Gwinnett celebrates 200 years with mass wedding

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- Cold temperatures and icy roads may have shut down metro Atlanta but they couldn't put a stop to love in Gwinnett County on Thursday.

That's where 12 couples - three of them renewing their vows - came together for a mass wedding held in part to celebrate the county's 200th year in existence.  For newlywed Dawn Royer, the date made it even more special - and much more important to make sure they made it.

"It's very special and we didn't know we were going to make it here due to the ice and snow but here we are," Dawn said.

For her now-husband Chad, it was a moment worth remembering made even more special by the many other brides and grooms who attended - though he admitted still being full of those wedding day jitters.

"I was just nervous the whole time but excited too," he said. "Just to have a bunch of people there is just totally different."

The free event, dubbed "Two Become One" was held at exactly 1:18 p.m. on Thursday in the Superior Court Ballroom at the county's historic courthouse on Crogan Street in Lawrenceville. 

Chief Magistrate Kristina Hammer Blum and Probate Judge Christopher Ballar performed the marriages. Each couple was encouraged to bring up to six guests and was able to participate in an exclusive reception for $15 per person.

For Magistrate Blum, it's a chance to bring a little levity to the sometimes dour courts. 

"Well, you know, in my job and what Judge Ballar and I do, it's not always pleasant and fun, so anytime we have an opportunity to do something and welcoming for the court system."

Gwinnett officially became a county on Dec. 15, 1818, out of land ceded to the state by the Cherokee and Creek Indians and out of a portion of Jackson County. So Judge Ballar said the mass marriage was his idea for a kickoff celebration for a full year's worth of bicentennial events.

"The question or suggestion that was put out there was what do you have, do you have an idea or something and I thought, well, what do we do that's kind of fun in probate court," he said. "We do weddings, we issue marriage licenses, maybe there's something we can do with that."

So he and Blum worked together and it just so happened that Jan. 18 was open - a significant number and a significant day that neither they nor these new husbands and wives will soon forget.

© 2018 WXIA-TV


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