome to Center Court, Annapolis Mall," said Robert P. Duckworth, clerk of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. "We are gathered here today, to serve as witnesses "
And so it went yesterday morning. Jeff Rogers and the former Charlotte Davis -- their love born of long walks through the mall where both still work -- exchanged their sacred kiss in the Cathedral of Consumerism.
"I've done weddings at marinas, on boats, in restaurants, hotels, but this is a new one for me," said Duckworth, who has performed 2,000 weddings. "I like to have each of my ceremonies memorable."
This one had a lock on memorable, thanks to the unconventional setting and the television cameras, reporters and photographers brought out by a mall staff eager for publicity.
Their story, like most new love, started more simply: Rogers, now 29, was a mall security guard. Davis, now 23, was a saleswoman at Stride Rite shoes. As he passed by on his rounds, they'd wave and smile at each other. Eventually, Rogers asked Davis out.
Four years later they were ready to wed. The only question was where. Both are Annapolis residents, but neither are regular churchgoers. They considered the courthouse, but the families said they wanted a bigger ceremony.
So they settled on Annapolis Mall, as did their families and friends after the initial shock.
"The mall is just so much a part of our lives," said the new Mrs. Rogers after the ceremony. "All our friends work at the mall. It was just the right place to do it."
It wasn't the first wedding at Annapolis Mall. In March 1994, mall manager Kelly Marfyak came across a wedding about to happen. The bridge, groom, minister and guests had already assembled in Center Court in front of Hecht's.
"We asked the manager and he said it was all right," someone explained as Marfyak approached. "Well I'm the manager and I'm not a 'he,' " she replied before allowing the wedding to go on.
Yesterday's wedding, between two longtime mall employees, was an easy call for Marfyak: "I'm a die-hard romantic."
The mall office, where Mrs. Rogers is now a receptionist, donated the space. Mall shops picked up the other expenses, including tuxedos, portraits, decorations and a small reception afterward. The Wyndham Garden Hotel across the street donated a bridal suite.
So at about 9: 30 a.m. yesterday, guests began arriving at the mall, then illuminated by only skylights and the neon of shop signs. A string quartet beckoned guests to Center Court.
The ceremony was brief and nearly silent as the words disappeared into the three-story-high emptiness above the makeshift altar.
Despite the strange mall acoustics, few people complained afterward -- save the few traditionalists.
"I think this is very nice and unusual," said guest Ann Hartge, "but I still like things like this performed in a church."
Pub Date: 8/05/96