For our latest mission, we picked a random couple getting married at the City Clerk’s Office in Manhattan and threw them a surprise wedding reception. The couple was treated to dancing, toasts, cake, and gifts, all with complete strangers. Enjoy the video first and then check out the mission report and photos below.
We met at 1 PM on a rainy Monday afternoon at Foley Square, a public park just across the street from the Office of the City Clerk (and also coincidentally the meeting point for our annual No Pants Subway Rides.) I was worried that the weather was going to ruin the mission. We had no back up plan.
When I arrived at the park I noticed there were four large, white tents by the fountain. They were set up for some type of job fair. I chatted up a woman working for the fair. She told me they were leaving in less than an hour and happily gave me the number for the party company that had set the tents up. I managed to talk the party company into keeping the tents up for another two hours (for a reasonable price, of course.) It was a beautiful moment of serendipity. There is no way we could have secured a permit to set up tents for a wedding reception in the middle of New York City, but since they were already up and permitted for someone else, we slid right in. Not only would the tents keep us dry, they would also make the whole reception much more authentic.
While the rest of the agents went to go set everything up in the tents, I headed over alone to the marriage bureau. My task was to select the random couple who we’d offer the reception to. I had visited the building a few times in the weeks leading up to the mission to get a feel for how the system worked. There were probably forty couples waiting in line to either get married or get a license for a marriage on a future date. I quickly spotted a couple that looked perfect for our mission; they were next in line to go into the wedding chapel. The bride was wearing a white dress and had her father with her. The groom was dressed in a suit with a boutonniÃ¨re and was accompanied by both of his parents and his sister. The family members were taking photos of them, and they all seemed so happy. They stood out from the other couples, most of whom were by themselves and in casual clothes.
As soon as they emerged from the chapel, I rushed outside to prepare to greet them on the front steps of the building. To capture the moment, I wore a wireless microphone and had Agent Schackman film me from about forty feet away.
Greeting the couple
As soon as they got outside, I approached the couple and informed them that I was from the mayor’s office and we were giving a “free wedding reception” to one random couple today. Before I could even finish telling them all of the things we had set up, the bride laughed and said, “Let’s go!” I had been a little nervous that they might turn it down (maybe they already had plans to celebrate somewhere else?) and figured I might have to ask a few couples before we found the right one. Nope. They were immediately down. “Can’t say no to that,” the groom told me and then added, “We’re cynical New Yorkers so this is a little hard to believe.”
The bride and her father on the steps
On the way over I learned their names, Raff and Frank. They were both enthusiastic on the short walk over, though I’m sure they were a little suspicious about the whole thing. When we turned the corner and got to the other side of the fountain, they were met with a huge cheer from their fifty-person wedding reception.
Frank and Raff laugh as Frank’s sister snaps a photo
Our “cater waiter” Agent Silver greeted them with two champagne flutes filled with cider, and our “wedding planner” Agent Reeves introduced herself.
Reception guests form two lines and cheer as the couple walks through
Our DJ, Agent Dunn, cued up Michael Buble’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and Frank and Raff had their first dance as a married couple.
Frank’s sister and Raff’s dad take photos of the first dance
The wedding party joins the couple on the dance floor
The father of the bride dance was next. DJ Dunn cued up The Temptations’ “My Girl” and Raff danced with her dad. We had Agent Wimpy on hand to play the role of father of the bride in case our bride didn’t have her father with her, but it was all the more awesome that her real dad was there.
After the special dances were over, it was time to party. DJ Dunn had prepared a playlist of wedding favorites for everyone to dance to.
Agent Dunn in his wedding DJ attire
The Electric Slide
A random woman in the park dances along to The Macarena
This mission wasn’t focused on getting reactions from the random New Yorkers who happened to walk by. I hadn’t really thought about how strange it would be to come upon a wedding reception in a public park on a Monday afternoon at 2 PM. Throughout the party, people stopped to smile, take photos, and even dance along to the music.
Agent Lathan gives the Best Man toast
The toasts were next. I instructed the Best Man and Maid of Honor to give the best toasts they could, considering they had never met the couple. Rather than making up specifics, they chose to just say nice (though vague) things about the bride and groom.
The bride and Maid of Honor meet each other for the first time
Raff and Agent Lindquist, fast friends!
“To the couple!”
Agent Lee writes the couple’s names on the cake
Family taking photos of the cake
After everyone had a bite of cake, it was time for the bouquet and garter tosses.
Raff’s sister-in-law catches the bouquet
Agent Purnell catches the garter
Agent Sokoler took some posed photos both with the “fake” wedding party as well as the real family.
Agent Lindquist bought the bridesmaid dresses on the cheap at Old Navy and then spruced them up with pink bows. Agent Fairey bought matching boutonniÃ¨res for the groomsmen.
Sneaking a kiss
The real family
After the photos, Frank and Raff opened up their gifts. We had around 20 gifts wrapped for them. Most of them were gift cards to a popular store (we didn’t want to give them a bunch of heavy presents to carry unexpectedly.) Agent Gordon had recently gotten married himself, and he wrapped a couple of gifts he received but didn’t want. So it was nice for them to get a couple of non-gift card presents as well.
It was time to send the couple off, or at least around the block. Agent Simmons distributed bird seed to everyone (bird seed is the new rice, in case you didn’t hear), and we prepared to shower the couple.
I rented a pedicab for the occasion to take Frank and Raff for a brief post-reception ride. Agent Toledo decorated it with streamers and a “Just Married” sign.
One last kiss for the crowd
Once they got back from their pedicab ride, Frank and Raff packed up their presents and told their wedding guests goodbye. I took them aside and confessed that I wasnâ€™t actually from the mayorâ€™s office (if that wasnâ€™t completely obvious by now). I explained that we were just a group of people who liked throwing fun events like this. It was a small break of character, but one that didnâ€™t seem too important. This was pretty far from a prank, and the experience wasnâ€™t changed by the confession. I had only told them I was from the mayorâ€™s office to get them on board. It seemed more convincing than, â€œIâ€™m a complete stranger who wants to throw you a party.â€ We exchanged contact information so I could arrange to send them the photos and video.
The family leaving the reception
The reception was an incredibly fun time. We had planned to stage the mission for more than one couple, but Frank and Raff were just too perfect. They stayed for over an hour and completely yes-anded everything we threw at them. There were moments where it felt like we actually did all know each other and you sort of forgot you were “acting.”
The day after the reception, I got an email from Frank and Raff:
Whatever becomes of our “scene” we just wanted to say thanks because it was freakin’ hilarious. The most important thing for us is that you gave us just about the best wedding story anyone could have to pass on. Take good care.
Not a bad outcome for a rainy wedding day in Lower Manhattan. Thank God for those tents. Congrats to Frank and Raff!!!!
Many more photos in higher resolution:
Agent Sokoler’s Flickr Set
Agent Slocum’s Flickr Set
Agent Scott’s Flickr Set
Our very talented Agent Adams and Sokoler are available to film and/or photograph weddings in the tri-state area. Contact them at mattadamsapple at gmail _ com