September 16, 2014

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At Cincy reunion, judge proves she’s the marrying kind

CINCINNATI — The Chapel of Love, Municipal Court Judge Nadine Allen presiding and singing, can pronounce you husband and wife in five languages.

AP
Municipal Judge Nadine Allen (center) poses with Jennifer Lynn Malek and Elliot Dwayne Berry at their marriage on Saturday in Cincinnati.

“Yo los declaro marido y mujer.” Spanish.

“Je vous declare mari et femme.” French.

“Vi pronuncio marito e moglie.” Italian.

“Ninyi ni mume na muke.” Swahili.

And, in plain English.

No matter which language the happy couples chose at the Chapel of Love under tent 93 during the 19th annual Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration, they were still married.

All of the couples Allen hitched during her four-hour stint picked English as the language for their wedding ceremony.

“I wanted him to know exactly what he was getting into,” said bride No. 1, Crystal Mickecia Thomas (née Wagner).

“I was born in the U.S.A.,” said her just-wedded husband, Corey Glenn Thomas I. “I have to hear it in English.”

After the multilingual Allen pronounced them husband and wife, she offered the bride and groom a piece of cake and a T-shirt imprinted with wedding bells and this slogan:

“Judge Nadine Allen married us at the BFR.”

Then Mr. and Mrs. Thomas posed for photos with the judge.

The Kodak moment gave the judge a chance to issue a tongue-in-cheek opinion.

As she stood with the bride on one side and the groom on the other, Allen declared:

“Let me be the only woman that comes between this couple.”

Her honor is quite the marrying judge.

“I’ve done about 1,000 weddings in the last 21 years,” she said, fanning herself in the shade between ceremonies.

She explained why she convened her Chapel of Love at the Black Family Reunion.

“This event is about the family, all families, all over the community,” Allen said. “And marriage is the cornerstone of the family.”

Putting down her fan and picking up her microphone, she called out to the crowd:

“I’m right next to the Cincinnatus statue at Sawyer Point.

“The Chapel of Love is open for business.

“If you have your marriage license, you can get married.

“If you want to renew your vows, come on down.”

Then she warned, in judicial tones:

“But if you’re not legit, I can’t make you legit.”

A couple stood near the chapel. They fingered their wedding rings. They could not decide if they wanted to renew their vows.

Allen tried to entice them. She started singing “Chapel of Love,” the 1964 Dixie Cups classic hit.

“Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get ma-a-aried,” she sang in a strong, clear soprano.

Then she switched to a classical classic, “Ave Maria.”

That did the trick. Mark and Melanie Collins of Westwood, married May 15, renewed their vows.

“We love each other,” Mark Collins said.

“It’s always fun to show you’re in love,” Melanie Collins added.

“What they just did gives me the chills,” said bystander Cleophes Evans of Walnut Hills.

He said his girlfriend was walking his way.

“I hope nobody’s getting married when she shows up. Don’t want her getting any ideas. At least not this year. Maybe next.”

Next up at the altar crowned by a white trellis festooned with a lace canopy and red plastic roses: Elliot Dwayne Berry Sr. and Jennifer Lynn Malek.

The Westwood couple went to the reunion specifically to stand before Allen, Berry said.

“This is the perfect atmosphere to get married,” he said. “This event is all about family.

“Now that I’m married, I feel we are a family. We are one.”

Before the new Mr. and Mrs. Berry disappeared into the crowd, Allen bid them on their way with two words in Swahili.

“Repeat after me,” she said.

“Naku penda.”

That means, she added:

“I love you.”