Melanee and Sylvester Carmickal drove two and a half hours from Tampa to Gainesville for a drive-thru window. What did they order? One marriage, to-go.
The couple originally planned to wed Friday at the Grand Plaza Hotel in St. Petersburg and honeymoon for six days in Jamaica, the bride said. But after mandatory stay-at-home orders made group gatherings unsafe, the couple canceled their plans.
When Carmickal saw on the news that people in Alachua County could get married at a drive-thru, she didn’t hesitate to call the Clerk of the Court’s office. There was one spot left, she said.
“I had already scheduled it, and then I called and asked him,” Carmickal said, laughing. Her then-fiance agreed.
Two days later, they made the drive.
Decked in veils, flowers and formal wear, couples from across Florida drove cars, trucks and limousines to the drive-thru-turned-“Wedding Window.” They pronounced their love to each other at the Alachua County Family and Civil Courthouse from about 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday.
In an effort to accommodate couples whose weddings were canceled because of COVID-19, Alachua County Clerk of Court Jess Irby organized the evening of drive-thru wedding ceremonies.
“Some people got their dreams dashed, but we’re still trying to put on a good show for them,” Irby said.
Couples drove through the “Tunnel of Love,” a car loop decorated with bows and string lights, to get to the Wedding Window. From behind the glass of the drive-thru window, Irby officiated the ceremonies.
His voice crackled through the speaker as he encouraged couples to turn to each other for their vows. Some proclaimed vows from within their cars, while others said them outside by the hood.
Sometimes the wind made it difficult to hear Irby through the speaker, and it took some couples a few tries to repeat the vows back to him.
Weddings were in high demand Thursday. At times, the drive-thru backed up and vehicles spilled onto the road next to Bo Diddley Plaza. By the end of the night, 27 couples were married, according to the Washington Post.
If a couple requested Elvis to officiate their wedding, Irby would duck out of view and return sporting an Elvis wig, glasses and costume.
Couples were required to bring their photo IDs and pay a $30 charge at the window. The event flyer encouraged couples to arrive 15 minutes early to join the line.
Only those who had already obtained their marriage license were allowed to pass through the Courthouse drive-thru, said Deputy Clerk Cheryl Jordan. No wedding applications were processed at the event.
Local bakery BakerBaker provided complimentary cupcakes and birdseed as an alternative to rice traditionally thrown at the end of weddings. Keith Watson Events handed out complimentary bouquets for the brides.
“I think it’s a nice bright spot in all of this darkness,” Amanda Bowers, the BakerBaker owner, said ”That’s why we had to get involved.”
Another round of drive-thru weddings will be held May 14.
The Carmickals said they were unsure if they will reschedule their wedding ceremony, but they do plan to have a reception with friends and family once it’s safe to have large gatherings. Then, the pair will swap out their white knee-length dress and button-up for a full suit and gown.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Jess Irby.