The groom waits nervously by the justice of the peace. The bride is radiant in white. As she makes her way down the aisle, guests dab their eyes.
But, before the loving couple can exchange vows, a man steps forward, proclaiming his love for the groom. The bride flees in tears; but rather than let the ceremony go to waste, the two men get married instead.
It would have been disastrous, had it not been carefully planned: a fake wedding – Argentina’s latest party trend. With fewer Argentinians getting married for real, friends in their 20s and 30s instead pay about $50 each to attend staged events.
Says says 26-year-old publicist Martin Acerbi: “We realised we hadn’t been to a wedding in a long time, because hardly anybody is getting married any more.”
He and four friends decided to organise a staged wedding, for fun.
To their surprise, it was a roaring success, and fake weddings became a business: Acerbi and his friends founded the Falsa Boda company in November 2013 and have had steady work ever since.
The company hires real wedding locations, caterers and deejays for the parties. Hired actors play the bride, groom and a surprise third party – a spurned lover or secret boyfriend who arrives “unexpectedly”, with dramatic results.
“Our guests get all the fun of a wedding party with none of the commitment,” says Acerbi.
A typical fake wedding hosts 600 to 700 paying guests, with the party lasting until 6am the next morning – the usual timetable for a wedding in hard-partying Argentina.
Actors play out a different storyline at each event, but each one culminates with the “bride” throwing her bouquet to the female guests.
“The girls were euphoric, as if a cousin of theirs was really getting married,” said Pablo Boniface, a 32-year-old marketing manager who recently attended a fake wedding in Buenos Aires. “When the bride arrived, everyone went crazy, pulling out their phones and snapping pictures like she was a Hollywood star.”
Acerbi says that women are the prime movers of the events. “They’re the first to buy tickets.”
Only 11 642 couples got married in Buenos Aires in 2013, down from nearly 22 000 in 1990. About half of all marriages in the city end in divorce – about 6 500 a year.
Boniface says the fake weddings are a great way to meet likely partners. “It’s easier to meet someone at a fake wedding. I’d walk up and introduce myself as a cousin of the groom, and the girls immediately fell into their role. It’s like a game everyone joins in.” – © Guardian News & Media 2015
Uki Goñi is the author of The Real Odessa (2002), about the escape of Nazi criminals from Europe